ABI Research is projecting that mobile devices will account for just under one quarter (24.4%) of all e-commerce by 2017. If "mobile" is defined to include tablets, then maybe. But if we're talking about smartphones largely or exclusively there's a long way to go before that happens.
Despite the fact that the data now show a majority of smartphone users have made purchases on their devices, most people don't routinely engage in e-commerce via smartphones. Security fears and the problem of entering credit card numbers are major barriers to so-called "m-commerce." Tablets by contrast are driving lots of purchase behavior.
A majority of smartphone owners (80% to 90%) use their devices in stores to check prices and get reviews and product information. However most don't go on to buy -- unless it's through eBay or Amazon.
As a general matter, if people are going to buy "online," they later go to their PCs and make purchases. Nielsen data, compiled by eMarketer, show that a minority of users (5% of smartphone owners) are buying things directly through mobile devices -- in this case in response to a mobile ad. But these data are also reflective of the general fact that most people don't buy on smartphones.
According to Nielsen the top mobile "shopping" apps are the following
Amazon and eBay in particular have invested hugely in mobile and it has paid off -- literally. Amazon in particular has your credit card on file and can enable a mobile transaction with a single click.
By contrast, most e-commerce sellers lag far behind these leaders. And to drive the kind of shopping volume that ABI is projecting the "credit card problem" needs to be solved. Large retailers with whom shoppers have direct relationships (e.g., Target, Macys, Wal-Mart) can store credit cards on file and remove friction accordingly.
However "no-name" e-commerce sellers are not going to be able to participate in smartphone-based commerce unless they address the payments problem, which could be via PayPal or using a solution such as the one offered by Card.io. Indeed, it's far from clear that the ABI prediction will come to pass.
We're probably looking at a situation for the medium term foreseeable future where smartphones are aggressively used by consumers for research and price comparisons but generally not used for conventional e-commerce transactions except in select situations such as I've described.
Microsoft did a nice job in reinventing its mobile OS with the advent of Windows Phones. There are ways in which the "Metro UI" is beautiful and strikingly different than iOS and Android. However the UI also represents the greatest barrier to adoption of Windows Phones.
Until people have a chance to use and familiarize themselves with Windows Phones they won't buy them because of the perceived unfamiliarity. Agressive discounting in the US may convince some to do so however. But as long as there are relatively few Windows Phones "out in the world" the impulse to buy them will also be limited.
It's Microsoft and Nokia's version of the "chicken and egg problem." Targeting new smartphone owners is probably the best strategy to gain share for the companies in the near term. Once they have some users they can upsell them to more expensive and high-powered phones.
Among developers however, Appcelerator has discovered that there's an increasing appreciation for the Metro UI. In a survey of more than 2,000 mobile developers, 44% of them characterized the metro UI as "different and beautiful" compared with iOS and Android.
That 44% hasn't yet translated into a belief that Windows Phones will succeed -- even in the enterprise, where Microsoft has had historical advantages over competitors. Developers in this survey do think that BlackBerry is essentially dead in the enterprise (which would mean death for the company overall) and thus by default that Windows will be the "third ecosystem."
Speaking purely for myself, the Windows Phone homescreen is a barrier to adoption. While the "live tiles" are supposed to facilitate quick access to content and enable us to "get back to our lives" I find them awkward and off-putting. I think the modifications of Windows Phone 8 make it worse.
The "inside" of Windows Phone is much better and more pleasing. Regardless, I think the outlook for Windows Phones (and by extension Nokia) remains very mixed at best. Unless or until Microsoft and Nokia can get these phones in people's hands they'll have trouble winning share.
According to Nielsen's latest data, 55% of US mobile phone owners now have smartphone phones. Previously comScore reported that fully half of feature phone owners buying new phones were upgrading to smartphones (a majority to Android devices). Nielsen says that two-thirds of new mobile phone buyers are opting for smartphones. It's likely therefore that smartphone ownership will reach at least 60% in the US by the end of Q4.
Data reflect that the overwhelming majority of smartphone owners access the mobile Internet. Accordingly, smartphone penetration is generally equivalent to mobile Internet penetration.
The smartphone audience is creeping closer to PC audience levels. By the end of 2012, if smartphone penetration reaches 60%, there will be nearly 150 million users in the US. Nielsen says that mobile audience is 237 million subscribers, while comScore puts it at 234 million. These figures are probably slightly low. A better "base" is closer to 250 million, although CTIA says there are more than 300 million wireless subscriptions in the US (indicating some level of duplication).
According to Nielsen, time with apps (vs. the mobile web) has increased from 72% to 81%. In other words, people are spending only 19% of their time on the mobile web. This flies in the face of the "cross platform" conventional wisdom which argues: build an HTML5 app instead of native apps because it will provide greater reach.
The amount of time consumed by the top 50 apps has apparently decreased, which means people are spending more time with a wider range of apps.
Among the top 15 apps, 12 have a "social and/or local component." Straddling the categories are Twitter, Facebook and top photo-sharing site and social network Instagram (bought by Facebook).
The Nielsen data also reveal the increasing degree to which smartphone and tablet owners now use these devices while watching conventional TV. Large majorities approaching 90% now use their mobile devices simultaneously according to Nielsen. I suspect these numbers are somewhat higher than actual usage, but the findings argue that TV advertisers must be conscious of these "second screens" when creating ad content.
The data below report that people are doing various things on smartphones and tablets "during the program." However I suspect much of this activity amounts to ad avoidance. Meaningful minorities of people appear to be responding to TV ad content by doing searches or looking up product information.
Finally, according to Q3 2011 Nielsen data, mobile ads are the least trusted form of advertising. Paradoxically, however, they tend to be more effective than other ad categories, especially PC advertising. Yet mobile ads have quite a way to go before they reach trust levels comparable to conventional media ads.
Mobile ad network HipCricket released its latest mobile advertising survey. The poll of 650 US mobile phone owners asked a range of questions about mobile advertising and device ownership. Among the survey respondents, 73% said they owned smartphones while 43% reported owning tablets.
These percentages are higher than US national averages, which are closer to 50% and 30% respectively. Among smartphone owners, the HipCricket survey was comprised of 43% iPhones, 38% Android handsets and 16% BlackBerry devices.
The survey found that those with higher incomes were the most engaged with mobile advertising:
Younger users (25-34) were also more engaged with mobile ads than the overall group. Among this group, 70% "have made a purchase as a direct result of a mobile ad." In addition 48% of these users "think more positively about their favorite brands after interacting with them via their mobile device," which was "significantly more than any other age group."
Below are a selection of the charts from the survey. The first one indicates the most frequently encountered mobile ad categories. SMS ads come in at a surprising number two, just above ads in mobile apps:
Just under a third of these users had redeemed a mobile coupon, although a substantial number hand "never engaged" with a mobile ad.
The principal reason survey respondents did not click on or otherwise engage with mobile ads was due to a lack of perceived "relevance." Interestingly there were also several security related fears associated with mobile ads (spam, source uncertainty). This is an education problem for the industry.
Consistent with many past surveys, offers and coupons were a major incentive for consumers to respond to mobile ads. While many brands and agencies don't want mobile advertising to be "just about coupons," it's clear that offers drive engagement.
HipCricket also found that most respondents' "favorite brands" were not advertising in mobile. This is clearly a missed opportunity for the brands.
Finally, the survey found that a large majority of respondents had made a purchase after viewing a mobile ad.
While self-reported data must always be "taken with a grain of salt," these survey findings reinforce a considerable body of other data in the market showing that for younger, more educated and more affluent users mobile is now a critical medium. Yet brands and major advertisers continue to miss out on a significant opportunity to reach these audiences through their failure to aggressively pursue mobile.
Just like Amazon, Facebook is building a phone. This rumor has been around perhaps for two years but Bloomberg seems to confirm it. The hardware maker is said to be the struggling HTC. Previously HTC released the ChaCha (pictured at right), with a dedicated Facebook button.
The ChaCha was a failure. Will a dedicated "Facebook phone" equally bomb? The chances are very good that it would see limited demand.
From Facebook's perspective the logic of its own device is understandable:
The problem is that iPhone and Android devices have dedicated Facebook apps. This will be sufficient for all but the most dedicated Facebook users.
The additional integrations and "cool things" that Facebook could do with its own version of Android won't be enough incentive for most people to buy the device. Younger users and first-time buyers making the switch from feature phones to smartphones might be enticed to buy such a device if the price were right.
The other major issue is privacy and data-mining. I'm making a bunch of assumptions when I say that a Facebook phone would likely collect even more data about individuals and their behavior (calls with contacts, sites visited, apps used, physical movements) than the existing mobile apps or online experience do. Thus concern that "your phone is watching/tracking you" would cause many to stay away and could even lead to regulatory investigations -- depending on how aggressive Facebook wanted to be with tracking/monitoring.
However I know that Facebook is more cautious about privacy these days and so it might be more restrained.
Although the rumors have been around for a long time, Facebook probably saw Amazon's success with Kindle and Kindle Fire and decided there was little or nothing to lose in making its own device. I just don't think many people will be very interested.
Update: On the Facebook Q2 earnings call this afternoon CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that it didn't make a lot of sense for Facebook to create its own phone. But we'll see early next year.
Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, the Coca-Cola Company, mobile ad network Millennial Media and Sparkfly have teamed up to test mobile advertising with tracking to the point of sale. Here's how it works:
Sparkfly is integrated with multiple POS systems and enables the purchase/redemption to be reported accordingly. That gets combined with Millennial’s analytics and the client gets a "cradle to grave" view of what happened with the campaign.
This methodolgy isn't new; offers with tracking codes have been used ocassionally in PC-based ad campaigns for some time (search, display). And tracking to the POS or check-in is going on now in mobile. But this trial may establish a model for others to emulate.
Millennial said in its press release that the campaign will run in Atlanta and will feature a range of different ads to test messaging and creative:
The mobile ad campaign will be running during the heart of Back-to-School shopping season. The mobile ad creative will test different combinations of Auntie Anne’s and Coke items for purchase at ten Atlanta-area Auntie Anne’s locations, and each ad unit will contain a unique redemption code from Sparkfly that enables the item-level tracking of individual consumer sales and the revenue impact of the promotion.
If this kind of methodology and approach becomes more standard in mobile campaigns it will not only give marketers a much better sense of "what works" they'll get more accurate data about conversions. Currently smartphone "conversions" are perceived to be much lower than tablets and PCs. That's generally because offline conversions aren't being tracked.
Widespread adoption of offline tracking might also usher in more CPA billing models as well.
In the wake of yesterday's Apple earnings release -- including that it sold 17 million iPads -- Strategy Analytics has taken a crack at estimating the Q2 global tablet market. As with Gartner and IDC, Strategy Analytics' calcluations are based on "shipments," which generally do not accurately reflect consumer sales in the marketplace.
Strategy Analytics reported that a total of 24.9 million tablets were "shipped" in the second quarter. The resulting market share distribution was as follows:
Despite the fact that the Kindle Fire has sold several million units and the Samsung Galaxy Tab (7-inch) before it has enjoyed some modest success, there's no chance that 30% of the tablet-owning public are using Android tablets. In a year or so we may have a different market, espeically given the fast start for the Nexus 7, but for now it's almost all still about the iPad.
Good Technology's Q2 Data Report shows actual tablet activations in the enterprise market. (There's comparable empirical evidence on the consumer side as well.) What it reveals is that "iPads dominated tablet activations with 94.5 percent of total activations for the quarter (down from 97.3 percent in Q1 2012)." Comparatively, Android tablets accounted for 5.5% of activations, up from 2.7% in the previous quarter.
Good actually attributes Android enterprise tablet growth to the Samsung Galaxy Note, which is closer to a giant smartphone than a tablet. Regardless, we're likely to see Android start to genuinely gain tablet market share in the coming quarters -- driven by 7-inch devices if not across the board.
I was in a meeting when the Apple quarterly results came out this afternoon. As you've read, the company had revenue of $35 billion and profit of $8.8 billion. Still, this was below most analysts' expectations. Shares fell 5% in after-hours trading accordingly.
Quarterly device sales were as follows:
All the numbers came in under expectations except for the iPad; 17 million is a new quarterly record (vs 11.8 million last quarter). To date Apple has sold 83.8 million iPads on a global basis.
Sales of iPads will probably cross the 100 million threshold by the next earnings announcement. If not, then certainly by the end of the year.
CEO Tim Cook said that iPhone sales were likely depressed by talk of the forthcoming iPhone and consumers waiting for the new model.
One of the chief innovations Google is bringing to its "Jelly Bean" Android update involves local search and related functionality through Google Now. I've written fairly extensively already about these new features on my Screenwerk blog and Search Engine Land. In short, the new Android OS offers information "cards" (structured data) in response to a range of query types, especially local.
This is at once an evolution of the Google search experience for mobile devices and an effort to better compete with Apple's Siri. The information (search result) is more attractively presented and substitutes for the traditional page of search results, which still can be found by scrolling to the bottom. In addition to the image above right, below are a few example screenshots:
This new presentation is more consistent with what mobile users want ("answers") and offers a better experience overall than a conventional page of "blue links." The potential problem for Google is that this approach goes much further in the direction of substituting "Google's own content" for third party information, which is at the center of Europe's antitrust dispute with Google.
The issue of of Google showing its "own content" at the top of search results or in a preferential position is one of four "concerns" raised by the EU in May along with an invitation to settle. Because it goes to the heart of Google's control over the search results page and the company's ability to experiment and innovate with new content presentations, it's one of the most potentially challenging issues for Google to negotiate with the EU.
Google has been trying to avoid a formal antitrust action by European regulators. But just as it was negotiating to settle the case, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, last week, asked Google to make "broad changes" to its mobile services. While it's not clear specifically what he is asking for, the path adopted by Jelly Bean -- which completely marginalizes third party content in a range of cases -- exacerbates one of the EU's fundamental "concerns" about Google.
Google is not going to want to be locked into any specific search results page in mobile. It will demand the ability to change the look and feel of the page and to innovate around the way it presents content. But to the extent any such innovations don't involve equal exposure of third party information the Europeans will probably have strong objections.
The next couple of weeks should determine whether Google will be able to negotiate a settlement or whether the company will face a formal antitrust action (and potentially billions in fines) from the EU.
The early success of Google's Nexus 7 tablet sales, on the heels of Kindle Fire's success in Q4 last year, establishes that the 7-inch tablet category is here to stay. Before Kindle Fire there were no successful Android tablets of any size. Kindle Fire's combination of rock-bottom pricing ($199) and Amazon content helped drive several million in unit sales. Now Google's new device is off to a blazing start.
The company just released its first TV commercial for the tablet (a very Apple-like spot).
As I previously discussed, the new Google tablet (starting at $199) is vastly superior to Kindle Fire. It now puts enormous pressure on Amazon to pull a rabbit out of the hat with its "2.0" release. Yet Amazon wants to release "five or six" new mobile devices (mostly tablets) of various sizes.
Apple is rumored to be releasing a smaller, lower cost tablet later this year. This is a defensive move for to prevent the iPad from being under-cut by lower-priced, almost-as-good products. A 7-inch iPad (or larger iPod Touch), combined with the Nexus 7, will likely dampen Amazon mobile device sales unless quality is dramatically improved.
Regardless, the rise of the 7-inch tablet category now creates additional options for consumers and additional complexity for advertisers and to some degree publishers. I suppose it's an argument for "responsive web design."
With Kindle Fire 2, Nexus 7 and the coming Apple 7-inch tablet (and the accompanying low price of these devices) we should see 7-inch tablets sell millions of units. Many people will now have smartphones, small tablets for travel and "on the go," and 10-inch tablets for home. PCs will largely be used for "work" or become secondary devices for most consumers.
Indeed, the device market is moving much faster than publishers and marketers. Publisher content and ads generally don't look particularly good on the 7-inch form factor. Tiny mobile banners are barely noticeable and landing pages look awkward filling only part of the screen. In addition, right now there are only a few apps optimized for 7-inch tablets. Smartphone apps look OK but often appear stretched or out-of-proportion.
All this will have to change -- and relatively quickly.
The PC market, where the attention of most publishers and marketers is still largely concentrated, is not going to grow. And by Q1 of 2013 there will be millions more tablets in people's hands. In fact, I believe that there will be 100 million tablets in the US market much more quickly than anyone is predicting: by the end of 2014.
With sales driven by competitive prices many of these will be 7-inchers, which don't play well with ads and content designed for smaller smartphones and which can't render apps, content or ads created for 10-inch tablets.
In the past few months there have been some fairly dramatic shifts in the local search landscape, especially in mobile. To most local competitors it may not seem that things have changed because most of the changes have yet to fully materialize. But they are coming and have potentially serious implications for the competitive environment.
The following have happened or been announced since May, 2012:
• Google+ Local (replacing Google Places)
• Apple Maps and expanded Siri “assistant” functionality
• New visibility and importance for Yelp reviews via Apple and Bing relationships
• Android “Jelly Bean” with virtual assistant, Google Now and new “cards” replacing the traditional SERP
What these developments suggest is a future in which Google and Apple (with Yelp) dominate local business lookups on mobile devices. All this comes as increasing volumes of traffic (15% to 30%) are mobile, and many local publishers look to mobile for growth or to compensate for flat or declining growth on the PC. Yet Apple’s entry into local search and Google’s recent Android Jelly Bean-related local search enhancements emerge as potentially major roadblocks to those consumer-growth strategies.
Both Apple and Google are introducing new capabilities, content and user experiences around local that are compelling and generally beyond what most local publishers are capable of developing themselves. These services marry voice, maps, local business information and POI data with reviews and other rich content. They also have the advantage of being integrated at the operating system level. All this creates a number of heavy barriers to competitors. Indeed, we’re seeing the beginnings of what could become a kind of “duopoly” in local-mobile search.
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The rumor that Amazon was going to build a smartphone has been around for some time. However it has returned and gained new momentum of late, with the recent acquisition of 3-D mapping service UpNext. And an article last night from Bloomberg seems to confirm that Amazon will introduce a handset or handsets -- made by Foxconn, the company that makes the iPhone and iPad:
Foxconn International Holdings Ltd., the Chinese mobile- phone maker, is working with Amazon on the device, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private. Amazon is seeking to complement the smartphone strategy by acquiring patents that cover wireless technology and would help it defend against allegations of infringement, other people with knowledge of the matter said
Let's now assume that Amazon is making a smartphone -- a Kindle smartphone -- what is the outlook for such a device? One would assume, like Kindle Fire, that it will be built on a highly customized version of Android, with the same type of Amazon content integration as seen on the Amazon tablet.
The Kindle Fire was a sales success because of the strength of the Amazon brand and channel and the inexpensive price tag ($199). Amazon's brand won't be as much of a factor in the smartphone arena. An Amazon smartphone will have to compete on the strength of its features and on price. It's hard to imagine that Amazon will be able to compete on price because many Android phones are already very cheap or free (carrier subsidized).
Content (as in Amazon books, movies and music) also doesn't factor as significantly as a differentiator on smartphones it as potentially does on a 7-inch tablet. What matters on smartphones is the availability of apps. There's already a Kindle app for iPhone and Android; so users already have access to much of Amazon's content (though not cloud-based music or movies). And the Amazon app store is an incomplete version of Google Play (the Android market). In other words, the competitive advantages that helped drive Kindle Fire sales don't exist at all or won't exist to the same degree in a smartphone context.
The only way I could see an Amazon smartphone succeeding vs. other Android phones or the iPhone is if the phone were absolutely top-of-the-line and Amazon were practically giving it away (sub-$100). Otherwise I think we'll see a tepid response by consumers.
Beyond this, depending on what kind of finally shows up, I'm sure Amazon will be pulled into the maelstrom of mobile patent litigation.
Despite all the promises of digital marketing, data and analytics most marketers remain confused about how to manage the increasing complexity of digital channels, devices and tactics -- let along integrate them coherently. In particular, two recent surveys from email marketing services provider StrongMail and IBM show that marketers and CMOs conceptually embrace mobile marketing but are generally stumped by tactics.
The IBM survey was conducted in 2012 and had a sample size of roughly 350 "marketing practitioners." The StrongMail survey was conducted in Q1 and had 802 respondents, described as "business leaders." Just under half (46%) of the StrongMail respondents technically qualify as small businesses, with fewer than 100 employees. The IBM survey was more representative of enterprises and had respondents from multiple countries.
Among StrongMail survey respondents, only 55% had an existing mobile presence or were engaged in any form of mobile marketing. And 57% said they'd been doing it for only a year or less. Although 43% of those without a mobile presence or strategy planned to implement one within the next year.
What did they plan to do? In roughly equal numbers the StrongMail respondents planned to build mobile sites (30%) and mobile apps (26%), followed by SMS/MMS marketing (15%). Impressively, 70% of StrongMail survey respondents planned to increase their mobile budgets in the next 12 months. But there's a difference between "talk" and action.
For those still not doing anything, the top three answers to the question "Why aren't you leveraging mobile marketing?" were the following:
Confusion over strategy and tactics similarly plagues the marketers at the larger organizations surveyed by IBM. In answer to the question, "Which three of the following market factors will be the biggest challenge for your organization over the next 3 to 5 years?" they responded that the proliferation of channels and devices was the biggest challenge:
Like the marketers in the StrongMail survey, the emphasis in the IBM survey was on mobile sites and apps. In response to the question, "Which of the following mobile marketing tactics is your company using or planning to use?" they said:
In this case, however, mobile email, SMS and local ad targeting were also being (at least conceptually) embraced. In the StrongMail survey the top current marketing methods reported were the following:
Interestingly only 13% of the mostly small business respondents in the StrongMail survey said they were using "location-based mobile marketing." And among those not currently doing any mobile marketing, only 3% indicated they were planning to implement it.
By contrast the larger companies represented in the IBM survey were more interested and bullish about location. This is almost the opposite of what you might expect. SMBs could be expected to be more interested in location-based mobile marketing while one would anticipate that enterprises would be more skeptical. But the opposite appears to be true, drawing inferences from the data in these two surveys.
I've been using the new Nexus 7 Google tablet since I obtained one at the Google developer conference late last week. I also own a Kindle Fire, which I use regularly for reading and watching movies. After just a short time it's clear that the Nexus 7 beats the Kindle Fire, the best-selling Android tablet to date, by a mile.
Outside of the Amazon content universe the Kindle Fire offers a generally sloppy and lackluster tablet experience. Whether you agree depends on your expectations and whether or not you own an iPad. Some people argue that Kindle Fire, as a basic Kindle upgrade is great for the price. But as an owner of two iPads, my view is that it offers a poor overall experience beyond the borders and boundaries of Amazon's media and shopping content.
Beyond this, I'm not a fan of Android tablets in general. I owned the Samsung Galaxy 10.1, which was a real clunker next to the iPad. That's partly because there were and still are so few tablet apps for Android. Indeed, none of the 10-inch competitors to the iPad have sold well. By contrast Kindle Fire sold because there’s no Apple entry in the 7-inch category. But its rock-bottom $199 price and the Amazon brand were the big drivers of sales, which have now slowed.
Yet the Kindle Fire tablet is an Android device in a technical sense only; it marginalizes Google. Accordingly Google felt compelled to act and the company has now taken direct aim at Kindle Fire with its new 7-inch tablet, built by Taiwan computer maker ASUS. It’s priced identically at $199 (although there's a $249 version with more memory). Google has also followed Amazon’s lead and made content from its "Google Play" store a major part of the Nexus 7 experience.
After a week of very heavy use, I'm very pleased with the performance of the Google device. If I think of it as a tablet it still falls short of the iPad by a considerable margin. However if I think of it as a larger smartphone it's great.
It fits easily in your hand and the larger (than a smartphone) screen makes almost everything better about the experience. There are still relatively few tablet apps, and the 7-inch size is awkward in certain respects. Steve Jobs referred to it as a “tweener." It doesn’t fit in your pocket like a smartphone but doesn’t offer the full-screen experience of the iPad. However smartphone-optimized apps and mobile websites don't look as awkward on a 7-inch screen as they do on a 10-inch Android screen.
Unless you're a loyal Amazon Prime customer and/or a very heavy Kindle user, in choosing between the Fire and the Nexus 7, there's no question about which device to buy: the Nexus 7.
It offers such a superior experience for virtually everything you'd do on a tablet -- and you can download the Kindle reader Android app. Indeed, the full range of Android apps are available from Google Play. On the Amazon tablet you get a subset of Android apps (no Google Maps for example).
Google should have a very successful product in the Nexus 7. The one major challenge is that right now there’s no retail distribution. Google is selling it directly through the Google Play store. And while there’s a huge installed base of Android users who are the primary market for this device, Google will need Best Buy and other retailers to offer the Nexus 7 before it can realize its full sales potential.
Last week mobile ad network inMobi released tablet survey findings, drawn from 9,600 respondents in seven international markets. US responses were just under 1,000 (904). The company asserts that "tablet use has risen quickly to 29.5 million U.S. users, 11% of the total U.S. population."
By comparison, in January of this year the Pew Internet Project released survey data that showed 19% of US adults owned tablets (mostly iPads). And comScore released data showing that roughly 24% of smartphone owners also have tablets. If we extrapolate these numbers, the Pew data suggest that there are roughly 42 million tablet owners in the US (as of January 2012). The comScore data argue the number is closer to 56 million.
The inMobi number is too small, while the comScore number is probably too large. Pew is likely closer to the actual number of tablet users in the US at this point. However, by the end of the year it could be closing in on 70 million.
The inMobi survey data are from a report entitled, The Role of Connected Devices in the Consumer Sales Journey. Below are some of the top-level findings:
General consumption habits
Shopping and e-commerce
According to the survey data, "tablets have become the preferred device at home and smartphones are preferred on the go." These devices play different roles in the "purchase consideration cycle." Tablets are used in a "lean back" mode in the evenings and on weekends, almost exclusively at home.
A recent tablet-centric e-commerce report from Monetate also observed that tablets are used primarily at home, as a PC substitute, and offered the following advice:
With increases in website traffic from devices such as the iPad and Kindle Fire, e-commerce businesses must treat customers using tablets as a unique audience segment. Tablet users expect a different experience that takes advantage of their devices’ features, such as touch/swipe functionality and screen rotation.
Accordingly it's not enough to simply assume the PC site will translate onto tablets. While non-flash PC sites often render relatively well on tablets they typically fail to take full advantage of the tablet opportunity.
E-commerce optimization firm Monetate has published its latest "E-commerce Quarterly" report. The report addresses a number of issues including social commerce. For purposes of this post, I'll focus on the mobile and tablet findings.
The data in the report are drawn from "analyzing a random sample from over 100 million online shopping sessions on 100-plus major e-commerce websites." Here are some of the major findings:
Website Traffic Sources
Q1 2012 Conversion Rates by Device Category
Compare similar data from Marin Software. Directionally they're almost identical to the Monetate findings.
What both the Marin and Monetate conversion findings lack, however, is data about offline conversions. If those were tracked and factored in I suspect we'd see mobile conversion figures outstrip the PC and potentially tablets.
Monetate's focus is strictly on e-commerce conversions. But most people don't buy conventional products on their smartphone, though they may do things like banking transactions or buy apps or rent movies.
The use cases for smartphone are different than PCs and tablets, which are mostly used at home and often as a substitute for the PC. According to Monetate's report:
It seems clear that smartphone users are either doing more comparison shopping or are dissatisfied with the user experience. In fact, a recent study from comScore Inc., Shop.org, and The Partnering Group revealed that 43% of smartphone owners have used their mobile device while in a store for a shopping purpose.
Monetate also argues, despite that at-home usage of tablets, that there's a different user expectation vs. the PC experience:
With increases in website traffic from devices such as the iPad and Kindle Fire, e-commerce businesses must treat customers using tablets as a unique audience segment. Tablet users expect a different experience that takes advantage of their devices’ features, such as touch/swipe functionality and screen rotation.
This argues in favor of tablet apps as well as a tablet-optimized HTML5 site. Finally, the firm predicts that at current growth rates, "website traffic from PC users will dip below 75% in less than one year" -- meaning that smartphones and tablets will represent 25% of site traffic.
The US Center for Disease Control tracks the number of mobile-only and mostly mobile households. Today 30% of US homes have no landline with an additional percentage making and receiving most of their calls via mobile. In that scenario the landline becomes a kind of "spamcatcher" reserved for telemarketers and fundraising calls.
The combined number of mobile-only and mostly mobile homes in the US is now above 45%. That's an amazing statistic if you think about it.
An analogous, emerging statistic is the number of people who primarily access the Internet on their mobile phones. This morning the Pew Internet Project published survey data that show 17% of all mobile phone owners use their phones as their primary Internet access device. However, if the population is narrowed to all mobile phone owners who access the mobile Internet (55% of mobile phone owners according to Pew) the "primarily mobile" percentage jumps to 31%.
In other words, according to Pew, "31% of these current cell internet users say that they mostly go online using their cell phone, and not using some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer." Even more striking, 45% of 18-29 year olds who access the Internet on their phones are in this "primarily mobile" category.
We found previously (n=1,504) that 17.6% of Internet users went online primarily via a non-PC device (smartphone/tablet). Regardless, these numbers will will only grow larger over time.
Almost nobody in the mobile handset business is making money right now except Samsung and Apple. Nokia and RIM, the former smartphone leaders, have almost seen the bottom drop out of their businesses over the past year or so. RIM hired bankers recently to consider its options. The company is almost in free fall.
Nokia had hoped that Microsoft would save it but that's not happened. The most optimistic discussions of Lumia sales indicate they're "mixed." Furthermore, existing Nokia Lumia phones won't be getting Windows Phone 8 upgrades. They'll have to settle with Windows Phone 7.8.
This fact, once made known to the general public, will essentially kill sales of current Lumia smartphones (unless carriers give them away). People will want the new and improved version of Windows Phones -- which won't be coming out until much later this year. That leaves two more quarters of weak sales for Nokia. Moreover, Nokia will be just one of several OEMs to be releasing Windows Phone 8 smartphones.
It doesn't look good.
The Sunday Times in the UK reported that RIM was contemplating either selling its handset business or seeking an outside investor such as Microsoft. Nokia also looks like a takeover target as its fortunes continue to decline. And with both of these companies struggling the likelihood that Microsoft will own at least a part of a hardware OEM grows more and more likely. Amazon is also a potential investor or acquirer mentioned in the article.
One now has to wonder whether, if Nokia had gone with Android, things would be any different at this point.
There were discussions between Google and Nokia before the latter went with Windows. According to a source I spoke with, Google was unwilling to agree to a co-mingling of Google Maps and Nokia Maps or substitution of Nokia Maps on the back end. It's unclear whether that was the dealbreaker or one of several issues that prevented a Nokia-Android deal. Microsoft did agree to use Nokia Maps and in fact Nokia does replace Bing Maps in the new Windows Phone 8 OS.
It is likely that Nokia would have sold more Lumia phones to date if they were powered by Android. That probably wouldn't have fundamentally altered the company's predicament but it would have made it marginally better. Yet HTC is building some very nice Android devices but being overwhelmed by the Samsung Android juggernaut all the same. The Taiwan-based company is struggling to remain profitable and recently abandoned the Brazilian market.
If that continues HTC could be another takeover candidate by early 2013. And if that's so it will dilute the value of Nokia and RIM as they seek "strategic options" to survive.
The long-anticipated Google (Nexus) tablet is set to debut this week at Google's developer conference, Google I/O. Gizmodo Australia has specs and apparent pictures of the device. CNET has additional information.
Gizmodo reports an 8GB model will cost $199, matching Kindle Fire, and a 16GB model will carry a $249 price tag.
Google's tablet announcement comes on the heels of the Microsoft Surface announcement last week. However Surface pricing wasn't disclosed. Rumors argue that the lower-end RT model will not come in below $599, with the higher end Pro costing at least $700.
Unless Microsoft can get the RT price down to $499, as I and others have argued, Surface is unlikely to compete with or impact the iPad very much. Rather it will likely affect competing Windows laptop sales.
The new Google Nexus tablet will probably have an immediate -- and potentially dramatic -- impact on Kindle Fire sales. The Kindle Fire is a nice upgrade from regular Kindle reading devices but a lousy tablet overall for other than accessing Amazon's content universe. The Nexus tablet is likely to be a much better device for Internet browsing with a larger app library. Android non-tablet apps will look better on a 7-inch device than they did on the 10.1-inch Android Galaxy Tab.
Those not loyal to Amazon will be inclined to choose Google's tablet over the Kindle Fire -- all things being equal. However we may see Amazon respond with a price cut, which would be very interesting since the company already looses money on every Kindle Fire sold (but makes it back on content and other sales).
Ever since Siri was released with the iPhone 4S last Fall -- although it seems much longer than that now -- it has been reshaping expectations both among consumers and to some degree in the enterprise. Few people are aware of all the work going on around virtual assistants and customer care in the enterprise. It's a very dynamic segment and Siri has become a reference point.
In addition to Siri there are dozens of voice-based intelligent assistants for Android. There are also Siri competitors in the iTunes store, including Assitant (Speaktoit), Evi (TrueKnowledge) and Kngine. But there are probably about 12 - 15 more apps that present themselves as voice tools or intelligent assistants.
Having a voice UI and/or intelligent assistant is now becoming a strategic capability for smartphones -- even "table stakes." Witness Samsung's new "S-Voice." However, while the Samsung GS III has received rave reviews, S-Voice has emerged as its weak link. LG is also introducing a voice capability for its handsets. It's not clear why they're doing this because Google's speech recognition and voice actions are baked into the Android OS.
Some of the smaller consumer-facing "assistant" companies and startups (e.g., Speaktoit) become near-term takeover targets as carriers and OEMs recognize the new importance of voice as a UI and, beyond voice, the need to offer an intelligent assistant capability to match Siri and fulfill the new expectations it's creating.
Google and Microsoft have yet to move beyond pure voice input and embrace the "personal assistant" metaphor, though Google has been working on something for some time -- often referred to as "Majel," after Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's wife. Nuance, which powers Siri, has Vlingo and Dragon Go!, which sit between what Google and Microsoft offer and Siri in terms of capabilities.
Notwithstanding intelligent keyboards such as Swype (another Nuance product now) and Swiftkey, voice will emerge over the next year or two as the primary interface for most tasks on smartphones. Most iPhone users use only limited functionality on Siri and Apple has been trying to educate them about its full capabilities. By contrast, keyboards are likely to become secondary tools or used in very specific situations: entering numbers or correcting typos.
As one colleague put it late last year, if speech is the "new mouse" then voice is the new touch.