Irina Sandu

on mobile and Mozilla

Month: February, 2012

The $100 smartphone is the key driver for mobile internet

The evolution of mobile penetration and in particular mobile internet was a topic of discussion at today’s keynote at Mobile World Congress. The CEO of Telefonica Latin America, Santiago Fernandez Valbuena presented what makes the Latin American countries the drivers for growth in the emerging markets segment. They have 3 key elements that allow for the fastest growth in mobile adoption, which in turn is a key factor for economical growth. These factors are:

 

  • a young and vibrant middle class
  • an open society
  • an educated society

 

In Latin American countries, telecommunications are the second biggest necessity, after food. Even during the recent recession it was one of the sectors which still continued to grow. The desire for mobile internet is great in the region, where other means of going online are not existing or scarce. The key to mobile internet adoption is the $100 smartphone, which is affordable enough to bring the internet to volumes of people. Network operators are together pushing for affordable hardware as the switch from a feature phone to a smart one generates ARPU increases of up to 10%.

 

Providing connectivity to emerging markets poses a different set of challenges, described the CEO of Bharti Airtel, Sunil Bharti Mittal. As the leader of the world’s 5th largest telecom operator, he described that operating in these regions required a change in thinking in the way that a carrier is run and how he needed to adapt the business model to fit India’s market environment. Another type of hurdles, however, is present in Africa, where network operators need to become part-time construction companies. In order to install communication towers, carriers first need to build out the infrastructure to get there. They receive support from governments, who are aware of the economical benefits that connectivity brings to a country, so spectrum prices are generally more affordable, but it looks like penetration of African markets requires yet another re-thinking of the network operators business model.

 

The focus on emerging markets is a theme which continues through-out MWC. A track in the conference is dedicated to mobile health, which is a tool that is seeing great results and innovative uses, as it contributes to the development of the world’s most populous countries.

Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 8

Every week I post an overview on what’s been happening in the mobile (browsing) world and is relevant to Mozilla.

  • Rumours on Jelly Bean launch next quarter not likely to be true
  • Tegra 3 devices coming out this quarter
  • Opera bought 2 mobile advertising agencies to focus on the US and European markets
  • Next version of OS X goes towards deeper integration with iOS and iCloud
  • RIM released BlackBerry Playbook OS 2
  • Ubuntu for Android was announced
  • Browsing patterns on mobile similar during the weekdays and the weekend
  • Kindle Fire accounted for 36% of tablet app sessions in Jan 2012, on par with the Samsung Galaxy Tab

Rumours on a possible launch of the next version of Android, Jelly Bean, surfaced. A release so early after Ice Cream Sandwich is believed to be not beneficial to the ecosystem and thus not likely to happen.

Nvidia confirmed that Tegra 3 devices will launch this quarter and Qualcomm offered a preview of their new 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4, which performs impressively on benchmarks.

Opera bought 2 mobile advertising agencies, Mobile Theory and 4th Screen Advertising. The acquisition is meant to enhance the company’s monetization opportunities for the traffic flowing through its mobile browsers, Opera Mini and Opera Mobile, which together have 160 million monthly users and serve more than 100 billion page views each month. Opera also owns AdMarvel, an agency it acquired 2 years ago. Its 2 new acquisitions will focus on the US and European markets.

The next version of OS X hints towards deeper integration and convergence of Apple’s mobile and desktop platforms. New features such as a system-level notification center, a permission system for installing apps, a Sharing menu inside the browser and deeper iCloud integration make the new version of the OS resemble its mobile equivalent.

RIM released a new version of Blackberry Playbook OS. Version 2 includes a lot of features that were notably missing in the first release, including a native email client, a unified inbox, built-in calendar and contacts applications. The BlackBerry Messenger, a key differentiating feature for the OS, is still missing from the Playbook version.

Canonical announced Ubuntu for Android, a port of the operating system to run side-by-side with Android on a shared kernel. When in phone mode, the software looks and behaves like Android, and when connected to a dock, it switches to the Ubuntu environment. When connecting to a TV, the Ubuntu TV interface is activated. Canonical stated it is looking for hardware partners for this project.

People tend to browse on their phone similar amounts of time during the week compared to the weekend, reveals Opera’s latest State of the Mobile Web report. The variation between amount of unique users, page views and data transfer between weekdays and weekends, in 50 countries, as analyzed by Opera, does not surpass 10%. On the desktop, browsing declines by up to 22%.

The Kindle Fire accounted for 36% of Android tablet applications sessions in January 2012, on par with the Samsung Galaxy Tab, according to analytics firm Flurry. Amazon’s US tablet share rose from 3% in november 2011 to the current number. The other most used tablets by app usage are the Acer Transformer and the Acer Iconia Tab, each with 7%. Flurry Analytics also reported that US mobile consumers spend more time in apps than on the the Web in December 2011, with an average of 72 per day on the Web and 94 minutes per day in apps.

Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 7

 

Every week I post an overview on what’s been happening in the mobile (browsing) world and is relevant to Mozilla.

 

  • The acquisition of Motorola Mobility by Google was approved in the US and the EU
  • Google plans to test a “next generation personal communication device”
  • The Android Market was enhanced with automatic malware scanning for apps
  • Android captured 51% of smartphone sales in 2011, iOS 24% and Symbian 12%
  • Smartphones represent only 12% of total global handsets in use today, but over 82% of total global handset traffic
  • First Intel Medfield-based Motorola handset rumoured to be announced at MWC
  • Skyfire raised almost $8 million in a round of funding which was in part sponsored by Verizon
  • More details on Windows Phone 8 revealed
  • Opera partnered with India’s third largest carrier
  • Dolphin browser 3.5 was released on iOS

 

The FCC and the European Commission approved Google’s bid to buy Motorola Mobility. The 2 governing bodies reasoned that the deal would not raise competitive issues, as Motorola is not a dominant Android smartphone producer, but they maintained that they reserve the right to investigate past or future action by Google with regard to the use of standard essential patents, which is considered the main reason for this acquisition. The merger grants Google a substantial amount of mobile essential patents, which enables the company to better protect the Android ecosystem as several Android OEMs are engaged in various patent legal battles with companies such as Apple and Oracle, in jurisdictions across the world.

 

In related news, Google filed for FCC approval for the testing of a “next generation personal communication device”, which would have WiFi and Bluetooth abilities. The devices would be evaluated for their “throughput and stability of the home WiFi networks that will support the device”. Speculation connects this venture to the company’s Google Fiber project, which is being set-up in Kansas City and aims to provide homes with fast Internet connections.

 

Google released Bouncer, an automated service which scans the apps in the Android Market for potentially malicious software. This comes among increasing concerns on security and privacy in the mobile industry and the Android ecosystem, the latest of which being raised as software security firm Symantec revealed a recent malware campaign when a series of 13 different infected apps were downloaded by between 1 and 5 million Android users.

 

There were 149 million smartphones sold last quarter and 51% (76 million) of them were Android-based, with iOS coming in second (24%), followed by Symbian (12%), BB OS (9%), Bada (2.1%) and Windows Phone 7 and Mobile (1.9%), according to Gartner. Profits-wise, Apple was the leading OEM and captured 80% of total smartphone profits, up from 56% in the third quarter, and leaving 15% to Samsung and the rest to the other players, however Apple’s performance is not expected to sustain in the following quarters, and to be brought closer to Q3’s results, where it had 56% of total profits. The total mobile phone sales market in Q4 of 2011 totaled 476 million units and for the whole year 1.7 billion devices. The top phone vendor for 2011 was Nokia, with 422 million devices sold, accounting for a 24% marketshare, followed by Samsung with 314 million units (18%), Apple with 89 million (5%), LG with 86 million (4.9%), ZTE with 57 million (3.2%), RIM with 52 million (2.9%) and other with 753 million and 42% marketshare.

 

The number of mobile devices will exceed the number of people on earth for the first time by the end of 2012, a report from Cisco reveals. This confirms the trend of mobile growing towards worldwide penetration saturation, but does not mean that it was reached, because there still are large discrepancies in mobile penetration across different countries, some reaching as high as 200% and some as low as 5%. Other stats from the report include :

  • Smartphones represent only 12% of total global handsets in use today, but over 82% of total global handset traffic. In 2011, the typical smartphone generated 35 times more mobile data traffic (150 MB per month) than the typical basic-feature cell phone (which generated only 4.3 MB per month of mobile data traffic).
  • The top 1 percent of mobile data subscribers generate 24 percent of mobile data traffic, down from 35 percent 1 year ago. Mobile data traffic has evened out over the last year and now approaches the 1:20 ratio that has been true of fixed networks for several years.
  • Average smartphone usage nearly tripled in 2011. The average amount of traffic per smartphone in 2011 was 150 MB per month, up from 55 MB per month in 2010.
  • In 2011, the number of mobile-connected tablets tripled to 34 million, and each tablet generated 3.4 times more traffic than the average smartphone. In 2011, mobile data traffic per tablet was 517 MB per month, compared to 150 MB per month per smartphone.
  • Mobile network connection speeds will increase 9-fold by 2016. The average mobile network connection speed (189 kbps in 2011) will exceed 2.9 megabits per second (Mbps) in 2016.
  • Mobile-connected tablets will generate almost as much traffic in 2016 as the entire global mobile network in 2012. The amount of mobile data traffic generated by tablets in 2016 (1.1 exabytes per month) will be approximately equal to the total amount of global mobile data traffic in 2012 (1.3 exabytes per month).

 

A device which is rumoured to be Motorola’s first Intel-based Android phone leaked, supposed to be announced in 2 weeks at the Mobile World Congress. Only details available were that it would run Ice Cream Sandwich and would use processors from the Medfield range. Motorola’s (which is now owned by Google) choice for Intel for its first Ice Cream Sandwich device is significant because it is a significant step towards Intel’s penetration of the mobile market.

 

Skyfire announced that it raised almost $8 million in a round of funding which was in part sponsored by Verizon. The software vendor also declared that it made partnerships with other 2 US carriers for its cloud-based mobile browser solutions. The Skyfire browser just passed 12 million downloads on Android and iOS combined.

 

Details about the next version of Windows for mobile phones, Windows Phone 8, code-named Apollo have been leaked to reveal support for multi-core processors, four different screen resolutions and NFC technology support. Consistency and synergy between the PC / tablet of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 will be important and application development and porting from one platform to the other will be streamlined. The new version of Windows for phones will include Skype integration and built-in server-side compression for Internet Explorer 10.

 

Opera announced a partnership with Idea Cellular, India’s third largest mobile operator, to offer a customized version of its Opera Mini mobile browser to its over 100 million subscribers across the country.

 

Mobotap released version 3.5 of the Dolphin browser for the iPhone and the iPad and it launched on a new platform, the Barnes & Noble Nook tablet.

 

Mobile Q4 2011 in review – Apple, security and privacy, Amazon

Apple had an unusual quarter, which resulted in record revenues for the company, due to the discontinuation of its regular sales cycle which begins with a new iPhone version launch in Q3 of every year. The iPhone 4s release at the beginning of Q4 maximized results for the quarter by its combination with the second biggest sales period of the year: the holiday season. Rumours to the cause of the delay varied, the one with the most pick-up being that Apple had initially designed the new iPhone version to not contain an operator-provided SIM card, but have the phone take over all of its functions; a move which was rejected by carriers and compelled the fruit company to keep the old standard in place. The main innovation of the iPhone 4S is Siri, a new iteration for voice recognition software that has the opportunity to become a new mainstream input method as the technology strives to mature while being developed by multiple players in different tech industries. Results placed Apple as the most probable top smartphone vendor for the quarter, with 37 million iPhones sold, only an estimated 0.5 million less than its closest competitor, Samsung. For Q1 of 2012, iPhone sales are expected to follow the traditional annual slowdown after the holiday season, but we will see a spike in iPad sales, as the new version is expected towards the end of the quarter.

Security and privacy has always been a sensitive topic on mobile and the increase in capabilities of the average device expands the interest for and possibilities to create concerns among consumers. The profile of the mobile phone as a closely personal device  demands for strong consideration of security and privacy and raises a lot of concern when breaches are discovered. Such was the case with the discovery of the Carrier IQ software on Android and iOS smartphones, an app which was typically installed by OEMs or carriers and had the ability to send  detailed information on phone activity to a third-party. The press coverage triggered several class-action lawsuits against phone makers and carriers and a bill concerning the installation of monitoring software on mobile phones to be proposed in the US.

Amazon launched its first Android-based tablet in the US, the Kindle Fire, which achieved impressive sales of 5 to 6 million devices in the first quarter after launch. Reviews of the device were mixed and positioned the tablet as offering an average experience in capabilities and user experience for the segment. Its success is partly explained by the affordable price, a lot lower than tablets with similar hardware specifications and which causes Amazon an estimated $50 dollars net loss per each device sold. The company’s strategy to make up for the low price and turn the venture into profit is through revenue for content on the device, a strategy which is still to be proven feasible, as increase in media sales for North America for Q4 was only 8%.

The mobile Web is not going away

With the surge in smartphone numbers, which come with app stores that attract hundreds of millions of apps that are downloaded billions of times, a lot of people have raised concerns that Web browsing will disappear on mobile to the favour of apps.

But

the mobile web is not going away.

Let’s see why

Apps don’t cover all of the content.  With human knowledge increasing at tremendous speeds, most of which is put and communicated over the World Wide Web through blogs, websites and downloadable papers, designing an app store framework that would be managed centrally to cover all the types and formats of content that are published is much too complex than existing app stores.  Trying to fit all or most of the content existing on the Web at the moment and sustaining growth in one or a few app stores is not feasible with capabilities of today. The leverage that a player pushing for its particular platform has is not enough to advance it to the level where it is on par with the Web, which is being developed by multiple players which work on it at different levels and advance it with standardized frameworks. The dominance of the Web as a content platform and the availability of the full Web on more mobile phone every day ensures that we will see plenty of mobile browsing in the conceivable future.

Native app stores are fragmented. There are several points where fragmentation occurs within a platform and each of them can affect publication of content. Whether it is at the software level through the lack of certain APIs or at a geographical level where monetisation is not available in a certain region, mobile platform fragmentation affects plenty of content creators and publishers, which are used to the ubiquity and standardization of capabilities of the Web platform from the traditional, desktop market and will want to keep them as they make their transition into mobile.

App stores can advance niches. The general advantages of publishing to the Web can be minimized in a situation when a particular content type needs those features that app stores excel at; being streamlined payment systems or particular distribution needs. In the case of content niches which rely heavily on a feature that app stores are very good at, it does happen that publication happens overwhelmingly outside of the Web. However, when the niche begins to grow and more players are interested in exploring it, efforts to improve those essential capabilities on the Web appear, thus pushing the platform to catch up in those areas where it lagged behind. An example of this is gaming, which is the most popular content type on most of the major native app stores, and where now we see a big push from browser vendors and standards bodies to improving technologies so that playing games in a (mobile) browser is just as smooth.

Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 5

Every week I post an overview on what’s been happening in the mobile (browsing) world and is relevant to Mozilla.

 

  • Android tablet sales reached 10.5 million units in Q4 of 2011 and accounted for 39% of global tablet market
  • 5 – 6 million Kindle Fire tablets were sold in Q4 2011, but not generating profits for Amazon
  • Apple might have become the top smartphone producer in Q4 2011, in close competition with Samsung
  • The European Commission opened a formal investigation into Samsung’s use of its rights to essential 3G wireless patents
  • ARM had very good results in Q4 2011, but facing increased competition from Intel
  • Open WebOS 1.0 to be released in September
  • Nokia celebrated the sale of the 1.5 billionth Series 40 phone
  • A bill concerning the installation of monitoring software on mobile phones by carriers and OEMs has been proposed in the US

 

Android tablets sales tripled in Q4 of 2011 to 10.5 million units, compared to the same period last year, and accounted for 39% of global tablet shipments worldwide, leaving a share of 57% to the iPad, reveals a report by Strategy Analytics. Q4 numbers put total 2011 tablet sales at 66.9 million, a 260% increase on 2010. In 2012 it is expected that the segment will grow further, to 104 million units shipped, and the trend of Android capturing more marketshare at the expense of iOS will continue, bringing both platforms closer to a 45% part of the market for the whole year.

 

Kindle Fire sales are estimated to have reached 5 – 6 million units in Q4 of 2011. Amazon’s revenues for Q4 were lower than analyst estimates and profits declined, partly caused by the successful launch of the Kindle Fire tablet, which is sold by the company at a loss. Amazon’s media sales for North America increased only by 8%, signaling a limited effect of the tablet’s addition to the company’s offering of consumption devices, and raising concerns over the long-term feasibility of Amazon’s strategy to compensate selling the Kindle Fire at a loss and expecting to turn it profitable with media sales on the device.

 

Apple might have become the top smartphone producer in Q4 2011, snatching the place from Samsung, who held it for Q3, and reverting to the position it held in Q2. There were 37 million iPhones shipped between October and December of last year and an estimated 36.5 million smartphones produced by Samsung. Due to the fact that the Korean company does not share the exact number of shipments in its reports and the small difference between Apple’s reporting and analyst estimations, the top smartphone OEM for Q4 of last year cannot be clearly established.

 

The European Commission opened a formal investigation into Samsung’s use of its rights to essential 3G wireless patents that could have been used to “distort competition in European mobile device markets”. The results of the investigation might affect current litigation between Samsung and Apple in various European courts concerning patent law and which could influence sales of iPads and Samsung Galaxy tablets across the EU.

 

ARM announced very good results for Q4 of 2011, with profits raising by 45%. Its success is favoured by the continuous boom in shipments of smartphones and tablets across the world, a market which is only emerging and which buys royalties for the company’s Cortex-A instruction set. For the next quarter ARM will likely see more technology companies buy licenses, as more of the desktop technology producers enter the mobile market, but it also faces stronger competition from Intel, who recently announced a partnership with Motorola.

 

HP released the Enyo 2 JavaScript application framework in preparation for the launch of Open WebOS 1.0 under an open source license in September, preceded by a beta version in August.

 

Nokia announced last week the sale of its 1.5 billionth Series 40 – based mobile phone. Considered a hybrid between a smartphone and feature phone platform, because of its support of touch screen, Web browsing and app support, the S40 embedded software platform is currently running on more than 700 million mobile phones across the world.

 

A bill concerning the installation of monitoring software on mobile phones by carriers and OEMs has been proposed in the US, following the controversy around Carrier IQ, a software discovered on smartphones that had the ability to transmit all activity to a third-party. The proposed bill requires that consumers are notified about any monitoring software present on their devices and are asked for consent previous to collecting and transmitting information from the phones.

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