Mobile Market Wrap-up for Aug 7, 2009

I was on the road all week attending RE Barcamp SF and Inman’s Real Estate Connect in San Francisco.  Since I was on the road all week, I fell behind on my reading and industry news, but instead of skipping this week’s mobile market wrap-up, I thought I would provide an abbreviated update.

Real Estate Connect was excellent with approximately 1700 attendees sharing ideas on new technologies, best practices, and inspiring ideas.  There were a few sessions on mobile with one being led by Greg Sterling, principal of Sterling Marketing Intelligence and analyst of mobile communications.  In his session, he provided some valuable statistics and offered some general advice to agents: “make your site look good in the browser rather than making an app.” Obviously, Aumnia agrees with Greg Sterling’s analysis and thinks that agents and brokers need to extend their website to mobile in a seamless manner.  The time is now.   Inman has a more in-depth article on this mobile session at Real Estate Connect.

The major headlines this week seemed to center around Apple again with more disheartening news of their egotistical stance to build a walled garden around the iPhone.  Below is a list of the major news items released this week that show Apple’s continued downward slide:

As I mentioned earlier, this week’s update is abbreviated, so here are links to the interesting news, articles or stories I did get a chance to read:

I will have a more in-depth summary next week at my regular time.  In the mean time, let me know if you find anything interesting in mobile by leaving a comment below.

Summer 2009: Rise of the Smartphone

What a summer it has been for the mobile industry. There have been so many hot new phone announcements that have generated a constant buzz around the industry. While the news has started to tail off a bit in August, throughout June and July, it seemed as though new phones were being announced almost every day. To recap, here are some of the hottest phone releases of the summer:

Palm Pre
palmpreThe Pre was the device that started the party. For people who had been waiting years for a follow-on to the Treo, Palm did not disappoint with their handset. Sales estimates of the handset thus far range from 300K to 1MM+ with exact data hard to come by. The phone’s sales could be hindered by its exclusive relationship with Sprint – the nation’s third largest carrier which has been steadily losing subscribers. Verizon, the nation’s largest carrier, will have the device by early 2010, so that should help spur sales. Arguably, it would be the hottest handset of the summer if it were not for the…

Apple iPhone 3GS
iphone3gsJust as Palm was trying to make waves, Apple upstaged them with the announcement of the iPhone 3GS. Sporting a number of high quality upgrades, including 3G internet speeds, improved camera, voice control, and cut-and-paste (click for a complete review), the iPhone 3GS lived up to the usual hype by selling over 1MM units during its first weekend alone. Apple did a much better job managing the launch by allowing customers to pre-order it. It helped to reduce lines at the store and made for a smoother upgrade process. While there remain lingering issues with AT&T support for things like tethering and multi-media messaging, the iPhone 3GS has continued to stake its claim as the hippest handset on the market.

BlackBerry Tour and Curve 8520
Not to be left out, Research in Motion (RIM) announced a couple of new additions to its product line – the BlackBerry Tour and BlackBerry Curve 8520. Both devices are evolutionary devices in the BlackBerry product line. The Tour is more or less a CDMA version of the BlackBerry Bold that is available on the AT&T network, and the Curve 8520 is a budget-friendly version of the Curve 8900, available on the T-mobile network. The biggest deal with the Curve 8520 is the replacement of the trackball with a small optical pad. Even without all the hype, Research in Motion maintained its lead in smartphone sales for Q2, thanks in part to its broad product portfolio and availability on every network.

HTC Hero
htc-hero1For those of us here in the US, the first reaction is probably the HTC what? But in Europe, the release of the Hero was greatly anticipated and much awaited. It is one of the first devices that truly takes advantage of the features available in Google’s Android mobile operating system. While not as elegant as the iPhone, the Hero shows that Android has closed the gap considerably since the first Android handset, the G1 by T-mobile. While the Hero is not expected to make it to the US until later this year (rumor has it that Sprint will offer it), you can get a preview of the Hero through this thorough review by MobileCrunch.

T-mobile MyTouch
mytouchThe MyTouch is the follow-on the G1, offered exclusively through T-mobile. It is another Android-based phone that is effectively a rebrand of the HTC Magic. The MyTouch has received fairly positive reviews as a worthy successor to the G1. T-mobile has put a lot of effort into promoting it (including a sky-diving assault on San Francisco) and has released an AppPack to demonstrate the capabilities of the Android operating system. The MyTouch could quickly become one of the best selling devices on the T-mobile network.

Nokia N97
nokian97Nokia has become an almost forgotten player in the mobile market, but the facts don’t lie. Nokia still maintains a strong lead in worldwide market share for handsets. The N97 was released earlier this summer as Nokia’s flagship smartphone. Fans of Nokia will surely want to grab a hold of this device, but its biggest issue is lack of carrier support in the US. The device can be purchased direct from Nokia and will set you back somewhere between $600 to $700. I don’t expect to see lots of N97 devices on the streets, but Nokia has made its intentions known that it is planning a more vigorous assault on the US smartphone market in the near future.

Google Android
OK, this wasn’t a specific phone announcement, but there have been numerous announcements of phones based on the Android operating system over the summer. Sony Ericsson, Samsung, and Motorola have all announced plans for Android-based devices, and HTC has indicated that 50% of its new devices will be Android-based. I’ve been particularly impressed with the Rachel UI being developed by Sony Ericsson. Throughout the remainder of the year, expect many more Android phone announcements, which will set the stage for a real battle between Google and Apple for mobile dominance.

Summary and Analysis
One item you will find absent from these announcements is a standard, vanilla handset. In fact, there have been very few announcements of basic, low-end phones this summer. People just don’t seem to care of get excited about the standard handset anymore. Whether it is an indication of status, or people are craving the functionality, smartphone sales are strong and adoption rates are growing. Apple and RIM are dominating the market with their profits, which is no surprise given that their mobile offerings are exclusively smartphones.

To me, this trend indicates that smartphones are moving to mass adoption. In other words, we’ve passed the knee in the adoption curve. As more people have a more powerful handset in their hands, not only will users crave more and more data from the mobile internet, the carriers are going to give it to them. This means that more users will be coming to the mobile internet for information on a regular basis, and that more websites will need to be optimized for the mobile device. Of course, some users will look to the functionality of apps, but most users will turn to the internet, a medium which they are the most familiar with.

When we look back on this period of time, the summer of ’09 will be remembered as the point at which the smartphone went mainstream and the mobile internet really began to take-off.

Given all the hype around devices this summer, which ones have you been most impressed with? Which one do you want the most? If you have upgraded to a smartphone recently, do you find yourself using it to access the internet more frequently?

Mobile apps: Why the hype?

This is part 1 of a 5-part series covering the issues in the Mobile web vs. app debate. In this article I discuss reasons why mobile apps are more popular than the mobile web.

In some ways, there isn’t much of a debate today on whether you should develop a mobile app or a mobile website. With Apple heavily promoting the iPhone App Store, and nearly every other manufacturer joining in with their own version, why is there even a debate? In fact, the iPhone App Store has over 50,000 apps and has recorded over 1.5 billion (yes, billion!) downloads. In the marketing and hype realm, apps have won.

However, I would submit the evolution of the internet and web-based computing as a case study as to why mobile apps will falter and mobile web-based apps will win in the long run. In the old PC environment, applications had to be installed and run locally on your machine. Today, the PC has become nothing more than a thin client that is used to run apps that are on the internet. The mobile phone is an even thinner client that your PC, so why are we installing apps on our mobile devices? Apps are winning the battle today for two simple reasons:

Apps solve temporary problems with the mobile internet

In the early days of the internet, connectivity was expensive, speeds were slow, and browsers were primarily text-based. People talked about internet-based apps and e-commerce, but they were dreams at best given the technological problems. As the problems with the early internet faded, applications on the web became a reality. Web-based apps started slowly with applications such as e-mail but have migrated to all kinds of apps today including office productivity suites, CRM tools, multimedia editing programs, games and more.

Today’s mobile internet suffers from the same problems as the early internet, but these problems are rapidly being addressed. The cost of connecting to the mobile internet is still high, but it gets cheaper every year as carriers compete for customers. Carriers are working on releasing new 4G networks that will offer further improvements in speed. Many companies are working on improved browsing technology for the mobile environment that will allow more functionality and multimedia on mobile websites. Within the next 2-3 years, the problems that apps are solving with the mobile internet will pass allowing for improved access and increased functionality from mobile web-based applications.

Manufacturers use apps to differentiate their hardware

When the PC first hit the market, there were many players and many operating systems. IBM, Apple, Commodore, Atari, Radio Shack and others had personal computer offerings. These manufacturers differentiated their machines based on the applications that were available to run on them. The machines that had the best applications resulted in the best sales. When IBM, Microsoft and Intel worked together to create an open system for developers to create applications, their model created the dominant force in the PC market.

With the emergence of the internet, the apps that your PC runs are no longer that important, so long as you can connect to the internet. What has become important when buying a PC are things like cost, ease of use, color, battery life, portability, and reliability. As a case in point, Apple has improved their PC market share by focusing on these issues, not by making more apps for the computer.

In today’s mobile market, handset manufacturers are following the old application model to grab market share and spending way too much time and effort on apps. As issues with the mobile internet disappear, the handset features will dominate, just as they do in the PC market. Companies that are listening to consumer needs and innovating in these areas over the long-term will win.

 

There are a lot of lessons from the PC market and the emergence of the internet that can be applied to the mobile market. Both manufacturers and consumers need to be careful not to get fooled by today’s marketing hype surrounding apps and recognize that just as web-based apps now dominate the PC environment, mobile web-based apps are the way of the future.

Tomorrow, part two of the mobile web vs app series looks at the true costs of developing applications for the mobile environment.

Mobile web or app? – The Great Mobile Debate

This is the introduction to a five-part series of articles that we will run over the next week on the mobile web versus application debate that is raging in the mobile world.

We get asked all the time by customers what’s the best way to reach mobile consumers – through the mobile internet or through a mobile application. With all the hype out there on applications, everyone thinks that apps are the way to go. We wholeheartedly disagree. While apps have all the hype and sex appeal, they are not the best way to promote your company and brand on mobile devices, especially over the long haul. While apps can provide some short-term bang, what happens when the novelty wears off? When a user changes phones or carriers, how do you keep your brand in front of the mobile consumer? In our view, developing a strong presence on the mobile internet provides a much better return on investment, more flexibility, and a longer lasting brand presence than applications.

We have already written an article or two on the subject (Smartphone apps are NOT the answer, Are smartphone applications technology progression or regression?), but over the next week we are going to get into more detail and run a series of articles that will explore the mobile web versus mobile application debate.

In preparation for next week, here’s some recommended readings so you can get up to speed and see what others have had to say about the topic. Do your homework, read the articles, and I look forward to your comments and engaging in a lively discussion next week!

Mobile Market Wrap-up for June 19, 2009

Continuing from last week’s update, the big news this week was “opening day” for the iPhone 3GS.  I’m sure most everyone heard about the upcoming release with all the media outlets covering the excitement and anticipation of the loyal Apple disciples.  As expected, there were very long lines on Thursday night in front of all Apple stores across the country, and if today’s crowds are a good indicator, Apple should sell the current analyst estimates of approximately 500,000 iPhone 3GS units this weekend.  It is impressive but only about half of the units that the iPhone 3G sold its opening weekend.  Seems like it’s another successful brainwashing launch by Apple.

There was one big difference with this year’s launch vs. last year’s for Apple.  I heard more critics, analysts and radio/TV personalities who actively use a BlackBerry question the need or rational for switching to Apple, especially since their BlackBerriess can already do almost everything the iPhone can do, minus the gimmicks.  It was refreshing (mainly because I agree with them).

 Well, this is a great lead in to the next major highlight from this week which is RIM’s first quarter results.  Beyond a 33% jump in profit, RIM now has a whopping 55% marketshare of the US smartphone market.  That’s up from 40% in the previous two quarters and brings their total subscribers to 28.5 million.  All I can say is WOW!

The past couple of weeks have been dominated with handset news and this week was no different.  It’s definitely handset season right now.  This week there were several articles and announcements that indicate the smartphone market wars are just getting started: 

It will be a fun battle to watch as the handset manufactures fight for marketshare (although most of the battle will be dictated by the overly-powerful US carriers).

As I’ve done in the last couple market wrap-ups, I will end with news, stories, or opinions I found interesting during this week

That’s all for this week’s update.  As always, please leave a comment below about any news or stories you find that are worth sharing with our readers.