Top Ten mobile predicitions for 2010

Predicting the future is always tricky, especially when it comes to technology. If they had got it right in the 50s, we’d all by flying around in jet cars and holidaying on the moon. This time last year I made some (slightly less ambitious) top ten predictions for the world of mobile and mobile marketing for 2009. How did I do? Click this link to see – I have marked myself out of ten.

So now onto this year’s top ten predictions for mobile and mobile marketing. I have avoided including anything too obvious, such as the growth in SMS. It was relevant to mention it last year as many were predicting it’s imminent demise with Smartphones and ‘always on’ email. Similarly, it’s pretty safe to say that smartphone sales (whatever counts as a smartphone) will also grow in the next year. So here are a few predicitions for next year that may be less obvious:

1. 2010 will be the year of mobile advertising
It’s always hard to say when the ‘year of anything’ is or was, but I think that mobile advertising will be BIG in 2010. Until now it has grown steadily but slowly. Compared to other channels it is still tiny. So why now? There are a number of factors that will make it all fall into place: the increase of smartphones, data connections and with it mobile web, operator investment in mobile advertising channels (from Orange’s purchase of Blyk, to O2 setting up O2 Media) and most significantly, Google acquiring Admob for $750m. A study by the IAB earlier this year showed that mobile advertising in the UK had doubled year on year. There’s no reason why it won’t perform as well or even better in 2010.

2. Mobile payments will become more common place
As with mobile advertising a number of things are converging at the right time: NFC or contactless payment systems in mobile will be appearing more and more. The recent statement by the banks that cheques are dead and mobile payments are in will support this greatly. Better security for phones, especially smartphones, in app payments (see number x for more details) and the Square. Although Square is a tool for taking credit cards, it reinforces the idea of mobile as a payment system.

3. More commercial and branded apps
The in app payment move by Apple and RIM’s Blackberry app store is significant. It means that seamless payments can be made within an app, such as upgrades to full versions, or for specific services or info. Arriva’s app to pay for bus tickets is a good example (though not currently available for the iphone or Blackberry). At the same time, ad serving into apps will increase – the investment by some of the mobile networks in this area will fuel this development.

4. Behavioural targeting will be on the rise
It already exists to some extent on the web: certain conversations in Gmail will result in particular ads. The mobile networks investment in advertising is important. Revenues for the telecoms side of their business: calls, sms and data are pretty static. The market is saturated and we all have the mobile package we want. Other revenues such as cross operator or roaming have been squeezed. So an obvious opportunity for mobile networks is to offer the mobile as an advertising channel. To this end, most of them have been developing some kind of advertising media operation. Central to that is behavioural targeting: an operator knows roughly where you are and has a certain amount of data about your activities and profile. O2, for example launched O2 More, which uses this kind of targetting. The problem with behavioural targeting are how customers feel about it …

5. Privacy
Mobile is the most personal of media. We rarely share our mobiles and it’s what we text our loved ones on. As various forms of mobile marketing take off, privacy on mobile will become a major consumer issue. Already this year, there has been quite a backlash to anything that appears to compromise the our privacy: Google Latitude or T-Mobile’s loss of personal data. Take 118 800, the mobile directory enquiries. So many people tried to opt out of it their system fell over, and hasn’t returned to date. At the same time, 5 companeis in Australia were fined $15m for sending spam and a woman in the US is suing Burger King for $5m for 2 unsolicited messages. Put all of this in the general context of privacy: DNA records, ISPs monitoring users and it becomes a major public issue. It won’t sit well with behavioural targeting either.

6. Android will become a major player in mobile OS
Although Android was announced to a big fanfare last year, it lags behind Apple, RIM and Nokia. The OS is great – it has more functionality and is more reliable than the iphone – but the handsets weren’t. The new raft of Android handsets may well end all that: Motorola’s Droid (called the Milestone in Europe) and Nexus One may give the iphone a run for it’s money. Even the low end computer manufacturer Acer are in on the act, producing an Android handset. Google also has a more open approach to apps and app stores than Apple, making it potentially more attractive to developers.

7. Mobile content and social media aggregation
The problem with living in an information rich age is that there is just too much of it. On the mobile platform it’s even harder. Multi-tasking on phones is proving difficult, the small screen and keyboard leads to more ‘snacking’ behaviour in users. Keeping up with your Twitter, Facebook and Linked in accounts, not to mention SMS, email or IM is difficult on mobile. The solution comes in the form of aggregation – see what your friends are up to all from one place. Vodafone 360 and Motoblur are showing the way – there’s still quite a way to go, but the true social media mobile experience will require a simpler, aggregated approach.

8. Apps will still grow – the mobile web cannot replace them.
Google have made it clear that they see apps as a temporary solution and that the mobile web can deliver everything that apps currently do, and more. Already, Google has said it will focus on a web version of Google Voice after it was rejected form the iphone appstore. Unfortunately Google have been wrong in this respect before. Google Docs is a great idea – no worries about your software, updating it or even viruses. Just store everything in Google docs. Except that it doesn’t really work. Using Google Docs is slow and often unreliable. The same problem exists with the mobile web: it assumes that there is a good, reliable data connection on the phone. Whereas apps can run some or all elements without the data connection, even with some form of caching, it’s hard to see how that can happen on the mobile web.

9. Augmented Reality and Image Recognition will not significantly take off
In spite of the excellent Google Goggles, AR and IR will not be a broad mainstream technology. There’s a number of reasons for it: it’s fun, yes, but ultimately what is the benefit? If I’m trying to find a place, my mobile maps will offer a clear and easier functionality. In reality IR has a long way to go. Google Goggles uses the GPS and compass to overlay it’s information, and currently does not use image recognition.

10. Mobile social networks will not go it alone
Although 65 million of Facebook’s 300 million users accessed via their mobiles, mobile social networks: those specifically for the mobile user will not take off. There have been a few attempts at building a mobile specific social network, and those like Flirtomatic, which is essentially a dating site, have cornered a niche market. However, our engagement with social media will largely be a web-base one. The main reason is that it simply works well. From status updates to uploading photos and video, it works well enough on the PC. Mobile social networks do not offer a sufficient incentive to move away from that.

Top Ten predicitions for mobile in 2009: were they right?

A year ago I wrote a mu top 10 predcitions in mobile and mobile marketing for 2009. Was I right? I have marked myself on the accuracy of the predictions. Have I been too generous in my assessment? Comments welcomed!

• SMS will grow continue to grow
10/10 – according to the MDA SMS in June 08 was 6 billion and 7.7 billion in June 09, a rise of 28% (and that’s in a recession). SMS marketing has followed suit.

* Bluetooth marketing will grow
7/10 – It hasn’t been the stuff of headlines, but during the last year Bluetooth marketing has been rolled out in a number of commuter networks and shopping centres. For many of these public networks the focus has been on vouchering to drive sales. With an average download rate of 5% of footfall, expect to see the Bluetooth marketing trend continuing.

• QR will become more commonplace
5/10 – the problem is still that many handsets do not have the readers installed. However, some high profile brands have conducted campaigns in the last year. Such as Pepsi and M&S who used QR codes on juice packs for their discount promotion. The advantage of using QR was that it was easy to use where there was limited space on the packaging.

* MMS will grow … but it will continue to remain niche
10/10 – According to the MDA figures there was a rise of 11% in MMS usage in the UK between June 08 (44 million) and June 09 (49 million). In comparison to SMS it remains small.

* Mobile Couponing and Ticketing will increase
7/10 – Juniper predicts that 300 million people will be using them in the next 5 years. Many retail brands have recently taken the plunge into mobile coupons. However these have often been small scale trials. One problem that plagues such campaigns is the redemption issue, where stores cannot integrate barcodes or sales staff enter the wrong voucher number into the system.

* Network Operator Location Based Services (LBS) will NOT take off
8/10 – I predicted that the costs form network operators would be a major barrier to LBS. In that respect I was correct, however, LBS has taken off in mobile apps using the GPS built into smartphones. In the branded sector this has typically taken the form of store finders, although apps such as Last Minute’s NRU have shown how LBS can enhance a brand’s image.

• Mobile internet overtakes PC based internet use
5/10 – There are no current figures for the UK, however Europe and worldwide figures show significant growth in mobile internet usage. Newer developments such as the iphone and Twitter have driven this increase. Mobile will take over from fixed internet but it will take another few years before it happens.

* Mobile security will become a bigger issue
7/10 – It may not have made the headline news, but there were many examples of mobile phone ‘cracking’ and phishing attempts this year. Using technology company, 41st Parameter reported that the increase in both smartphones and mobile operating system has led to an increase in fraud attempts. Last year saw mobile banking phishing sites for the first time. In the UK, a number of unsolicited campaigns by accident claims companies and the sale of data by a T-Mobile employee led to greater media awareness of the problem.

* Targeted and Niche Advertising will grow
7/10 – There have been some significant changes in the mobile advertising sector: new operator initiatives, such as the Orange and Blyk partnership and Google’s acquisition of Admob. Although there has been some growth in the sector, the major ramp up in mobile advertising is predicted for 2010 and beyond.

• The Iphone will become ‘just another phone’
2/10 – Although Apple remains third placed in the smartphone market, behind Nokia and RIM’s Blackberry (for which I gabe myself the two points!), the iphone has consolidated it’s position as the handset by which all others are judged. It also won a ‘coolest brand’ of the year award in the UK. Similarly, brands, from Nike to NatWest, have made their iphone apps the centre of their mobile marketing initiatives.

The problem with mobile video

I have never been convinced by mobile tv, or even mobile video, for that matter. Whilst there are some people who may use it, it’s pretty small and niche. This is primarily because the true TV experience is so much better, well established and easy to use. It is also a shared experience.

The other problem with mobile TV and video is bandwidth. Even if the demand was there, the networks simply could not cope. To deal with this, Derek McManus, CTO of O2 UK recently explained in a press release that the company was investing to cope with the growing demand for mobile data services, such as those demanded by the iphone.

He said:

“In the past 12 months the mobile industry has seen an unprecedented change in demand. The introduction of world-class devices, in combination with a wide variety of data applications, has brought about a dramatic change in customer behaviour and created an exponential demand on mobile data networks. To put this in context, watching a YouTube video on a smartphone can use the same capacity on the network as sending 500,000 text messages simultaneously.”

I’ll repeat the last line in bold:
To put this in context, watching a YouTube video on a smartphone can use the same capacity on the network as sending 500,000 text messages simultaneously

Brands, may be looking to deliver content-rich video and applications, but this could present a problem for networks. If it is to go anywhere then there needs to be the bandwidth.

Motorola Milestone sells out in hours

The UK version of Motorola’s Android handset, Milestone, has sold out in a matter of hours. The phone, called Droid in the US, is currently exclusively distributed through expansys, the online mobile retailer at a price of £449.99 (inc VAT). According to Mobile Curnch, the first 1000 handsets sold out in a few hours, although another batch will be arriving shortly.
It looks like the Milestone/Droid could be a genuine competitor to the iphone, with the advantage of a pop-out keyboard, and, for those who aren’t keeen on Apple’s phone OS, the Android OS.

What will mobile advertising look like in 2020?

Ogilvy, the advertising agency, have produced an interesting White Paper report into the state of mobile advertising in the year 2020. I often tend to find these things either very tedious or self-indulgent, but this report is really excellent. First of all, it is written with the minimum of technical and ad jargon. And secondly, it makes sense:

‘Mobile advertising in 2020 will be mobile directed advertising. It is about collaboration and individual control. The mobile device will enable the individuals to decide where, when and on what screen they would like to receive their chosen advertisement.’

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been harping on about how personal the phone is and that advertisers need to take this into account. The report sensibly suggests that in future consumers will choose the advertising or marketing they want, and not the other way round. Roll on 2020!

Why Mobile augmented reality will not succeed

The hot topic at the moment seems to be mobile AR. Google’s Goggles is a recent example of how augmented reality seems to be taking off. According a this piece in MobiAd News, we may have already reached the tipping point. There’s lots of interesting stuff in the article, and I agree that AR is likely to be brand led. However, I have a problem with AR. I’m just not that sure if there is a broad appeal to users. Yes, it is innovative. Yes it can be fun and interesting. It can even be useful.

However, we have seen time and again that it is not the technology that drives the channel, but the users. Take video calling. Seems like a nice idea, but who uses it? No one I know, that’s for sure. Perhaps it has a niche use, but will never move beyond that. Similarly look at MMS. Has it replaced SMS? No, far from it. There were over 7.7 billion text messages sent in the UK last month, and less than 50 million multimedia messages. So MMS represents less than 1% of the total messages sent in the UK. So, for most users, sending a picture is not an enhancement they particularly needed. SMS did the job just fine thanks.

It’s the same for augmented reality on mobile. Does it offer something sufficiently useful, beneficial? Would I bother to turn my camera on and point it at something, when my mobile maps give me the same information BEFORE I even reach my destination? And ultimately, how well will it work? Many of the AR developments will require a good, reliable data connection. Something that is not always easy to find. So if the AR function doesn’t work, I will simply get the information through a simpler, less band-width heavy application that I know will work.

Juniper Research has stated that AR already has broad adoption, and that the market will be worth $730 by 2014. I find these predictions surprising to say the least.

I believe that AR is a nice, fun concept, but just as MMS, it will remain niche.

Playboy app for the iphone announced

In a move that appears to be a shift from Apple’s high moral policy over app content, they have allowed Playboy’s app. The magazine will be available on the iphone at a cost of $1.79 per issue.

Previously Apple has banned content on the grounds of language or content. Whilst Playboy’s nudity is relatively tame these days, it still seems to be a change in the app store policy. Or is it a case that Playboy (logo is as iconic as Apple’s own) are being favoured as a brand?

Tesco sells iphones from Dec 14th

The UK supermarket chain, Tesco, has announced December 14th as the date when it will start selling Apple’s popular phone. O2 lost it’s exclusivity on the iphone a few months ago and since then Orange has started selling the handset, and Vodafone have announced it will be available in early 2010.

As you would expect with Tesco’s they aim to undercut the competition. They are offering 12 month iphone contracts from £20 – their competitors are only offering 18 or 24 month phone contracts. With this contract, the handset price will be £222 for an iPhone 3G 8GB. They are also offering the 3G and 3GS on their tripple credit pay as you go price plan.

It will be interesting to see if there is a price war on the iphone. It will also be interesting to see how many more phones will be sold, now that the O2 exclusivity has ended. There were 1 million handsets in the UK in Feb 09, and approximately 1.5m in Dec 09. Watch this blog for more updates!

There’s no such thing as a free SMS

No really, there isn’t!

As we also work in the SMS sending market, we see a lot of searches for ‘Free SMS’. In fact, if you search for it in Google, there are 1000s of sites appearing to offer Free SMS. In reality though it simply doesn’t exist. There are a number of ways in which the SMS is offered as ‘free’:

1. Extra text messages when you purchase a certain amount – nice to see offers but in reality the prices charged are far higher than additional messages.
2. The user is charged for a Premium SMS – this isn’t free at all so the offer is entirely misleanding. The user must put in their own number first, and an SMS billing message is sent to their phone. The cost of this is considerably higher than simply buying online with a credit or debit ard.
3. Advertising-sponsored SMS – this is the nearest that could be described as ‘free’, however about 30 characters are taken up with a sponsor’s message. Although not a major problem, these types of text messages are limited in where you can send them to, the time taken to arrrive or the ability to send it from your own number.

We are currently running a promotion for SMS to Pakistan. If you search Google, there are numerous offers of ‘free SMS’ but all with the kind of catches I described above.

Why don’t we have free?
The problem is simply this: every time an SMS is sent, a mobile operator somewhere is charging for it. Unlike the internet which as ‘free’ built into it, SMS does not. Therefore the cost to send the SMS must be carried by someone, and that someone is the mobile user.

We have focussed on providing a low-cost, reliable service, rather than going the so-called ‘free’ route. Lets hope the simple, honest approach wins out in the end.

Mobile Ad Spend up 42% in 2010 …

… that’s according to an article at

A senior research analyst has predicted the market for the next five years as growing at the following rate:

2009 : $416 million
2010 : $593 million
2011 : $830 million
2012 : $1140 million
2013 : $1560 million

That’s great new from the industry, and who am I to question a senior analyst in a reputable online research company?

However, I would always recommend taking these kinds of figures with a pinch of salt. I can see that there are grounds for this prediction: Google’s acquisition of Admob for $750 is a good argument in favour of mobile advertising’s rise. However, is $1.5 billion by 2013 actually a realistic figure? Who knows? What I do know is that predictions like this get bandied around the industry and quickly become irrefutable facts that are often quoted. Yes, mobile advertising will grow, but I would suggest taking this kind of analysis with a pinch of salt.