Archive for the ‘handset makers’ tag
Kantar On Smartphones: Samsung 45% Of Euro Sales; Apple Gained Only In UK, US; RIM Holds On In France
We have seen reports from Strategy Analytics, IDC and Canalys detailing how many smartphones that handset makers shipped in the last quarter (the takeaway: Android is still on top, with Samsung the chief benefactor); today, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, WPP’s market analytics business, has released its rolling monthly update on how that translates into on-the-ground sales in some of the biggest markets in the world. The results give more weight to Samsung’s current domination; and underscore how important it is for Apple to “wow” the market next month with the launch of a new handset.
Kantar, which bases its conclusions on millions of interviews with consumers every month (1 million in Europe alone, it notes), found that Samsung is currently the top-selling brand in Europe at the moment, thanks in part to a successful launch of the S3 in May, but also aggressive pricing in a region hit by economic pressures. Samsung accounted for 45% of all smartphone sales across the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain in the last 12 weeks that ended July 8. Arch-rival Apple, in contrast, accounted for just 16% of all sales in the region, Kantar analyst Dominic Sunnebo tells me. In fact, Apple has declined in every market Kantar surveyed, except for the UK and U.S.
Android’s share of sales across the big-five European countries is now at 66%, a big jump from 43% a year ago, Kantar notes. In Australia, Android took 60.5% of all sales in the period, and in the U.S. it accounted for just over 51% of all sales.
Apple’s lackluster performance in Europe is something that Apple itself highlighted during its last earnings report, blaming the economy and people holding off on purchases until the next iPhone release. Kantar showed that as a result of these factors, Apple took between 4.3% and 11.4% fewer sales in the last 12 weeks than it did a year ago across the markets of Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Australia — with Australia accounting for the biggest of those declines.
Interestingly, despite Android doing so well globally, it actually declined in one key market: the U.S. its 51.5% share of the market is actually 5.3 percentage points down on a year ago. Was this because the Galaxy S3 launched later there, I asked Sunnebo? No, he says, it’s about consumer preference and price:
“An important point here is that there is very little difference in price between an Apple iPhone or an Android phone in the U.S., so the choice is made purely on what the consumer wants, not what they can afford,” he tells me, “whereas in Europe, Apple continues to command a price premium over Android. With recessionary pressures as they are in Europe this is likely to have an impact.”
Indeed, he notes that the S3 is more of a brand pusher than a direct sales generator: “While the majority of noise is focused on big-name products such as the S3 or S2, it’s easy to forget that Samsung is selling smartphones across all tiers,” he notes in the report. Kantar says that in the UK, for example, Samsung accounts for five of the top 10 best-selling smartphones in the UK, “with even the smartphone/tablet hybrid Samsung Galaxy Note making it into the top ten.”
In the U.S. Apple’s share of sales went up by 9.5 percentage points to account for 38.2% of all sales in the period. The UK was not as strong but also increased: up by 2 percentage points to 22.9% of sales.
Kantar notes that a lot of this appears to be about people holding off from purchases until the next iPhone comes along. “Kantar Worldpanel ComTech data clearly shows that the proportion of Apple consumers who have owned their device for at least 18 months and not upgraded has increased markedly over the last quarter, indicating current owners are holding off upgrading until the release of the iPhone 5,” Sunnebo writes.
Indeed, the Apple brand continues to command “high loyalty”: in the UK 80% of consumers who own an iPhone have bought another; and 92% say they plan to stick with Apple when they next upgrade. “With this in mind, any dip in Apple share is likely to be short-lived with the release of an updated iPhone in quarter three bringing momentum back to the Cupertino giant,” he concludes.
Other brands. The story is not great. While Apple’s declines may be short-lived, RIM’s seem more indicative of a longer-term issue. The only country where it has managed to stave off market share declines is in France, where it only accounted for 9.2% of sales. In the U.S., which used to be RIM’s proud, top market, it only accounted for 3.7% of sales. Ouch. The UK is the only market where RIM managed to go into double digits for sales, with 10.9% of sales in that country, although that is half of what it was last year.
The story for Windows Phone is similar to that of iPhone and iOS, notes Kantar — that is, people appear to be holding off for Windows Phone 8 releases. That’s happening on a much smaller and more depressing scale, though. Windows Phone did not break through even 5% of sales in any market Kantar researched, as you can see in the full tables below. And just as RIM has a (sort of) break out market in the form of the UK, Symbian is still seeing a bit of life in Italy, where it accounted for 12.8% of sales, although that is a decline of more than 22 percentage points on last year.
Slow And Low: Smartphone Sales Grew By Only 32% This Quarter; Overall Mobile Market Just 1%, Says StrategyAnalytics
Now that all the big handset makers have put in their quarterly sales figures, Strategy Analytics has done the number crunching for an overall picture of what happened in the mobile market. The upshot: just as many predicted, mobile as a whole — facing wider economic slowdown and “shifting consumer tastes” – remained largely flat, growing by just 1%. But smartphones, still at a less mature state, are selling much better: collectively, shipments (which equals sales in SA’s book) grew by 32% in the quarter, the analysts said, with Samsung and Apple leading the way with over half the global market between them.
That sounds like a good-news story for smartphones, except when you understand that 32% growth (146.1 million units total in Q2) is actually the slowest the smartphone market has expanded in three years. In comparison, the market grew by 77% in the same quarter a year ago.
Strategy Analytics says that overall mobile handset sales totalled 362 million units, compared to 358 million for the same quarter a year ago.
As it did last quarter, Samsung continued to widen its lead over Nokia in overall sales. Strategy Analytics estimates that Samsung sold 93 million handsets in the last quarter, accounting for just over one-quarter of the total number of handsets sold (Samsung didn’t report unit sales in its Q2 results so SA estimates). Nokia, meanwhile, dropped down to 83.7 million handsets.
What’s interesting is that smartphones really are driving growth (and decline) for these companies now, not just in a strategic but in a bottom-line kind of way: As you can see in the table below, smartphones, and specifically the Android-based Galaxy line, accounted for over half of Samsung’s total mobile sales (50.5 million handsets; 37% of the smartphone market). Analyst Neil Mawston notes that this was the largest number of units ever shipped by a smartphone vendor in a single quarter. “Samsung has been able to deliver hit models in most major price segments,” he notes — a vote in favor of a varied range of products from the larger Galaxy Note to the Galaxy Y, in comparison to Apple’s slimmed-down offering of essentially three models.
On the other hand, Nokia’s 10 million smartphone sales (4 million Windows Phone Lumia devices still being outnumbered by the older Symbian platform) translated to a 7% smartphone share, its lowest share in a decade, Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Shah noted.
Taking out smartphones from the mix, Samsung sold about 43 million handsets to Nokia’s 74 million. Feature phones, with models featuring dual-SIM slots and the Asha line of “smartphone-like” low-end devices, was one brightish spot for Nokia in its quarterly earnings: it grew shipments of these by 2%, although that wasn’t enough to offset continuing declines in smartphones.
Apple’s 26 million iPhone shipments were not exactly thrilling to analysts this week; and in Strategy Analytics’ ranking, it saw its overall share of all smartphone sales shrink as well. That’s something that had already been tracked by Kantar Worldpanel, which noted that over the past three months Android had been outselling iOS in all major markets that it surveys. And Apple itself noted particular softness in traditionally strong markets: European iPhone sales, for example, were “essentially flat” according to CEO Tim Cook.
Apple’s share is now at 17.8% (versus 18.4% in Q2 last year) — no match for Samsung nearly doubling its market share. In fact, Samsung was the only handset maker (again, using Strategy Analytics estimates, not number from Samsung itself) to have outpaced average smartphone market growth this quarter.
The emphasis now, Strategy Analytics notes, is on how well Apple will be able to execute the launch of its next device. Apple has yet to confirm anything about this but in CEO Tim Cook’s comments this week on the earnings call, he acknowledged Apple’s softening sales as possibly related to anticipation around the next device — people are holding off until the newer iPhone model comes out, implying this would turn around with the next launch.
The overall slowdown in phone sales has also meant something else. The threat of smaller players who had been hoping to break into the big time has effectively been neutralized, and those who are big but have been massively challenged more recently (eg RIM and Nokia) will probably find it even harder to turn things around.
[Image: Mike Fleming, Flicker]
Windows Phone Growing Slowly: Will Only Be 4% Of U.S. Smartphone Sales In 2012 Says Strategy Analytics
Microsoft continues to make a big push with the Windows Phone platform, but figures out today from Strategy Analytics indicate that it’s still barely moving the needle against the Android/iOS juggernaut. In 2012, Microsoft’s Windows Phone will account for only 4.1 percent of the 123 million smartphones that will be sold in the U.S. in the year. That’s a rise, but of less than one percentage point compared to 2011. In terms of actual unit numbers, this works out to 5 million devices sold in 2012, compared to 3.5 million in 2011.
This will not come as good news to Nokia, which has staked a lot of its future — and its ability to crack the U.S. market specifically — on the success of the platform. Nokia is expected to report its earnings tomorrow and people will be looking carefully at how well Windows Phone smartphones are selling compared to devices built on Nokia’s legacy platform Symbian: a sign of too few on the newer platform could be a sign that the new strategy is not sticking.
Nokia has been taking some drastic measures to bump up sales of its flagship Lumia 900 Windows-based smartphone. Just three months after launch, earlier this week it halved the price to $49 from $99 for a two-year contract.
That will at least help Windows Phone stay on track and keep from having an even smaller market share this year: “We consider four percent to be an achievable target. It only needs Nokia to deliver a few hundred thousand extra units to the US this year and the target should be met,” notes Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics.
The news is not particularly good for other handset makers building on Windows Phone, either — the main ones include HTC and Samsung. However, these two have made far greater investments in their Android-based line of devices and that diversification will help offset that.
Strategy Analytics says that its 123 million figure for total smartphones sold in the U.S. is a rise of 21 percent compared to 2011, when 102 million units were sold.
Mawston notes that there may be more opportunity with Windows Phone 8, the next version of the OS, but it’s still lagging behind in terms of what it can support. His to-do list includes the need to support with multi-core chipsets, as well as an improved Marketplace app store and a much wider range of phone models. The last two of these will rely on consumers flocking to the platform — that will bring more manufacturers and more developers — but in case that doesn’t work, he has another suggestion: “consider reducing the license fees it charges per unit to smartphone makers.”
Yahoo’s surprise scoop of Marissa Mayer as its newest CEO has unleashed a lot of positive comments about how this represents a new day, and a refreshing risk, for the beleaguered Internet brand. It will improve morale inside the company, and will give it more credibility outside. And it looks like it will also mean a new direction for Yahoo, with a much stronger focus on product — a word mentioned 19 times, by Mayer and others, in the official release confirming her appointment — away from, I suppose, media and content. That, of course, could mean a million different things — which, actually, is part of the problem at Yahoo. But one of them could be — it really should be — mobile.
This an area where Yahoo was once very aggressive but has really dropped the ball (or phone as the case may be….).
A little history
Before Google had released their first Android devices, and before Apple had released the iPhone, Yahoo was in the thick of it. Early on, it “got” the idea that mobile would be a key way for consumers to go online, and so if they wanted to them to stay with Yahoo — namely so that those users could continue to be advertising targets, but also potential customers of paid Yahoo services — it had to be there, too.
So with its Connected Life division, in 2007, Yahoo launched a mobile web portal it called Yahoo! Go, along with a number of other products like mobile-web optimized local search, email and other mobile web services aimed at ways of optimizing content for small screens. Yahoo was signing deals with handset makers like LG (a world leader at the time) to preload these onto tens of millions of devices. It was launching new mobile display ad units, and deals with big brands to use them. And it had lucrative partnerships with mobile operators, just starting to get into the data game, to provide search functions on their own portals.
It seems crazy to look at Yahoo now and think of what it once could have and tried to do. It turned out that a lot of that may have been too far ahead of its time, maybe an example of when you might be too early as an early mover. The devices were not good enough, nor were the networks. (And maybe the services as well.)
Not too long after that, and spurred by the iPhone, Google invested in and came out with products much more compelling that took over the mobile experience altogether, with Android, its full operating platform for the new generation of smartphones that were hitting the market. Microsoft did as well, with Windows Mobile and the Windows Phone, although those endeavors have proved a lot less successful. Times got more challenging, and Yahoo didn’t stick with it.
Then, later, when it became clear that apps were the key to smartphone users’ hearts, Yahoo tried to make a push there, too. Yes, there are some apps that have worked — Yahoo Sports, Mail, Messenger and Flickr are still around — but there have been a lot thrown by the wayside. Most recently, at the end of May, the company killed Livestand, a six-month-old Flipboard-like magazine aggregation tablet app, as it continues to “scrutinize what’s working and what isn’t.”
It’s the exact canned phrase Yahoo used earlier in the year, when it canned 10 other apps: Yahoo! Meme (iPad and iPhone); Yahoo! Mim (iPad); Yahoo! Answers (Android); Yahoo! AppSpot (Android and iPhone); Yahoo! Deals (iPhone); Yahoo! Finance (BlackBerry); Yahoo! Movies (Android); Yahoo! News (Android); Yahoo! Shopping (iPhone) and Yahoo! Sketch-a-Search (iPad and iPhone).
Ironically at that time it said it would continue to support Livestand, as well as a GetGlue-type check-in app called IntoNow. I wonder if the clock is now ticking on IntoNow, too.
Mobile, as we said above, is an area where Yahoo’s competitors Google and Microsoft have been pushing very hard. And where sort-of competitor Apple has been making a killing with its iPhone and iPad devices, and taking eyeballs for advertising and other services along with it.
Mayer’s biggest achievements at Google may have not have been on the Android team. Her last, most visible role, was overseeing local and maps, putting her squarely in the mobile product sphere.
That could give her a taste for trying to tackle mobile again at Yahoo. But if she does it will be a major task. She will need to figure out where Yahoo can best fit, and how to best use the medium to grow Yahoo’s overall core business of advertising (unless she’s really zooming out and thinking of whole new lines of business). But also she will need to effectively rehire a lot of people to help with that, because along the way the company’s lost a lot of mobile talent as well.
But there are some super encouraging signs that it’s not too late for Yahoo to do something in mobile. For one, countries like the U.S. are still only at 50 percent smartphone penetration. That means many millions of consumers to play for and capture with your products. Going outside of mature markets, the opportunity is even bigger.
Look at what’s happening in countries like China, where Baidu and many others have decided to become mobile players to tap into that hugely expanding market. You can see that development doesn’t have to take years and years in the current climate, where you can, for example, create forked operating systems on existing platforms. And there are even others out there — hi, Jolla — who are ready and willing to try their hand at being a platform for a new big player.
It’s a little funny to mention Nokia here. Something else that’s been on my mind has been the comparison of Nokia hiring Stephen Elop, ex-Microsoft, as CEO there. Many have called him a Trojan horse, who has been put in place simply to ease the transition of the Finnish handset giant to Microsoft. I’m not totally sure I’d believe that until I see it happening. But it’s an interesting idea to ponder whether getting Mayer in to Yahoo might usher in a closer collaboration with Google, specifically on the mobile front.
There will surely be a lot of speculation in the weeks ahead for what may come, and go, with Mayer’s arrival. Post yesterday’s news, I noticed a number of people tweeting into the wilderness about the need to revive photo sharing service Flickr, for instance.
And here’s another example from left field: we’ve had an anonymous tip, completely unconfirmed at this point, that one of the product divisions that will be getting the chop will be the Small Business division, which offers a wide range of services from domain registration and hosting to business email, e-commerce back-end services and a marketing dashboard. This is a division, by the way, that Yahoo had hoped to sell back in 2009 for $500 million, but that never came to pass. Also, it would make sense, given that it’s also parted companies with another enterprise product, Zimbra, which it sold to VMWare in 2010. (Do let us know if you have intel on that one btw.)
[Image: Dano, Flickr...of course]
In the pre-app store days, getting your application or service ‘on-deck’, thereby shipping it pre-installed on millions of handsets, was the holy grail of mobile. These days, the market is little more open, thanks to the likes of the iOS App Store and Google Play, but it still pays to ride the coattails of a handset maker, especially if it ships in volume.
And that certainly looks like the case with music download service 7digital (which is half owned by HMV Group), and its partnership with HTC. Today the company is boasting that its ‘integrated music download application’ will ship on 20 million HTC Android devices in EMEA by the end of 2012. Furthermore, 7digital is the only pre-installed music download store to be shipped with all HTC ICS Sense 4.0 Android devices in the region, including the Hero devices from the One Series.
That appears to be a decent win for 7digital — for now (see below) — particularly when you factor in that it’s far from exclusive — the music service also has a deal with HTC rival Samsung to power its Music Hub app on the Galaxy SIII smartphone and is also planned for pre-install on other devices in the Galaxy family.
7digital also has partnerships with handset makers RIM (remember the PlayBook, anybody? Me neither), Acer, and Toshiba, although their nature varies depending on the devices that 7digital is installed on. In addition, the company has its own stand-alone Android app. However, how many handsets have shipped with 7digital pre-installed in total, the company isn’t saying.
But back to the HTC tie-in. The 7digital application is integrated with the native HTC player, giving users the option to browse, preview and purchase music from 7digital’s 19 million-strong catalogue from all 4 major labels and a number of independent aggregators. The app also has support for 7digital’s cloud-based music Locker.
And while we’re on the subject of the cloud: moving forward, it looks very likely that HTC is making a big bet on music streaming over downloads, in the form of the Beats’ acquisition of MOG. Beats Electronics, best known for is hip Dr Dre headphones is partly backed by HTC. That, of course, isn’t such good news for 7digital.
Make hay while the sun shines, as they say.
As a growing number of handset makers incorporate mobile payment systems in their smartphones a new report details why Apple has been seemingly reticent to enter the market and say that company executives have chosen the “go-slow” approach.
Mobile advertising company Millennial Media, one of the biggest in the U.S., has released its quarterly ad impression report, and the results show that Apple continues to remain the single-biggest brand, and most popular phone maker, on the Millennial ad network — with the rest of the list largely dominated by Android.
Apple has a clear lead in the field of device makers based on brand: the popularity of Apple’s iPhone handsets, iPad tablets and iPod music players gave the company a share of 28.32 percent of all devices on the network, with its closest competitor, Samsung, picking up a share of 18.25 percent of the overall market impressions. Millennial also notes that non-phone devices are continuing to see a growing impact on the overall mix.
RIM slipped down to number-five in the list of top manufacturers, and with 10.16 percent of all devices, and Nokia, once the leading vendor of mobile handsets, is now down to 10th position, with a 0.91 percent share of mobile devices.
When considering individual handset models, you can really see the strength of Apple’s strong portfolio essentially built around one device. Apple only had the iPhone (unspecified which precise model; perhaps all three) in the top-20, but usage of iPhones was enough to give it 15.1 percent of the whole market. The next-closest competitor was BlackBerry Curve with a 4.44 percent share of the market.
In contrast to Apple, other handset makers are still relying on several handset models, which all do moderately well, so that in aggregate they are gaining better market share. For example, RIM has five handsets in the top-20, the biggest number. Together that accounted for only 12 percent of impressions. Samsung had four handsets, which together made eight percent of impressions. HTC also had four models in top-20, with Motorola listing three.
Although the usage of tablets is really taking off — Millennial notes that is up by 33 percent over last year, with iPad very much in the lead — smartphones are still accounting for the vast majority of traffic. Collectively, they account for 73 percent of all ad impression traffic, versus 62 percent the year before. Traffic from tablets and other non-smartphone devices went up as well, t0 20 percent from 15 percent, while feature phones are really in decline. Lower end devices not account for only seven percent of ad impression traffic, compared to 23 percent a year ago.
When it comes to platforms, although Apple leads in terms of single brand, the sheer aggregation of Android device makers continues to push Google’s OS into the lead. Android now has 49 percent of all impressions, with iOS at 33 percent. Millennial notes that Android overtook iOS as the dominant platform in 2011. BlackBerry is at 14 percent to round out the top three.
In terms of popular apps, Millennial says that games were the most popular category, and it grew by 10 percent over last year. Music and entertainment took the number-two position. The full rankings for popular app categories are below:
With smartphone penetration now at 50 percent in the U.S., the world of apps is seeing a knock-on effect in their popularity: according to a new report from Nielsen, mobile consumers are downloading more apps than ever before, with the average number of apps owned by a smartphone user now at 41 — a rise of 28 percent on the 32 apps owned on average last year.
But at the same time, there are hints of people possibly approaching a limit to how much they might use them: despite the rise in app numbers, the amount of time that people are spending in apps has remained essentially flat: collectively, they are being used for 39 minutes per day today, compared to 37 minutes in 2011.
Nielsen also notes that apps seem to be taking a bit of time away from mobile web usage (perhaps this is where the extra two minutes comes from…): it says that users are using apps 10 percent more than the mobile web, compared to last year.
As for why users are spending no more time on apps than they were before: Nielsen doesn’t really explore that issue, but it does note that privacy has slightly increased as an issue for U.S. consumers: some 73 percent note personal data collection as a concern (compared to 70 percent a year ago), with 55 percent saying they are wary of sharing information. It could be that this privacy concern is actually keeping at least some people away from engaging in apps more.
Going back to the increase in app downloads noted by Nielsen, this is something that has been pointed out by the app store owners in a different way: Google says it has now passed 15 billion downloads announced this month, and Apple noted 25 billion downloads in March 2012.
This morning, Gartner released some figures that pointed to even more consolidation among the top handset makers and the top platforms — with Samsung and Apple accounting for 49.3 percent of all smartphones sold in Q1 2012 (compared to just under 30 percent a year ago).
Nielsen’s app figures seem to point to a similar trend: Android and iOS owners accounted for 88 percent of all apps that were downloaded in the past 30 days, it says (up from 74 percent last year). That may partly be to do with their own market share size in the U.S., where Android and Apple’s iOS dominate the smartphone landscape with respectively 38 million and 84 million users — but it also seems to imply that those users are also actively engaging with their respective app stores.
The other significant consolidation trend that Nielsen has picked up on is around what apps are actually getting the most traffic: even as app stores have grown, and our own collections of them have grown, we continue to fixate most on the exact same five apps this year as we did last year: they are Facebook, YouTube, Android Market, Google Search, and Gmail.
Yes, that’s right: you can slam Google, Android and Android fragmentation all you want, but four of the five most popular apps today, as they were last year, are owned by the company, and that’s partly thanks to the popularity of three of them on iOS.
Ironically, that concentration at the top is also being met with growth in long-tail consumption: Nielsen notes that the time spent on the top 50 apps is actually down compared to last year: the top 50 apps today get 58 percent of our app time, compared to 74 percent in 2011. As with our own personal app catalogues growing in size, this points to consumers getting more diverse in terms of what apps they are using overall, not a surprise really when you consider that there are around 1.1 billion apps currently between just Google Play and the Apple App Store.
Mobile carrier NTT Docomo today announced a move in its strategy to grow its content business outside of its traditional base of Japan: it issued a tender offer to acquire Buongiorno, a mobile content company based in Italy, paying up to ¥24 billion ($300 million) for the assets.
Docomo notes in a statement that the acquisition would be made by its Germany-based subsidiary, Docomo Deutschland, and that Maruo del Rio, Buongiorno’s majority shareholder and chairman with 20 percent of Buongiorno’s stock, has already agreed to sell his stake to the carrier. The deal would see Buongiorno become a subsidiary of NTT Docomo.
This is not the first time that Docomo has made moves to build up its European/rest-of-world business in mobile content, but it is an area that has been lying somewhat dormant for a while. A decade ago, well before the mobile world was hit with the revolution that became the iPhone and then Android following closely behind, Docomo made a foray to bring its popular i-mode mobile content service to the Continent, starting out first with a partnership with France’s Bouygues Telecom with plans to extend that to other markets.
That never really followed through as a successful business, though, when the game for mobile content changed from walled gardens run by operators to app stores run by the handset makers. Since then, Docomo has also been involved in an LTE chip joint venture (with Samsung) that ended last month, as well as other European initiatives. For example, it inked a partnership with France Telecom’s Orange to co-sell a Sharp 3D handset, the Aquos SH80F. And it also owns, in Germany, a mobile payments business net mobile, which in September 2011 got an investment from Docomo of €28.4 million so that it could in turn take a controlling stake in Bankverein Werther, a private German bank with e-commerce and payment service operations. “Utilizing Bankverein Werther’s existing banking license and credit card licenses, as well as the bank’s main systems, net mobile will be able to greatly enhance its mobile payment platform,” Docomo said at the time.
This time around it looks like Docomo, which has 60 million customers in its home market, wants another local/international partner to help export its business model more effectively.
Buongiorno is one of the oldest mobile content companies around, first being established back in 1999 and currently employing 848 people. And it is profitable: in 2011 it reported revenues of €228.6 million (¥24.52 billion; $295 million) and operating profit of €7 million (¥7.5 billion; $9 million).
Its services — which include a sprawling list of direct-to-consumer offerings and those it creates in partnership with carriers and others — cover gaming, music, casual content like wallpapers and ringtones, and mobile payments. Its services are used by some 2 billion customers in 57 countries across four continents, the company says, and you can see how this distribution channel could get used by Docomo for the services that it has created itself, in addition to those from Buongiorno.
“The acquisition will combine Docomo’s innovative mobile business and services know-how in Japan and other countries with Buongiorno’s advanced mobile technologies and extensive global customer base,” Docomo notes in its statement. “As part of expanding the businesses of both companies, Docomo expects to strengthen the foundation of its mobile platform businesses overseas.”
This is also part of the ongoing trend that we are seeing from the likes of other carriers, like Telefonica, to create new lines of revenue that take operators beyond their traditional business of mobile voice and data sales in their traditional geographic footprints. Telefonica last week launched TU-Me new app that offers an all-in-one free voice, text, photosharing offering to all iPhone owners that it hopes can help it snag a new base of users.
Pending regulatory approval, Docomo says that it will officially begin its tender offer at €2 per share, which will last 25 days. Del Rio’s 20 percent holding is equivalent to 111,888,895 shares in Buongiorno.
Location, location, location. Whether you’re a real estate agent, a traveler, or building mobile applications, location matters a great deal. As far as phone sensors go, the GPS sensor appears to be one of the most coveted by developers, after the camera. For a consumer, the trade is quite simple: offer your location at a specific point in time, or your patterns, and in exchange for that information, an application will offer you something — a deal, a coupon, or information about who and/or what is around you.
It’s been chronicled before, but bears repeating: In the great race to grab a person’s location, there are many entities who could already map out interesting — and spooky — data about our whereabouts. For those of you using plastic to buy things, your credit card companies know where you purchase items, and for those living in the future with Square Card Case, they know, too. The cell phone carriers that charge you monthly fees for questionable signals certainly know your location, as do the handset makers and those who make operating systems on those phones. And, the big social networks — Facebook and Twitter — know our whereabouts, as well, capturing data about us every time we log a status update on the go.
Of course, en masse we don’t fully trust these kind of entities with our location data, even though they hold the keys to it. As a result, this has created an opportunity for developers to build software systems at the application layer to extract a user’s location in exchange for something useful, delightful, or both. It has been discussed endlessly “why” these applications want your location, but I want to take a slightly different tack — let’s explore “how” they go about getting that data, as well as the challenges and opportunities it presents to all participants.
There are three main ways a mobile application can collect your location data: (1) via explicit signals, such as checking in at a location (e.g. Foursquare); (2) via implicit signals, such as revealing your location at a specific point in time when you take a specific action (e.g. capturing a picture using Instagram); or (3) via passive data collection, or tracking, where the application works in the background to grab your location, whether or not you are actively using that application (e.g. Highlight).
Obtaining this location information is not easy work. Despite this, my belief is that there isn’t just one type of “location” that users create, and that because of these different types of location that we can generate, map, and broadcast, the “location category” can and will likely produce multiple winners, some with potentially big outcomes.
One of the biggest surprises of Facebook acquisition of Instagram is that we realized how much access Instagram had to location data that Facebook can now tap. While Instagram did an incredible job innovating around the camera software and social engagement features, they were also able to briefly capture a user’s location implicitly at the time an image was captured, so much so that if you took an Instagram at a Giants game and then clicked on the location-stamp, you could see a kaleidoscope of other Instagrams from the same ballpark.
The mindspace around mobile location at the application layer is currently owned by Foursquare, a company and product that, in my opinion, is one of the best mobile applications out there. Like Instagram, it is on my iPhone home screen. Everyone knows that Foursquare collects your location data when you explicitly inform the application that you’d like to check-in at a particular place. By creating an addictive game around this behavior, Foursquare also built out a database of places on the backs of gallivanting users, additionally encouraging them to broadcast their whereabouts into other social networks, as well as leaving tips for others and creating checklists for yourself. I now use the app for as my primary tool for local searches on the go, benefiting from others’ location data, behaviors, and recommendations.
Some products work to passively collect location data. These include Highlight and Glympse, among others, as well as apps used to help people track items or other people, find their friends, or track their children, such as Lookout and Footprints, among others — and also creeps people out more. While great software technologies are present today, battery degradation seems to be roadblock today, though one would have to imagine that battery performance will get better eventually and widen opportunities in this space.
Which each type of location data collected, there is a trade between the application and user– in exchange for being able to filter and share my photographs, Instagram knows where I am; in exchange for unlocking rewards or broadcasting that I’m at a cool place, Foursquare knows where I am; and in exchange for alerting me as to who may be around, Highlight grabs my location, too. I’ve been willing to offer my location to each of these applications, though I’d argue it’s not a relationship to take for granted — the product has to generate enough usefulness in order for me to continue using it.
Ultimately, I believe there will be winners in each “type” of location data collection, and some could be large outcomes, most likely through M&A. There are also new apps emerging, such as Pinwheel and Kullect, that could disrupt the current leaders. Despite the fact that these applications have yet to uncover robust business models (a common yet misplaced gripe), they could be incredibly valuable to larger companies (or even handset makers) who want to act on this data but don’t want to be seen as grafting it without permission.
Certain segments of consumers seem likely to trust applications with their location data, rather than larger platforms, but the tricky part is that consumers may grow suspicious if their location apps fall into the hands of larger entities they don’t trust as much. This is what *could* happen with Instagram now that it is in the hands of a powerful and capable owner, though by the looks of my Twitter feed, the rate of Instagrams is only increasing. For the moment, both Facebook and Twitter’s mobile apps don’t naturally incorporate location data into the mobile experience, which in turn creates opportunities for startups to help fill the void. This seems to indicate that for the right mobile product experiences, some consumers will continue to offer their location, and the developers building these applications have many great prizes to pursue.
Photo Credit: psd on Creative Commons / Flickr