Mobile Fix – March 1

We again resisted the temptation to join 70,000 others in Barcelona this week for Mobile World Congress. So, what did we miss? Well not that mucb, seemingly.

Lot of new devices were announced and / or launched. They all look pretty much the same  – the phones are getting bigger and the tablets are tending to get smaller, so a new category of Phablets is emerging. With form factors converging we are at that stage where mobile is like the TV markets – every device looks similar and the content is increasingly the same.  Size matters but does brand?

Can Samsung continue to be the main competitor or will formerly strong players like LG and HTC come back? Are we moving to a world where the hardware is less important and device makers are looking to the content and services to differentiate?

The operators still don’t like the OTT (Over The Top) players – GAFA to you and me. They all lined up to complain about the pressures on their business and how they should have a bigger share of the spoils.  Now they said pretty much the same thing last year and we haven’t seen that much action.

If you compare the constant innovation from GAFA – the stuff that fills Fix pretty much every week – with initiatives from the operators it’s clear where the energy is.

To be fair, this is starting to change. Weve is up and running. Orange has bought the rest of video service Daily Motion and O2 is looking for content rights to buy – saying they came close to beating News Corp to the Premiership mobile rights.

As their business comes under pressure from cut price players ( French telecoms company Bouygues saw profits drop by 41% because of our favourite French firm Free) Operators are looking at content and services to differentiate.

The one area where there was real news in Barcelona was around operating systems.  Browser firm Firefox is developing a new mobile operating system to compete with iOS and Android and has attracted a lot of support from both operators and device manufacturers.

Aimed at lower end users in developing markets it seems these key players are keen to try and slow the growth of Android in particular. Because of the Firefox heritage the OS will be open and apps can be developed as webapps – which is another boost for HTML5.

Samsung have officially announced their Tizen OS  - developed with Intel. This has been known about for a while but with Samsung dominating Android sales, this OS gives them a lever if Google should choose to give Motorola any family favouritism.

And in another OS twist, Palm webOS (once seen as the key competitor to Apples iOS) has risen from the ashes having been bought by LG. But they plan to use it on their smart TVs, rather than their mobile devices.

Does any of this really matter? We saw research last year that a large proportion of smartphone users have no idea what OS they have on their phone. Real people don’t buy Android phones; they buy a Samsung, an LG or an HTC. Ultimately all they really care about is whether the phone does its job and they can access the best content and services.

You will have spotted that we think the whole market is getting to a stage where the content and services are what really matters. So rights owners and developers are key to the success of the whole ecosystem.

3 or 4 years ago this was quite a simple business. You made an app for the iPhone and you had a huge potential reach of the available audience – and had the best infrastructure for monetizing the reach you achieved. Until a year or so ago it was the same with tablets – create a native app for the iPad and you were sorted.

Now with so many form factors and different OS this one approach doesn’t work. In one of our workshops we drew an analogy with the grocery market. Being on the iPhone is now like being stocked in Waitrose – it can be really good for a niche player but most brands need to be in Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury and Morrisons too. Otherwise you are leaving money on the table.

And to stretch the analogy, you really don’t want the hassle of remaking the product for each distributor. So we believe these new moves are a further boost for creating your content and services in a web focused way – yes, HTML5.

Talking about the Firefox initiative one of the key people at America Movil (the mobile firm owned by the worlds richest man Carlos Slim) said;

“I believe this is the beginning of the end of walled gardens,”

That may be a little premature, but if you are a brand or a rights owner you can’t afford to perpetuate the walled gardens by limiting your reach and increasing your costs with native apps.

Other MWC news 

GAFA didn’t really show up in Barcelona. Having had a huge Android stand last year, Google made do with an Android party this year – with Florence and the Machine and Tinie Tempah. Facebook had plenty or people there, but it was quite low key.

Connected cars was a big story this year, with a number of marques showing how the car is becoming a mobile device (sorry). One of the things we have talked about for years is finally happening – Ford will partner with Spotify to offer an in car music service that doesn’t require flimsy CDs etc.

Mastercard have made their move into mobile money with Masterpass – a mobile wallet that enables people to store their card details and loyalty cards in one place. It also acts as a digital checkout service for retailers – online and also offline, through a QR like code that can be used in store.

And Visa have announced a partnership with Samsung to have their NFC solution in the Samsung wallet. Oddly though this doesn’t seem to have made it into the new Samsung wallet announced at MWC – where the influence of Apple Passbook is quite clear. And as further support to our point about walled gardens it looks like this app will only be available through the Samsung appstore – meaning brands that want to maximize distribution for their loyalty cards have yet another player to deal with.

Shazam has 300m users and sees TV second screen as its future

Quick Reads

20% of Dominos pizzas are ordered on mobile – up from 10% a year ago

30% of FT.com traffic is on mobile devices and 15% of new subscriptions come from mobile.

Nearly 40% of Groupon US transactions in January were completed on mobile devices – up 44% on a year previous.

In the US Nielsen will now include online viewing in their ratings, so people watching Modern Family on their laptop will count just as people watching it on their TV do.

US music charts will now include YouTube views as well as streaming data from Spotify et al and radio plays. Actual physical sales still count too. So guess what is number 1? Harlem Shake

Mobile SEO is becoming crucial – this econsultancy piece is a good summary of the issues.

Mobile advertising is a tough market – Millennial Media  sales grew by 71% and the stock fell by 38%.

Apple are going to reimburse those parents who were ripped off by in-app purchases aimed at kids. We expect that Apple will be collecting this from the app developers who gamed the system to steal candy from kids.

Whilst the High Street is suffering, ecommerce has a few issues too

Finally…..If you read Mobile Fix you know the world is changing. And that this is having a profound effect on marketing and advertising. But there are lots of people in our business that still don’t really get just how significant these changes are.

This week we have seen some smart thinking about these changes and we think you could usefully share these with your team and your colleagues. And maybe even your boss.

Our smart friend @NeilPerkin pointed out this good piece from Barbarian, summarizing the key things to be thinking about in 2013. Apps as microsites and Zombie audiences particularly resonated with us.

Winston Binch of ad agency Deutsch has written a great summary of how Agencies need to respond to these changes – Advertisers need to be Inventors.

Experimentation is too rarely rewarded in our industry. Work with your clients to carve out space for experimentation in your budgets and clearly define your objectives and measurements of success. Start small. The great thing about digital is you can do a lot with less.

And McKinsey weigh in with thinking about Driving Digital Change;

Everything is trackable — how a campaign happens, costs, performance targets. I think we’re about to see a dramatic streamlining of a lot of inefficiencies in the marketing process.

If you believe the world is changing, use this thinking to get your colleagues, clients and your board on the same page. And maybe they should sign up for Fix too.

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