I’ve previously blogged about the challenges for the Apple Watch. Right now though, nobody can agree on the success of the device. Data from Slice Intelligence, reported by MacRumours suggested that sales fell by 90% in the second week of July. However, Recode countered that the data only accounted for US online sales and didn’t factor in the launch in physical stores during the same period. Regardless of the ‘sales’ stats, Business Insider has predicted a 35% annual compound growth of the smartwatch market. The Apple Watch is therefore an interesting device in which to understand the direction and benefits of wearable computing.
Having used my device for nearly two months (yes, I have an Apple Watch), it’s been a good way to understand what works and what doesn’t. For example, I find the notifications are more useful than I expected. Whilst getting my phone out my bag or pocket is not a major hassle, there are benefits with notifications on the Watch. For a start, it’s discreet. I have been in a few meetings where my Watch quietly buzzed and I could quickly glance down to see what it wanted. That’s less of a disruption than pulling my phone out my bag. One commentator claimed that all the notifications do is to tell you to pick up your phone. I haven’t found that. Some of the notifications are reminders of another next meeting. I also use it to check the weather, transport and currency rates. None of these require me to look at my smartphone.
One of the unexpected benefits has been for travel. I can set an arrival time for a journey in Citymapper and it will alert me when I need to leave, based on the current speed of the transport network. The turn by turn navigation is also useful. I was in a less savoury part of the city the other week and it was more discreet to use my Watch than get out my phone to check the route (if only Apple Maps were a bit more reliable). The navigation is also useful when it’s raining or I have my hands full.
What’s interesting about all these benefits is that they are all very specific, or contextual. There is a parallel with the contextual nature of smartphones. I have been banging on for years about the need of brands to understand context in mobile to deliver the right engagement. For example, context is not simply knowing the user’s location. Understanding that I’m in-store is useful, but it doesn’t tell me if I’m browsing, ready to buy or just can’t find the product I’m looking for. Context also includes the time of day, my intent and even functions such as the battery life (when people’s batteries are low, the save their usage for basic tasks like messaging their loved ones).
I’ve asked a number of people how they are finding their Watch. Although each person uses it differently, everyone said it was useful, but not essential. Maybe that will change if Apple Pay gains traction. However, the non-essential nature is the key point here. Whilst smartphones are now an essential core device, smartwatches are not. They are useful for very specific tasks. If brands want to develop their engagement on these devices then they will need to understand the very specific contexts in which they are useful. It’s hyper-contextual. Of course the challenge for brands is how to understand or identify that hyper-context.
Are brands finally wearing down consumers with QR codes? After many years of plugging away at them, the latest data form Comscore on EU5 suggests that smartphone owners are beginning to scan them. In the UK, for example it is around 3 million people. Pretty good, but still little over 10% of smartphone users. However, compare that to some of the other most used functions – daily web browsing 82%, social media access 81%, YouTube viewing 92% (UK figures from Our Mobile Planet). QR codes are far from mass media.
QR codes can be useful, however many brands use them poorly and there is far to go. Econsultancy has suggested that the Comscore figure is under-represented, who found that 19% of UK users had scanned codes. One clear piece of data, though, is the rise in QR scanning. Besides awareness, high levels of smartphone adoption are probably helping to drive the activity.
The latest data on smartphone sales, reported by Tomi Ahonen, shows that Samsung sold nearly twice the number of phones as Apple, in Q2 2012. In part, this is due to the fact that Samsung have a range of handsets across almost all budgets, whereas Apple is only in the high-end smartphone market (at that point, the S3 was not yet launched). Whilst Samsung have taken sales from the likes of Nokia and RIM in the past (and that trend continues), it seems that the lion’s share in the first part of 2012 came from Apple. Their share dropped from 24% to 17%, whereas Samsung increased from just over 30% to nearly 40%. Apple’s drop is not through lack of sales, but rather, from the increase in the global smartphone market. However, the impending iPhone 5 may also have caused some Apple users to wait and see what they company would do.
The most interesting aspect of all this is that Samsung is also involved in making TVs, tablets and PCs (and for that matter washing machines). The company is working on the integration across all devices and by next year they expect to be responsible for 3 billion screens in the world.
With 6 billion phones globally, it is equivalent to 86% of the population owning one (of course some people have two or more phones, so it’s not that big). 30% of those phones are now in China and India, and smartphones are by far the biggest selling category (we now have 1 billion globally).
In terms of operating systems, Android was nearly 67% of the smartphone sales in Q2 2012, and taking into account the installed user base, that it is currently 41% of all smartphones. As someone pointed out, Android phones are selling faster then babies are born. iOS at 17% of sales and 19% of the installed base. Samsung’s share of OS was: Android 91%, Bada 8% and Windows Phone 1%.
Sometimes I wonder if Nokia will become a case study in classic business failure – their slide has been so dramatic. OK, they sell a lot of dumbphones, but when it comes to the premium smartphone market Nokia are the least-cool company out there. They’ve created the world’s largest stop frame animation using an N8. Can a simple animation save a company? No, but it shows when they put their mind to it, they can do really cool things.
According to information given to Engadget, Nokia’s new flagship handset, the N9 will be based on the company’s own new OS, MeeGo. So, in spite of the fanfare over their tie-up with Microsoft’s mobile OS (by Nokia at least), it looks like the Finish handset manufacturer’s first offering outside of Symbian will be a MeeGo one. The handset shown on Engadget is a fully featured smartphone which is entirely touch screen (ie no buttons), save for the volume rocker switch, the screen is 3.9 inches and comes with an 8 megapixel wide-angle camera. Oh and it has NFC.
‘What about apps?’ I hear you ask. Well there’s the NFC enabled Angry Birds Magic for starters. Nokia have also been porting over many of the OviStore’s most successful apps, whilst social media integration comes as standard. Whilst supporting Nokia doesn’t seem particularly fashionable at the moment, it actually looks like the company has produced a decent handset with a more than reasonable OS.
The exact plans for the roll-out are as yet unknown, but rumours are that in the UK at least, the N9 will be the ‘hero’ handset for some of operators Xmas campaigns. Nokia have been loosing sales in the smartphone market in the last 12 months, largely to Android. It remains to be seen if the new MeeGo offering will provide a suitable competition to Samsung and HTC’s Android handsets.
In spite of Apple’s surge against RIM’s BlackBerry, the Q3 figures just published by Garnter show that Android has met expectations and become the biggest handset operating system after Symbian (widely used by Nokia phones). An interesting side note is that smartphone sales grew by 96% in the last quarter. With Android smartphones, such as those developed by Samsung now selling for under £90 on pay-as-you-go, the prediction that every phone will be a smartphone seems to becoming a reality.
If figures float your boat, here’s a table showing the relative positions:
It’s a shame, because I really like Palm. Whilst the Palm Pre definitely had potential there were just too many factors against it. The failure to work with itunes, short battery life and so on. Palm have now announced that they will not meet their forecast sales. That will probably be no surprise to anyone. Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein “Driving broad consumer adoption of Palm products is taking longer than we anticipated”. Taking longer than anticipated? Well I hate to say this, but there are so many players in the smartphone market, I don’t see how Palm will ever reach their potential. Arguably the iphone, Blackberry, Motorola Droid and Nexus One all offer better products to their respective markets. There is certainly increased speculation that one of their rivals will buy out Palm sooner or later. The issue here is that the smartphone market is not sluggish, just the Palm market. Oh well.