Mobile Forecasts

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January 21, 2015

5 Nokia Classics

If you’re over 20, you remember a time when Nokia ruled the mobile roost. The Finnish pioneers - now all but swallowed whole by Microsoft - released a huge range of handsets. Their reign began in the early 80s and culminated in an unceremonious exit from the cell phone market following the Microsoft acquisition.

What you might not remember is just how crazy some of those designs got during Nokia’s 90s heyday.  They were out on their own, with very few serious competitors. This climate fostered a sense of boundary-pushing at the company, resulting in moments of pure genius – and moments of pure folly. 

To commemorate the passing of a true mobile giant, we took a look back at some of Nokia’s most outre successes, and a few of their noble failures. It all helped today’s predictably effective tech market get where it is now. Those were strange days indeed. We’ll not see their like again…

Nokia 3210
If you owned a phone 15 years ago, it was probably one of these. Hardy, reliable and compact (it was one of the first phones to cast aside the visible exterior aerial), it’s no wonder the 3210 shifted 160 million units.

Nokia Cityman
The Cityman was Nokia’s first mobile phone. Back then, in the mid-80s, Nokia was still establishing itself as a major player. This brick of a handset - then regarded as an exclusive, highly desirable product - announced their intention to stick around, and by the end of the decade, Nokia had secured nearly 15% of the global mobile market.

Nokia 5100
The 5110 was as ubiquitous as it was hard-wearing, with an unparalleled battery life and - most importantly for terminal time wasters - the fondly-remembered Snake game. Also notable for being one of the first customizable handsets, the front panel on the 5110 could be switched out for a different color.

Nokia N90
The Nseries was another boundary-pushing innovation, representing Nokia’s first true convergence of phone and computer. The N90 was clunky as hell, and frankly it looks a bit silly in retrospect - but it really was a precursor of the multi-function smartphone we see today.  

Nokia N95
With its 5 megapixel camera, GPS and Flash-compatible browser, the N95 is a lesson in versatility. Hard to imagine now, but this was, for a short time, the world’s most powerful smartphone. 

Nokia couldn’t have done more to cement their place in history, and in light of how far they’d brought the mobile phone, you can’t help but feel sorry for them at how short-lived their smartphone king status would be. Nobody could have predicted how earth-shattering the launch of the first iPhone was. It completely changed the game. But without Nokia’s constant bar-raising, would Apple and Google have gone quite so far with their operating systems? Nobody can say. But we can raise a glass of Akvavit to those Finnish pioneers and their twenty-year reign as cell phone leaders. Here’s to you Nokia!

January 18, 2015

Nokia Unveils Cheapest Ever Web Phone

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Earlier this month Microsoft presented its latest creation: an inexpensive, internet-enabled Nokia phone. The company is hoping the device will significantly increase its market share in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. 

A $29 phone, the Nokia creation features the Opera Mini Browser and Facebook Messenger, and is capable of running Twitter among other apps. This phone is still “low-spec,” however, and includes a 320 x 240 pixel display, 0.3 megapixel camera, radio and a torchlight. The lack of high-tech specifications indicate the durability and affordability of the device, something attractive to those in developing countries. Microsoft notes its battery lasts up to 29 days on standby, with the software engineered for more “difficult terrains.” The built-in apps work without a 3G connection. 

This phone also makes it possible to connect in new ways via SLAM, which allows content sharing between devices and those making hands-free calls through Bluetooth 3.0 and Bluetooth audio support for headsets.

Additional features include up to 20 hours of talk time, MP3 playback for up to 50 hours, FM radio playback for up to 45 hours, and a VGA camera. Available in white, green or black, the device’s polycarbonate shell retains its color if scratched. The soft rubber keys are easy to use, and Microsoft notes the phone feels “fantastic in your hand.”  

The technology giant also points out the importance of the torch feature, as it will be useful when shipping the phone around the world, particularly to the 20% of the population that doesn’t have regular access to electricity. 

Advertised as the “most affordable internet-ready entry-level phone yet”, Microsoft says the phone is “perfectly suited for first-time mobile phone buyers or as a secondary phone for just about anyone.” 

“With our ultra-affordable mobile phones and digital services, we see an inspiring opportunity to connect the next billion people to the Internet for the first time,” said Jo Harlow, corporate vice president of Microsoft Devices Group. “The Nokia 215 is perfect for people looking for their first mobile device, or those wanting to upgrade to enjoy affordable digital and social media services, like Facebook and Messenger.”

The Nokia 215 is slated for release in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia during the first quarter of 2015. Normal and dual SIM versions will be available.

The $29 price tag is before taxes and subsidiaries; but it still seems to be a great deal for a versatile phone that’s “built to last.”

January 15, 2015

The Tizen Smartphone Has Finally Arrived

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The long awaited Tizen smartphone was unveiled yesterday in New Delhi. It represents Samsung’s first major break from Google, whose Android platform has dominated the Korean company’s phones (and indeed the global mobile market).

The launch comes after 18 months of rumor, gossip and speculation swirling around the operating system. In August 2013 Samsung delayed the release of the first Tizen-run handset until the end of that year. Then another twelve months passed, during which tech-watchers the world over speculated the firm’s enthusiasm for the platform had waned.

Then Samsung seemed to switch focus, heralding Tizen as an OS tailor-made for cross-convergence. In an interview with CNET Korea, Samsung’s CEO J.K. Shin said:

"There are many convergences not only among IT gadgets, including smartphones, tablets, PCs, and cameras, but also among different industries like cars, bio, or banks. Cross-convergence is the one [area] Samsung can do best since we do have various parts and finished products."

Shin failed to mention the much-anticipated Tizen round smartwatch. This omission was either an oversight on his part, or another indication that the rumor mill is spinning out of control on all matters Tizen.

All we know is the Samsung Z1 is definitely here. Or rather, there. Samsung is training its sights firmly on developing markets where Apple and Android are less entrenched. In India, where the Z1 was unveiled, 70% of people still use basic cellphones, and designers of entry-level smartphones are hoping the only impediment to smartphone adoption is a financial one. Create an affordable device for everyone and, in theory, everyone will upgrade.

Gaining a strong foothold in markets like India is crucial to Tizen’s long-term success. App developers won’t bother developing iterations of their products for a new operating system unless its future is assured. Lack of interest from app developers and carriers have already forestalled the release of a Tizen smartphone in Japan, France and Russia. Whether the India release is accompanied by market support or is more of a hit-and-hope strategy on Samsung’s part remains to be seen.

But even with a price tag of just $92, the phone’s success is far from guaranteed. There are (unconfirmed) suggestions that Google has barred its smartphone partners from using anything but Android in major markets. If that’s true, Samsung will have to make a huge splash in niche markets before it develops an ecosystem large enough to do away with their Google alliance.

The biggest profits may lie in smartphones, but wearable tech may be the more secure route for Samsung. They’ve already released a Tizen-powered television and camera, and are planning to integrate the OS into home appliances. Clearly, Samsung is trying to position itself as a leader in the ‘Internet of Things’, connecting household devices to each other with one overarching platform.

Certainly, there’s a lot less legwork to be done in the home appliance market. Samsung is the biggest television brand in the world, with about a third of the global marketplace sewn up. If Tizen can’t become a serious rival to Android and Apple, either through entry-level devices in developing markets or by making user switch allegiances, Samsung need only retain its position as a leading electronics name in order to bring their fledgling operating system to millions.

 

 

 

January 09, 2015

The World’s Most Valuable Startup

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As of Monday, December 29th, 2014, the Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has become the world’s most valuable startup. Late in 2014, the company closed its last round of funding, topping off its latest run at $1.1 billion dollars. With that, Xiaomi’s valuation has skyrocketed to $45 billion – past even the controversial pseudo-taxi startup Uber (valued at $40 billion).

If you haven’t heard of Xiaomi before, you are not alone. The company is a giant in China, however, with brick and mortar locations throughout the country. After taking advantage of a void in the Chinese smartphone market, Xiaomi has managed to increase their manufacturing output, and they are now the third largest smartphone manufacturer in the world. In their third quarter report of 2014, Xiaomi sold over 16 million units, an increase above last years’ report by over 3.5 million.

Many people throughout China prefer to purchase Xiaomi phones due to their low-cost. Samsung and Apple are still the power players throughout the world, and they have retained a good deal of the Chinese smartphone market. In the past year, though, sales by these juggernauts have been chipped away by Xiaomi – Samsung’s sales in particular, which has declined by 29 percent in the region. Surprisingly, Xiaomi’s gross sales in China has not come as close to defeating iPhone sales. Apple still retained $25.4 billion in sales in China alone, while Xiaomi only garnered $56 million in sales. 

Some of the controversy surrounding the startup includes a breach of international patents, but these claims have yet to be proven. Though Xiaomi publicly claims to operate under thousands of patents, most cell phone manufacturers own patents in the tens of thousands. And with their tight margins, it is unlikely that they are manufacturing under a series of licensing deals. In any case, the success of their business model is evident: build it cheap, run it with Android-based software, and sell it everywhere (in China). 

Xiaomi has announced that their next step will be to branch out into similar foreign markets, like Brazil and India. While Brazil fits all of the criteria of their business model, India is a bit less likely to embrace it. Historically, India has been wary of Chinese technology, and many consumers fear that the Chinese government will use the devices to spy on Indian citizens. Xiamoi has these and other roadblocks to get past as they expand into the rest of the Asian and potentially the South American market…but ambitions are obviously high.

The upshot for mobile marketing campaign managers is an increased need to cater their strategy to a variety of devices. Mobile marketing tactics that are effective at reaching iPhone users may not have the same impact on Android-based devices. Flexibility and adaptability are the watchwords for 2015, and if Xiamoi's explosive success is anything to go by, the world of mobile marketing and the wider world of tech should expect the unexpected.

 

January 08, 2015

How Accurate Were Last Year’s Predictions for Mobile Tech in 2014?

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At the end of each year, tech journalists look into their crystal balls and attempt to predict trends and changes in the coming year. How often are they correct, though? We took a look at some of the most popular prophecies at the end of 2013, and just how accurate these predictions turned out to be.

First, some of the winners:

Prediction: "E-Commerce Will Thrive"

First of all, we know that e-commerce is thriving (with or without Amazon), so clearly this prediction was spot on. We’ve seen many emerging markets begin to adopt e-commerce, and we’ve witnessed Alibaba’s growth as the world’s Mecca of e-commerce. We’re still waiting for our drone deliveries, but no one can doubt that e-commerce will continue to grow in 2015.

Prediction: "Social Media Interactions During World Cup Will Break Records"

Not only did people around the world tweet, post, and message each other during FIFA’s World Cup games, we got to see the most widespread interactivity in the history of social media. The peak interaction first occurred during the final match between Germany and Brazil, and often featured the popular meme “Germany just scored a Brazilian goals.” They broke it again when the number of tweets broke 35.6 million, and 350 million people participated in World Cup conversation on Facebook. The prescient bloggers knew it would break records, and rightfully so.

Prediction: "Mobile Web Use Will Decline Significantly"

Many predictors foresaw that mobile web use would shrink – some even claimed that it would die. Well, it’s not dead yet: you can still search the web using the clunker-of-a-browser on your smartphone. Reports show that we have much more affinity for apps, however. Time spent using apps increased to 86%, while mobile web use dropped to about 14%. Perhaps we haven’t seen the end of the mobile web yet, but the seers of tech were right to assume that mobile consumers would use the web a great deal less. 

And now for the losers:

Prediction: "IM to Replace SMS as the Messaging Platform of Choice"

This prediction has proven to be pretty far off. Despite a decline in SMS use in 2012, we saw a surge in the use of SMS for business and personal reasons in 2014. The simplicity and low-cost nature of SMS text messages appear to have made the platform desirable for businesses, which means SMS messaging isn’t going anywhere. (Let’s not forget that SMS generates much more revenue than IM, as well.) Not to mention Facebook’s new privacy policy regarding their messaging app, which definitely turned off users in 2014. So the sibyls of tech can’t be right all the time. SMS messaging lives on!

Prediction: "Smartphones Cheaper than a Carton of Cigarettes"

Web prophecies predicted that a smartphone manufacturer in China, Xiaomi, would make a global move in 2014. They also claimed that the ubiquity of the phones in China would reduce the price to less than a carton of cigarettes. Well, neither prediction occurred. That said, we may see Xiaomi’s presence in other countries, like Brazil and India, in 2015. And the price of Xiaomi phone certainly has dropped – you can now buy a phone in China for less than 25 US dollars (but it’s not yet less than a carton of smokes).

Prediction: "Google Glass Will Be Everywhere"

Wearable tech has been all the buzz in 2014, for sure. But when the Nostradamus’ of the web claimed that Google Glass would be seen all around this year, they made a critical error. The world is not ready to embrace wearable tech, especially recording devices that sit right in the middle of your face. Tech bloggers predicted upwards of 800,000 Google Glass units sold in 2014, but they’re barely reaching 250,000. We’ll see what’s to come for wearable tech but, at this point, it’s just not happening in any significant fashion.

So just as in any year, several predictions were right and just as many were wrong. What’s in store for 2015? Only time will tell, but – judging from last year’s predictions – we’re bound to see the pendulum of mobile tech swing toward further globalization.  

January 05, 2015

Mobile Marketing for Finance Products and Services

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It’s near impossible to argue the benefits mobile marketing offers a wide variety of industries, including finance. Over a third of major U.S. bank customers regularly turn to mobile banking, and as such it’s essential that marketers take full advantage of what this ever-evolving channel provides. Chase has some 12 million customers moving an astounding $6.5 billion through mobile platforms each month, and that’s just one example. 

“For us, mobile is a critical channel, the fastest growing channel we have, and one that uniquely makes banking a lot more convenient,” says Robert Tas, Managing Director, Head of Digital Marketing at JP Morgan Chase. Tas understands full well the convenience mobile offers customers. “If I don’t have to get into my car and drive to an ATM to deposit a check, you could have saved me 30 minutes to an hour,” he says. 

Let’s take a deeper look at the many benefits mobile marketing offers the finance industry: 

Customer Loyalty

Mobile marketing functions as a true gift to finance, as late-arriving low-balance alerts are just one of the ways to create seriously unhappy customers. A simple text message notification warning customers of their account situation, however? The loyalty such messages provide banks is invaluable. 

And that’s just one way mobile ensures bank customer loyalty. SMS notifications regarding shady transactions is yet another way, as fraud and low-balance notifications are highly time-sensitive. Text also wins over email like nobody’s business, as send-to-open time for texts is 14 minutes, and email 6.4 hours. That’s one enormous difference. 

Increased Communication

Nearly 90% of American adults own mobile phones, and 75% of those send and receive text messages quite regularly. And unlike apps, text messages are compatible with every mobile device under our sun, and most open and read every single text that comes their way—95% of incoming texts are read, compared to 10% of emails. It’s therefore not a stretch to say text messaging is the best and most reliable form of mass communication currently in existence. 

Return on Investment

For companies still on the proverbial fence in regards to mobile marketing, take note: texting equals profit. The technology’s cheap and easy to use, and the average SMS user makes more transactions, has bigger “basket size,” and revolves balances, resulting in that much more income for card issuers. As a bonus, the cost of sending promotions via text is much lower than other marketing means. 

As Tracy Weber, the managing director for Consumer Interest and Mobile Banking in North America for Citi Bank notes, “To be able to delight them [customers] and provide things that really add value to their lives absolutely can go a long way in how they feel about this [mobile] category.” 

It follows that the only question left to bankers who haven’t utilized this strategy is, “Why ever not?” 

 

 

January 01, 2015

5 Tech-Powered New Year's Resolutions

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With the holiday festivities out the way our attentions turn to those New Year’s resolutions we must now fulfil. The thought of all that abstinence or exertion or spendthriftiness can be a mite depressing, which is why we’ve cast around for some technological solutions (or at the least, assistants) that will help you achieve your goals:

1) Stay Safer Online

Data privacy was one of the big stories of 2014 - even if it took a nude celebrity photo leak to snap us out of our complacency, and a high-profile Hollywood hacking scandal to confirm what we already knew: digital information is vulnerable and there are loads of unscrupulous cyber-gits out there. Keep your passwords regularly updated, and find out how to avoid bad password practices. Helping take the headache out of the task is Dashlane, a rather good password manager that makes turning insecure, easily hacked passwords into more secure versions. 

2) Cull Old Devices

For anyone who grew up before the age of mass computer gadgetry, throwing out old electronics devices is anathema. Even that Nokia handset from 1995 seems too, well, hi-tech to be consigned to the trash. Except you’re not supposed to throw old phones and computers away, that was your resolution six years ago, remember?! Your instincts are right: the components contained in old laptops and cellphones are still useful. You just need to give them to a local e-recycling program who can get the most out them. Check the EPA website for your nearest donation drop-off point. 

3) Go Mobile

Remember last year, when you vowed to engage with mobile marketing? You knew it would be beneficial to your business, and yet twelve months later you still don’t have a mobile marketing plan in place. Don’t beat yourself up, just crack on with a mobile marketing strategy this year. It’s affordable, effective, and will probably end up shaving a bunch of cash off your overall ad spend - all of which can go in the slush fund for next Christmas! 

4) Get in Shape

Wearable tech is in rude health right now, and the New Year is the perfect opportunity to start getting fit and bidding goodbye to those extra winter pounds you gained. If yoga’s your thing, try the SmartMat, a really clever piece of technology that gives you personalized feedback on your technique. At just under $300, it’s only for those committed to improving their fitness in the long run - but that’s what resolutions should be all about anyway. Get the lowdown on how the SmartMat works here.

5) Learn a Language

For many of us, being fluent in a new language is the ultimate unfulfilled ambition. Gaining such a useful skill used to entail paying for expensive courses, travelling to and from the lessons, and having to learn in a proscribed way that wasn’t necessarily right for you. Luckily, there’s a raft of new apps that have not only made learning a language more affordable and convenient, but actually more efficient as well. Lingua.ly is among the most notable examples; it lets you pick out words you like the look of from international publications. Then it builds personalized flashcards which are more appealing than rote phrasebook learning.

 

 

December 30, 2014

What Will Happen to Mobile Marketing in 2015?

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Change is inevitable (with the possible exception of vending machines), so what will become of mobile marketing in the coming year? Let’s take a look at what continues to dominate, what will change, and perhaps make a prediction or two: 

The Visual is Essential

One thing’s for darn certain: visuals aren’t going anywhere. The competition for consumer attention continues to gain momentum, and as such photos, videos and infographics are necessary to every piece of content created. A recent survey by the Nonprofit Times found nonprofits rank higher than for-profit organizations in content marketing strategies, with some 63 percent reporting current work on visual content as a big part of strategy. 

Personalization Increases

In-the-know marketers utilize analytics to create successful marketing campaigns, and in 2015 businesses will no doubt study customer behavior and interests in depth to craft customized content marketing strategies to stay ahead of the competition. Businesses are learning how to make adjustments with each new social media update, blog, etc. Measuring efforts will be easier than ever before in 2015 thanks to a number of new analytics tools. 

Consumers served content tailored to personal tastes will prevail in 2015 over marketing efforts that barely rings any bells. This includes blogs, guest blogs, articles and tweets, as brands have realized the value of personalizing content so as to reach different demographics rather than posting the same blog or tweet across all social media platforms. 

Mobile Friendliness: A Must

The mobile device surpassed the PC in usage for the first time in 2014, and brands are making adjustments to ensure content marketing efforts work for smaller screens…and shorter attention spans. Content designed for mobile devices, including location-based search terms, will be incredibly important in 2015. 

“Marketers have been advised to create and tailor different formats of content with customized copy for highly-fragmented marketing channels from TV to print to various social media platforms in order to reach their target audience,” says Pam Didner, a global integrated marketing strategist for the Intel Corporation. “It’s the right thing to do.” 

Interactive Applications for Product Storytelling Becomes Integral

Interactive storytelling will become an “integral part” of product demonstration in 2015, particularly at events such as conferences and expos. Brands are finding ways to use interactive 3D product models among other meticulously-crafted content to attract customers and give them a proverbial taste of the product without having said product on premise. 

These are just some of the ways mobile marketing will grow and change in the new year….

 

 

December 17, 2014

How SMS is Helping Small Businesses in Latin America

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The second annual Latin American Bitcoin Conference took place in Rio earlier this month. More than 200 attendees saw seminars and panels featuring 37 guest speakers from around the world. 

Among the keynote speakers were a number of bitcoin representatives. The crypto currency is making a big impact across the region. A new partnership between Coinapult and 37 Coins seeks to expand bitcoin access to segments of the population without smartphones or traditional banking methods at their disposal. Their weapon? SMS messaging.

The service allows bitcoin users the world over to send and receive payments using only a feature phone with SMS capability. For entrepreneurs in South America, it holds the promise of allowing them to operate from remote areas, lessening the burden on over-populated urban centers.

This is a crucial development, not just for SMB owners, but for the public purse as well. Millions of small businesses across Latin America are currently restricted to cash-only transactions. This raises the question: how sure can local governments be that rural entrepreneurs are doing due diligence when it comes to paying taxes? It hardly takes a cynic to assume millions of pesos, bolivianos, reals and dollars are slipping through the net.

Of course, there will always be a black market. For some, operating outside the system is a point of principal. But for most small businesses, removing the temptation is all that’s needed to reduce corruption. Give them the tools to accept trackable, taxable payments and they’ll play ball, safe in the knowledge that the added security will help their business in the long run. Legitimacy is so much more attractive when it’s easily achieved.

A similar scheme – albeit with no SMS element – has been implemented in East African countries including Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. M-Pesain allows its 16 million users to send and receive money, pay bills and withdraw cash from local ATMs. 

SMS-based money transfer systems are providing the way forward in Latin America. Paraguay has Giros Tigo, which incurs a 5% commission fee. Brazil and Argentina have similar systems in place.

Bitcoin and text messaging seem to be a winning doubles team. The key beneficiaries are often people who face discrimination from financial institutions, which view them as risky prospect for credit. Entrepreneurs trying to make headway in these conditions find it difficult to send money, pay with credit cards or open a bank account – no matter how promising their ideas are. Nothing can match text message in terms of potential: four billion people worldwide are living without smartphones (perish the thought!) and the remittances market has found it’s most promising tool yet in SMS-enabled bitcoin transfers.

December 10, 2014

Why Are Mobile Marketing Budgets Increasing?

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We see a lot in these pages about the growth of mobile marketing. But just how fast is that growth happening? And are the same trends expected in future? 

The more the industry swells its ranks and revenues, the more data we have to go on. A recent Tatango survey looked at mobile budget trends and forecasts and compared the results with previous mobile marketing metrics. So, are budgets going up in accordance with the mobile explosion? 

The answer is yes. Very much so. Some 44% of marketers said they were increasing their mobile budgets during 2014 – up from a little over 42% in 2013. Mobile is proving particularly popular with startups, who can devise creative mobile marketing campaigns on relatively few dollars.

Other surveys report similar upward trends. According to Gartner, digital marketing budgets are expected to increase by 8% in 2015. Exactly half of all respondents stated an intention to increase digital spending next year.

The message from businesses remains remarkably consistent. Gartner’s research was conducted with the participation of 315 companies located in the United States, Canada and the UK. They represent organizations with more than $500 million in annual revenue, working in six disparate industries: hospitality, tech, manufacturing, financial services, retail and media. The bigger the firm, the greater the marketing budget as a percentage of revenue; companies with revenues in excess of $5 billion report spending, on average, 11% of revenue on marketing. For companies generating between $500 million and $1 billion, marketing spend was 9.2%. 

And really, those dollars are what it all comes down to. Understanding how to exploit capital to it’s fullest potential is the primary challenge for cash-strapped startups. That’s why having an effective CFO is so important, and it goes a long way towards explaining the huge popularity of mobile marketing tactics like coupons and time-limited discounts, which are easily and affordably disseminated via text message.

The modern marketer is performing a delicate balancing act. Each strand of their campaign must be woven together into a satisfying whole. Integration is everything. The resultant consumer experience is nudging users towards a more self-service buying model, which means businesses can reduce traditional sales-led budgets without sacrificing quality. Marketing budgets in general – and mobile marketing budgets in particular – are the primary beneficiaries of this new model. If you’re yet to move ad spend into a coherent mobile marketing strategy, it might be time to start…