mardi 31 août 2010

The Android "wave" against the iPhone

Gartner recently published sales of smartphone devices by manufacturer, but also by OS (read full article). But as everyone else does, they only publish Q2 2010 and compare it to Q2 2009.

Stats are nice, it's also nice to see the progression of some and decrease of others, but what we, readers, expect most from those companies is to highlight what really makes sense.

So I did it for them.

Where's the real battle right now in terms of AppStore / smart phones: it's a "fight" between Apple and Android, even though one could say we're comparing pears and apples, but we don't. Apple's iPhone is one environment (iPhone, iTune, iPad, etc.), and Android is its nearest competitor when it comes to mobile content / mobile entertainement (and derived, mobile advertising....!!!), even if manufacturered by several competing companies.

So here it is, the compiled stats from Gartner (even if from one report to another, figures reported for a given quarter vary a bit, which is definitely not serious for such a company, I can illustrate on demand!):

Of course Q3 figures will show interesting with
- Sales of iPhone 4, apparently over 3 million devices sold in just 1 month as of July 16th (as reported by here)
-Still roaring sales of Android powered devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy S reporting selling 1 million handsets in 45 days (source) as of today.

So of course, with this huge Android "wave" (yes, it's a reference to the declared dead Google Wave project), we really understand publishers concerns over Android Marketplace (see post about article from Digital Chocolate - click here). It's definitely something to take into consideration in the mobile content / advertising business!

So the question for all actors in the field is: are you ready for this?

Gartner Sources:
Q1 2010 -
Q3 2009:        
Q2 2009:
Q1 2009:

Mobile game publisher Digital Chocolate criticize the "droidful" Android Market

Mobile publisher Digital Chocolate's CEO, Trip Hawkins, just wrote a nice post on his corporate blog (read here) about the Android Market which rose quite a few comments and articles in the specialized press (like Mobile Entertainement).

 I'll just put one quote which will give you a taste of his post: "Conventional games don’t sell on Android because Google has a senseless and lazy policy to ignore what is posted into their app store"

From a publisher's stand point, you're totally right Trip!!

But from Google's point of view; did they ever intend to make money from the Android Market? Where's the Android Market sitting in their strategy actually? It's probably a mere "must have", but nothing more. Google's business model is advertising, remember?

Could Google's Android strategy work without Android Market? No. But can it work without a quality / income approach as for Apple's App Store? Yes. Apple's App Store is actually probably the only app store on the market really generating income for anyone; so such criticism could also apply for a bunch of stores as well....

jeudi 19 août 2010

Why is Nokia still struggling on the smartphone business?

In a recent article published in Zdnet  "Nokia rules the mobile phone world so why do we diss them in the US?" (read full article), the author Matthew Miller is wondering why do Americans have so much against Nokia. The comments from readers were also quite good and interesting.

But as may techies, they miss the point. It's not only an American thing, it's a worldwide trend (at least in developped countries), figures published do show it, Nokia is losing market shares in the smartphone business.

For having tried few hundred different devices for the past 6 years, I would definitely go with Matthew on numerous points, also shared by most readers who posted comments.

That is yes, Nokia phones have definitely a much better calling quality, yes they have a much better camera (on average, I must precise), and yes they have tons of cool features which are not to be added via an app.

But there's a major point many techies tend to follow. For many consumers, let's say the majority, what does really matter? It's a concept called "user friendliness" and a "wow" effect.

Few years ago, it was all about mp3 players. There were tons on the market, and many, many much better than the iPod. But guess what, iPod (and all its versions) made the revolution (and the income), and they still sell many despite the fact that most phones can do virtually the same. Now why would somebody buy an additional device to do something his one phone is doing? User friendliness, simplicity!!

I had N85 which I was using as a modem to connect on the internet while abroad with my laptop; great feature, but that required a lot of time in configuration (more than any normal person would spend). So not really a feature valuable to most consumers.

Now the day I had an iPhone in my hands (3 years ago), it was like "wow", so fluid, so easy and intuitive and can do so well the simple tasks I want to do. Yes camera is crappy, but I never expected my phone to replace my camera (and you can line up millions of pixels, you still won't even compare with plain cameras...). Putting content on it, nothing simpler, one cable, one software darn easy to use (a 5 year old could use it), that’s it ....

The point I'm trying to make is that yes, Nokia is making great phones; solid, reliable, full of tech stuff; but their “smartphones” are not as appealing to consumers as they were and don't address their needs; at least not in the real smartphone market (sorry, but for me a N95 is not a smartphone), and far not as much as they used to. Let’s also define what a “smartphone” is. For me, it’s a mobile device that can do a lot of multimedia things starting with Internet, can also call and have a bunch of communication features (social networks, maps, apps that help me where I am, like nearby movie theater with movies played there, etc.).

Lately, I tried to install Nokia maps on my N95, took me 2 hours to configure the darn account, ensure that my PC would recognize my N95, put the software, download the maps, install the maps; and finally when using it, after 10 meters, the navigation closed because the phone couldn't get connected (and yes, at the same spot I could get a perfect 3G signal and could connect to the Internet).... hardly a real smartphone (but I know, it's not a recent one, but still considered as a "smartphones" by people like Gartner when doing their stats). On iPhone, you press Map, and that’s it. Simple. Yes, less features, but guess what, when I’m lost, I don’t have minutes to spend configuring a phone!

I have tried a N8 over a month ago. Side to size even with an iPhone 3G (not even 3Gs), consumer lambda would still see the difference; starting with the touch sensitivity.... yes, it's basic, but darn hell important!

I also have a SE X10, Android. Touch sensitivity = same as iPhone, connectivity: super easy; but a bit more of a mess when it comes to apps and menu, but still much better than the Symbian interface.

What many said here in comments is quite significant of the issue Nokia faces. They said that after a while, you get used to the Symbian OS. Well, that's the problem. It's not the consumer who shall get used to the OS, it's the opposite!!

So that's why I have entittled this comment "is it really about technical specs", because it ain't!

Now I admit, I didn't test the Nokia N900. Could be a very slick device, I don't know. But this highlights the second issue with Nokia: how they sell their devices to consumers. Have you seen a Nokia ad lately? I for sure haven't. I see Apple, I see Samsung, I see HTC... but not Nokia; and I’m not in the US, but in France.

Actually when you talk to marketing people from Nokia, they will admit aspiring to Apple's user experience. I quote an article from Mobile Entertainment (june 1st 2010) "Nokia's head of global partner marketing Nick Malaperiman admits that the company has work to do to catch up with Apple's App Store in terms of user experience." (read full article)

Back 2 years ago, Nokia's EVP of Entertainment (at the time) Tero Ojanpera was saying "Nokia has been steadily repositioning itself from hardware manufacturer to “a next-generation entertainment company.” (read full article). What Nokia really lacks is meeting words with reality. Do you see Nokia as a media company. Lambda consumers sure don't.

So Nokia guys, you have the strength, you have the brains, you have a hell of a brand, you have the money (at least, you still do for now), think "outside the box"! I would even say "think outside the Finnish box" and you will really kick some butts!

That’s a personal opinion from a consumer who had few happy years with Nokia phones and is really expecting a lot from them.

And Mathew, would love to read your post once you’ll test the N8, truly.

mardi 17 août 2010

Google Android, Ovi, and the billing issue - why it's still an issue!!

Few days ago, Google reported discussing about integrating PayPal into its Android Market to allow consumers using their PayPal account to pay for contents.

Jolie O'Dell from Mashable summarizes the issue very well: "For many users, one of the biggest pain points in owning an Android device can be the experience of buying a non-free mobile app from the Android Market."

This summarizes very well the core issue about mobile entertainment: how do you  charge consumers and make money. Doing marketing is nice, showing off your brand and your services with cool applications is certainly helpfull and needed. But in the end, you need to make money out of it.

Besides iPhone, other "stores" are really lagging behind, including Ovi. Noticed they communicate on "downloads" and not on income?

As it has been proven over time that carrier billing is the best way to convert spontaneous purchases on the phone", and bluntly writes "What Google really needs to do is integrate carrier billing around the world to make it as painless as possible for consumers to click, pay and download applications" (make sure you read the comment from PhilipCohen" in this article)

So on one side, you have mobile stores with increasingly huge number of downloads (Android Market) but no income, and on the other side you have Mobile Operators with decreasing (that's an understatment) downloads on their own portals, but with the current most efficient billing.

Now you could think that guys like Nokia and Google are pretty smart guys, that they didn't wait for us to think about this. So why didn't they implement operator billing?

1. It's becoming sensitive grounds, as mobile operators have their own App strategy, which obviously competes directly against manufacturer's stores. See my post about Vodafone and Android....

2. Well, unlike credit cards and PayPal, operators are pretty darn expensive, they take a very large chunk of the revenues (30-50% average)! Of course operator payout is more efficient, but are they the one driving the traffic and the hype those days?

3. You know how many mobile operators there are out there. That means that many contracts, implementations... that's why even Nokia who started it a while ago with Ovi, still isn't there.

 On the left, an image (credit Ilogan) very similar to what I saw on my SE X10 today. I'm in France, but apps are listed in US dollars, UK Pounds or in Euros (of free "Gratuit")... go wonder why nobody buys anything!!

The issue is that if nobody agrees or find suitable solutions, there will be no eCommerce on mobiles, maybe advertisement, but advertisement for the "real world"; and advertisers will get tired very soon, once the "hype" is over!

Fortunately, there's still the iPhone; where we can still make some income!!

My bet: the way things are currently evolving, I'm placing a bet on credit card issuers like Visa or MasterCard.... But operators still have a good cards in their hands, but they shall use them, and fast!