T-Mobile Smartphone Research

tmobile.gifYesterday, I went to a T-Mobile blogger/press event covering their latest research on how smartphones are changing the way we live, think and feel. The research was performed by The Future Laboratory and surveyed more than 1000 Britons aged 18-65 in major cities during November 2009.

Here are some statistics from the research. Some of the numbers surprised me for being so high…

  • 19% seek travel information while on the go.
  • Nearly 1 in 10 (7%) currently use augmented reality applications (superimposing of graphics and text onto surrounding environment).
  • Of those that have used augmented reality applications, 17% have used it in an unfamiliar place.
  • 35% of people are optimistic that it will no longer be necessary to learn languages because translation and pronunciation will become available on mobile phones.
  • 57% of people use GPS on their mobile phone.
  • 40% of people using GPS/mapping believe they will never get lost and 19% feel safer.
  • 43% believe being lost will become a thing of the past.
  • 53% of women and 47% of men feel confident that all the information they want is readily available through their mobile phone.
  • 38% of people believe that money and credit cards will become obsolete as mobile phones are increasingly used to make transactions.
  • Due to social networks going mobile, 28% of people now believe loneliness will soon become a thing of the past.
  • 20% of people would like their phone to be able to share physical sensations such as sending and receiving virtual kisses.
  • Accessing local news and tweets via mobile has made 14% of people feel closer to and more involved with their local community.
  • 49% of men feel a sense of superiority at having information at their fingertips before anyone else.

The T-Mobile report and yesterday’s round-table discussion centred on the drivers and consequences of these statistics. Here are few topics I found of interest…

  • I asked what payment methods people thought might be used to to make ‘money and credit cards obsolete’. Naturally, NFC was mentioned and there was much discussion on some of the consumer barriers to adoption. As mentioned in a previous post, there’s currently an impasse between phone OEMs and network operators. Don’t expect this to be resolved any time soon.
  • It’s currently thought that the ubiquity of smartphones (particularly Android devices in the case of T-Mobile) will drive consumers to use these new services and products. It’s also thought that prepay (as opposed to on contract) will bring them to the mass-market. I previously wrote about the T-Mobile Pulse and how I thought it would make more branded alternatives from Motorola or Sony Ericsson a difficult choice. It turns out I was wrong. People much prefer to buy a brand. T-Mobile indicated that currently the majority of their Android subscribers are on-contract rather than using the Pulse prepay.
  • Another issue that came up, within the context of using augmented reality when abroad, is the cost of roaming data. It’s my belief that network operators have to make this less expensive and/or costs more transparent so that services such as augmented reality can be used when they are needed most.
  • Shopping is a large area for mobile, as demonstrated by the recent taptu metrics. It was mentioned that large UK supermarkets, particularly cheaper ones (Aldi, Asda) are interested in how to get their data mobile so that people can easily do price comparisons.
  • I also noted that someone asked how supporting one mobile platform might alienate customers who don’t have that platform. It’s a very interesting question given many companies’ rush to create iPhone apps for a small percentage of consumers.
  • Finally, I was intrigued to hear a comment that research has shown that people are doing more things on their own due to the security and social interaction provided by mobiles. Eating out alone and other such activities are becoming more commonplace because people have a mobile phone through which they can communicate.

The research paper is available on the T-Mobile UK site.

3 UK Meetup

three.gifI went to the 3MobileBuzz meetup last night. It was a gathering of bloggers, a few analysts and UK Hutchison 3G staff brought together by 1000 Heads who run the 3mobilebuzz web site. The idea of the event was to learn more about 3 and what’s coming up this year.

From a mobile developer perspective they will be introducing the Samsung Galaxy (Android) by the end of March. They have six Android devices planned in the medium term. It was interesting to learn that network data is still being dominated by PC dongles. Any contribution from Smartphones is small and is expected to remain negligible compared to dongle usage.

3 sees itself a differentiating though openness. For example, while some other networks are wary of Spotify, 3 has an open attitude. It was also interesting to know that 3 has tens of thousands of iPhones on its network even though it doesn’t sell them. People have moved from O2 when their expensive tariffs have expired.

Subsidised Android Phones

android.gifI have been watching the Engadget Interview with Erick Tseng, Senior Product Manager of Android. Erick says that purchasing devices via Google is a new sales channel for ‘all’. It will be possible for carriers and handset manufacturers to also sell phones and plans (tariffs) via this channel.

What Erik describes as ‘novel’ is being able to buy phones and plans separately on a mix and match basis. This might be novel for North America but it has been the case in Europe for a very long time now. The problem with SIM-free phones (as they are called here) is that they have a high initial cost (despite a lower TCO over the owned period). The average person won’t buy a server hundred pound, euro, dollar phone and would much prefer to spread the cost via a subsidised operator supplied phone.

What Google could do to be truely innovative is to subsidise phones via advertising revenue. This might include embedding more Google advertising, for example in the built-in Google phone applications, in return for a heavily subsidised phone. So as not to upset phone OEMs, this might even be extended to their Android devices – OEMs receiving subsidies according to how much advertising revenue their devices pull in.

UPDATE: On twitter, Felipe Andrade says"could Google subsidise voice and data via ads?! It could be the end of many carriers!"

Orange’s Developer Community Platform

orange.gifIf you are a mobile developer you might like to take a look at Orange’s new Developer Community Platform. It allows you to share your thoughts and ideas about mobile applications. You don’t have to be a member of Orange Partner to take part because it’s open to anyone.

There is currently discussion on innovative mobile apps, marketing, platforms, tomorrow’s applications and events. Alternatively, you can start a discussion of your own.

Network APIs

telecomsdotcom.gifThere’s an interesting article on telecoms.com on network APIs.

While I agree with most of the article, I question the following…

"Individual developers are flocking to mobile operator developer communities and starting to create applications that use network APIs."

It’s my experience that developers (or in my case my customers) are avoiding operator APIs. Why? Well, in many cases the costs just don’t fit into a viable business model. For example, GPS and bulk SMS aggregators are being used instead of operator APIs.

This is unfortunate because I see network APIs as offering significant scope for innovation, especially when accessed via 3rd parties who aggregate and standardise their APIs.

However, the article does hint at what I think might be more viable opportunities…

"However, interfacing with enterprise clients, vertical segment service providers and government departments brings new opportunities for new services and revenues."

3 Pay As You Go Data

three.gifIn November 2007, I mentioned UK 3’s affordable £5 Pay As You Go data tariff.  If you are mobile developer in the UK, this provides a very cheap way to test connected mobile applications. It also provides an easy and inexpensive way for visitors to the UK to obtain access to a data tariff.

On most projects I end up having to test on many different phone models. It’s time consuming and tedious to swap SIMs so often. Instead, why not have a SIM in each phone?

3’s SIMs are free. You can pick up at any 3 store or online (they take a week to arrive). Furthermore, they have recently provided free 150Mb data for 60 days every time you top up (only £5). Most mobile applications accessing a server use very little data and my experience is that it’s difficult to use up 150Mb in 60 days. So, if you then use the £5 after 60 days to buy one month’s ‘unlimited data’ (actually 1Gb) you will have obtained 3 months of testing for only £5. After this, you can top up again for £5 and effectively get another 3 months of data.

If you have more than one phone with a 3 SIM you can also do free 3 phone to phone calls and even do free Skype on some models.

One caveat is that the phone must be 3G. Some are GSM only and won’t work at all with a 3 SIM. You can check out compatible phones on the 3 web site.

Carrier Strategy

Chetan Sharma has a great recent post on carrier strategy. He advises that over 50% of the market comes with partnering with just 10 worldwide operators. However, trying to partner with smaller operators is more likely to be successful and provide a proof of concept for the larger operators.

Wanting to partner with a number of operators is one thing. Actually doing it is very difficult. I wrote a little about partnering with operators in my ‘It’s Who You Know’ post. The biggest problem I am seeing at the moment in the current economic climate is people moving on. As soon as you have developed an understanding with someone that an agreement is ‘pending’, they move on to another job or company destroying trust that has been built up.

In some cases in the past I have seen it’s sensible to try to talk with more than one person (usually their boss) in the same department of a particular carrier (or handset OEM) so as to minimise the chances of disruptions due to your contact leaving. Trying to include their boss in the meetings also helps to crystallise whether the opportunity is real or just a figment of someone’s imagination.

Red Nose Day

rednoseday.gifToday is Red Nose Day in the UK. So what has that to do with mobile? Well, today is the first time I have seen a short code used for charity donations where the network operators have waived their typical 50 to 60% charges…

"The following mobile network operators have waived their charges in order to allow the full £5 cost of the bounce-back message (described below) to go entirely to support Comic Relief: 3, O2, Orange, T-Mobile, Virgin and Vodafone."

Even the UK tax authorities have been charitable…

"In addition, HM Treasury have confirmed that no VAT should be charged on these donations"

In the past, I have been disappointed when network operators have profited significantly from charitable efforts using SMS short codes. Hence, today I would like to thank 3, O2, Orange, T-Mobile, Virgin and Vodafone for their change in policy.

If you are in the UK, text "YES" to 66609 (up until 23:59 on 31st March 2009) and you can be sure all of your money will support long-term projects which help people to help themselves across the UK and Africa.