I'm a big opponent of using "shipments" as an indicator of market share. It may be a directional indicator of market share in some cases. But there are times when "shipments" is simply the wrong metric. IDC's latest tablet numbers offer a case-in-point.
The firm reported the following tablet shipment figures globally for Q1:
Basically the positions of Android and iOS tablets have reversed since last year. Shipments are put forward as a proxy for market share by IDC. However that's a dubious proposition at best. Shipments do not equal sales, let alone usage.
The following chart reflects North American tablet traffic share as of March, according to Chitika. After the iPad's 82%, Kindle Fire has a 7% share of traffic. Samsung Galaxy tablets come in at 4.3%. Needless to say these actual traffic data show a massive discrepancy vs. IDC's shipments estimates.
Below is StatCounter data from 2012 (via Royal Pingdom) -- I was unable to find more recent global traffic data. These data reflect something very consistent with the Chitika data above.
In these various geographic markets the iPad is generating around 80% or more of tablet traffic. Even if we assume iPad share has fallen by 10 points since last year, these data are still a radical departure from the IDC figures.
Undoubtedly lower-priced tablets and the sheer proliferation of devices will necessarily diminish the iPad's "shipments share" over time. But it remains to be seen how actual usage is impacted. For the moment market share (as measured by consumer usage and traffic data) looks nothing at all like IDC's projections.
Facebook announced Q1 revenues of $1.46 billion and net income of $219 million. Most usage and engagement metrics were up: daily, monthly and mobile active users. On the latter point Facebook announced 751 million mobile active users, up from 680 million in Q4 2012.
Mobile only users were 189 million vs. 157 million in Q4 2012.
Total ad revenue in Q1 for Facebook was $1.245 billion, which was 85% of total revenue. Of that $1.245 billion ad revenue, 30% was mobile. That's up from 23% in Q4. What that means, as a practical matter, is that Facebook made $373.5 million in mobile ad revenue in Q1.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg characterized Facebook is a “mobile-first” company and offered several examples of the company's mobile success during the earnings call. For example, she said that "3,800 mobile app developers used these ads to drive nearly 25 million downloads."
Facebook's FY 2013 global mobile ad revenues will probably land somewhere between $1.6 and $1.9 billion.
Mobile commerce, at least on smartphones, is partly held back by the UX challenges of forms and inputting credit card digits. Amazon does well in so-called "m-commerce" in part because it has millions of user credit cards on file making the mobile check-out process nearly painless (it also has a trusted brand).
Mobile check-out is part of the larger problem of being compelled to repeatedly sign in to accounts on a mobile device. Though some sign-in credentials are remembered by mobile browsers users are constantly being asked to input usernames and passwords. It's incredibly frustrating.
Nuance (and others) have tried to address this problem with voice authentication in lieu of manual password entry (one of the topics on the agenda at the upcoming Voice Biometrics conference in San Francisco next week). To date, however, voice authentication has seen limited adoption in mobile applications.
Separately Facebook has sought to become the universal log-in, to address the challenges of pain of creating multiple accounts and passwords -- particularly in mobile. Google is now starting to challenge Facebook in that arena, according to a recent study from Janrain.
Many people are disinclined to use Facebook to log-in to third party websites or accounts because of privacy concerns (uncertainty over what might be communicated to their networks). Enter PayPal log-in (and its mobile express checkout solution).
This solves a couple problems for publishers/developers and consumers. First it offers an alternative, single set of log-in credentials offering consumers more privacy than Facebook. It also offers a commerce solution that, like Amazon, avoids the "16 digit problem" of manually entering information on mobile sites.
Amazon and Google both offer comparable and competing solutions for third party merchants. But PayPal is in a strong position to become both a single sign-on and mobile checkout leader. The eBay division needs to aggressively promote mobile express checkout to merchants and the security and privacy benefits and ease-of-use of PayPal log-in to consumers, which will be a significant marketing challenge.
As part of that effort PayPal also needs to do something of a reintroduction of itself generally to consumers at large. Its brand needs to be "beefed up." However among "digital wallets" PayPal by far has the greatest consumer awareness, which the company can use in its argument to merchants.
The T-Mobile-MetroPCS merger is now complete. The newly combined company, which is majority (74%) owned by Germany's Deutsche Telekom, debuted on the New York Stock Exchange today under the ticker symbol TMUS. The stock was up about 6% in early trading.
Post-merger, here are the most recent subscriber counts for the four major US wireless carriers:
That makes a total of 301 million accounts, not including smaller regional carriers.
There are approximately 312 million people in the US. Some percentage of the 301 million are obviously second accounts. Measurement firm comScore counts the total US wireless population at 235 million, whereas CTIA says that, as of Q2 2012, there are 321.7 million "wireless subscriber connections."
The "right" number is probably about 250 million. Smartphone penetration is 57% according to comScore and roughly 60% according to Nielsen. Accordingly the US market is closing in on 150 million smartphones. Total US internet penetration stands at 221 million according to comScore.
Within three years (perhaps 24 months) there will be more "mobile devices" and wireless internet penetration than PC internet users. Just under 40% of total media time is now spent on mobile devices (including tablets). However current mobile ad spending is only 9% of the US digital total according to the IAB.
Facebook's "launcher" Home isn't available for any of the smartphones I own: HTC 8X, Nexus 4 and iPhone. Thus I haven't been able to "live with it."
But when I saw it unveiled several weeks ago at the Facebook Home press event I was impressed by the design. I found it very imaginative and creative. I thought also that it might represent a new way forward for some developers and publishers with smartphone software. I even suggested that Yahoo might want to emulate it.
Apparently most people who've actually used Facebook Home for any length of time don't share my enthusiasm. The app is overwhelmingly negatively reviewed on Google Play. Out of more than 14,000 ratings and reviews it gets an average score of 2.2 -- with the single largest group (7,576 users) giving it 1 star.
This isn't merely the work of "haters" as some of the favorable reviews and comments suggest. There are significant flaws in the user experience.
While many people praised Home as a good initial release, others complained about poor performance and a negative impact on battery life. Still others complained that it made other Android apps and widgets difficult to access. And some wanted more capabilities and functionality than what Facebook is currently delivering.
There's lots of highly specific feedback for Facebook in the comments offered. If Home is to avoid a quick death and survive the company should look closely and adopt some of the suggestions.
Whether we call Google Now "predictive search," "anticipatory search" or a "virtual assistant," the capability is highly useful and improving regularly. Previously exclusive to Android devices with OS 4.1 or higher ("Jelly Bean") Google Now is now available for the iPhone and iPad.
You'll need to download the latest version of the Google Search app to get it.
Google Now is partly Google's answer to Siri (and Passbook) and partly a wholly independent development that takes your search history, your Gmail entries, your calendar, your location and other "context" to deliver a range of personalized information without having to actively search for it.
Google Now for iOS operates in essentially the same way as it does on Android devices: users swipe up from the bottom of the screen to receive customized information cards. The cards feature weather, traffic, stock quotes, recent sports scores, local places of interest, movie showtimes and so on. Below is a complete list of the content/data available through Google Now.
The cards on the chart above "missing" from iOS are newer cards that will soon come to iOS. Google confirmed this.
Those who download and use the service will likely find themselves using it regularly (as I do). While it can sometimes be flawed or inaccurate -- if you travel a lot it will often give you information about the city you just left rather than where you are -- it offers a growing corpus of useful information. As mentioned, it continues to expand and improve.
Google requires users to sign in to get access to Google Now, so the company will gain mobile usage data it wouldn't otherwise have in the process. It's a very effective way for Google to get iOS users re-engaged with search on their iPhones and iPads.
A survey we conducted in June of last year (n=503 US iPhone 4S owners 18 and older) found that most people who searched Google on their iPhones didn't use the Google Search app:
Which of the following do you use MOST OFTEN to search the web on your phone?
If this survey were done today we might see slighly different percentages but directionally the results would be similar. It will be interesting to see whether and how the numbers change several months from now -- and whether the introduction of Google Now for iOS has had a meaningful impact on user behavior.
The iPhone 5 introduced a 4-inch (diagonal) screen that in my view distorted the proportions of the handset. (I wanted it to be slightly wider as well.) That was an upgrade from what was essentially a 3.5-inch screen on the 4S. Yet at the time of launch the 5's new larger screen already appeared small next to some competitive devices.
Samsung's Galaxy S3 and others were at 4.8-inches or beyond. The newly released Galaxy S4 has a 5-inch screen and the Galaxy Note 2 offers a 5.5-inch screen. Samsung has also made an 8-inch tablet that works as a phone.
Earlier this week during Apple's earnings call CEO Tim Cook was asked about a potentially larger iPhone screen, which several surveys indicate iPhone buyers want. Here's the exchange:
Analyst: [D]o you think there is a long-term case for a larger screen size or at least the larger variety of screen sizes for iPhones and for the smartphone category in general?
Tim Cook: The iPhone 5 offers as you know a new 4-inch Retina display, which is the most advanced display in the industry and no one comes close to matching the level of quality as the Retina display. It also provides a larger screen size for iPhone customers without sacrificing the one handed ease-of-use that our customers love. So, we put a lot of thinking into screen size and believe we’ve picked the right one.
Tim Cook acknowledged that “some customers” value screen size. He explained that larger displays require trade-offs (technically speaking). He added that the company won’t ship a larger iPhone display “while these trade-offs exist.” That implies the company has larger screen iPhones on its roadmap somewhere in the future.
However Apple is indeed putting itself at a disadvantage by not offering a larger-screen iPhone. Perhaps not everyone wants it but lots of people (including me) do. An ideal device would marry the LG Nexus 4 (4.7-inch screen) form factor with iOS as its operating system.
Apple and Tim Cook seem to be nearly alone in their belief that the iPhone's screen is vastly superior to competitor-device screens. Third party analysis shows that this is not the case. However it does come out on top in some areas. Yet the public may not be noticing these relatively subtle differences. And Samsung's display has been found to have superior resolution and better blacks.
What consumers probably notice more is that the iPhone's screen looks small and by some measures inadequate vs. other devices. One-handed operation of the iPhone is great in a few instances but not entirely necessary. Indeed, it may not be an important feature for most people (though that's an "empirical question").
It does seem to me that screen size is one case of Apple (if it's to be taken at face value so to speak) "making the perfect the enemy of the good." And I think a "5S" without a larger screen option will be a significant disappointment to many.
The challenge of "showrooming" has been met by traditional retailers with either indifference and inaction or its opposite: aggressive price matching. Best Buy and Target are examples of the latter approach. They decided in February to match any price on Amazon year round.
However this strategy lacks "depth."
Price matching alone will not successfully address showrooming; it will in fact encourage it as more smartphone shoppers check Amazon and other sources to see if in-store prices are the best they can do -- and to demand a lower price in store if they find one online.
Signs like the one below invite someone to go to Amazon (if they weren't thinking about it already) and compare prices.
It may be necessary to price match in selected categories such as electronics. But price matching is not a panacea. Instead the retail industry can take a lesson from the hotel industry, which is doing some very creative things with technology.
The New York Times ran a story today about how hotels are using technology to improve the customer experience (including personalization) and lower costs in many instances:
Hotels around the world are using technology in new ways, with the goal of speeding up or personalizing more services for guests.
David-Michel Davies, president of the Webby Media Group, said he visited Internet companies around the world each year for the Webby Awards, which honor excellence on the Internet. He said he had found that hotels were using technology as a substitute for human hospitality.
Instead of the staff at the front desk offering advice on where to go for dinner, guests may be lent an iPad loaded with maps and suggestions for local restaurants and sightseeing. A hand-held device in the room might control the television, blinds and temperature, replacing the role of the bellman who would describe how the features in the room work when he dropped off a guest’s luggage. “Hotels are transforming service into a digital concept,” Mr. Davies said.
There are an enormous number of ways that technology, and mobile technology (apps) in particular, could improve the in-store retail experience. Personalization, notifications, offers, product information and reviews, loyalty, payments and other use cases, if creatively implemented, could make the in-store experience richer, more fun and more rewarding for shoppers.
This creative, "diversified" approach to mobile and the in-store experience holds great promise against showrooming. Retailer size and resources would affect the scope of what might be pursued -- but every brick and mortar retailer could do something more interesting and creative than simple price matching. And the hospitality industry points the way.
Apple has just released earnings. The company reported quarterly revenues of $43.6 billion. Second quarter revenues in 2012 were $39.2 billion. Total 1H 2013 revenues were $98 billion.
There were better-than-expected iPhone and iPad sales in the quarter. Gross margins came in at 37.5%. This compared to 47.4% last year.
Now the device numbers:
On cheaper devices: There were lots of questions during the earnings call about Apple's competitive position and ability to compete in markets around the world. CEO Tim Cook repeated several times that an aggressively priced iPhone 4 is the crux of Apple's strategy to attract first time smartphone buyers in developing markets.
This is a product, however, that's two generations old. While Apple says it won't make "cheap products" it's very likely that Apple will develop a less expensive iPhone to compete in those markets where "first time buyers" can't afford the state-of-the-art iPhone.
On mobile payments: Tim Cook was asked about getting into mobile payments. Cook responded that the market was in its infancy, implying that Apple would be waiting to enter it in earnest (if at all).
On the prospect of a larger iPhone screen: One of the financial analysts asked about a larger iPhone display. Cook respondend, " The iPhone 5 has the absolute best display in the industry." However he acknowledges that "some customers" value screen size. He explained that larger displays require trade-offs in quality. He then said that the company won't ship a larger iPhone display "while these trade-offs exist." That in turn implies that a larger display may be on the iPhone 6 or a later model.
Samsung is the undisputed ruler of the Android roost. On a global basis it's the dominant handset OEM and there's no real challenge in sight -- other than the iPhone. Samsung continues to eclipse fellow Android manufacturers LG, HTC and Google's own Motorola in terms of sales and market share.
In that context one might expect Samsung to dominate Android-based advertising. Indeed it does. Mobile ad platform Velti has released data that show that Samsung mobile devices see nearly 70% of all Android ad impressions in the US market. This refers to display advertising but it probably extends to search impressions as well.
However on the tablet side, Samsung is second behind Amazon in the US market. There Samsung has had much less success and has yet to product a breakthrough device -- although its Note "phablet" has done well.
The following chart shows Android market share by ad impressions.
Yet when it comes to ad impressions on tablets the iPad and iPad Mini control more than 95% of the market according to Velti's network data. Chitika, another mobile ad network, puts the iPad's traffic share at about 82%, significantly lower though still dominant.
There has been some "cannibalization" of the iPad by its younger and smaller sibling. The Mini is less expensive and has lower margins than the iPad. Indications that the larger iPad's sales have declined in favor of the Mini have, to some degree, contributed to investor anxiety about today's Apple earnings (coming up shortly) .