This morning Apple announced that it sold "3 million iPads in 3 days." However it didn't specifically break out the number of iPad Minis it sold, as opposed to iPad 4s. My guess would be that more than 50% of those three million tablets were iPad Minis.
Also today device tracker IDC released new Q3 figures for tablets. The company measures "shipments," not sales to end users, so its numbers may not be an accurate reflection of actual market share. However the IDC data show Android tablets finally gaining against the iPad.
Most of this Android tablet growth has come in the 7-inch category, where the Kindle Fire (a quasi-Android device) and the ASUS-made Nexus 7 have done very well. In other parts of the world, though not in the US, Samsung has done relatively well with its Galaxy Tab devices.
According to ASUS its Nexus 7 is selling nearly a million units a month. The success of Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7 has everything to do with their $199 entry level price. While the first Kindle Fire is a mediocre device at best the Nexus 7 is a terrific smaller tablet for the price. The iPad Mini is indisputably the best 7-inch tablet on the market now, but its $329 price makes the Nexus 7 a very attractive "second best" choice for many people.
This holiday season, tablets will be the consumer electronic gift of choice, much more than smartphones and PCs.
Microsoft's new Surface RT will be going up against Android-powered tablets and the iPad. The recently released Samsung-made Android Nexus 10 has, according to Google, the highest resolution screen on the market. However it's surprisingly a big disappointment in several ways (I have one). Indeed, it's unlikely Apple will face much competition in the 10-inch tablet category, even from Surface.
However the 7-inch tablet category is a different story. It will be intensely competitive with price vs. quality being the main calculation in most buyers' minds. Amazon/Kindle Fire will vie with Nexus 7 for those users who are more budget conscious. The iPad Mini will be the clear choice for those who are not concerned about spending more. For those in the middle, however, the Nexus 7 does the best job of reconciling price and quality.
In many respects, because of its portability, the 7-inch tablet is more desirable than the 10-inch version. It may in fact become the most common type of tablet in the market from a unit-sales perspective. Regardless, the "establishment" of the 7-inch tablet as a new category of device (4 inch smartphone, 7 inch tablet, 10 inch tablet) creates new opportunities and challenges for marketers.
Only Apple has a meaningful number of tablet apps -- though that will likely change over time. Accordingly most mobile websites and apps treat the 7-inch device as though it were a big smartphone, which leads to awkwardness in several respects, especially when it comes to ads.
And just when you thought people couldn't own more mobile devices . . . We're moving into a period when affluent consumers have a smartphone, a small tablet, a larger tablet and a PC in their homes. That makes everything more complicated for publishers and marketers, though not the consumer. It also means the PC will continue to be the loser of this diversifying consumer-device marketplace.
Earlier today Google released an update for its iOS search app, which had been in iTunes approval limbo for seemingly several months. The new app works on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. At first it doesn't appear to be much different from the previous version. However there are two major changes and improvements: voice search with spoken answers and knowledge "cards."
While earlier versions of the Google search app for iOS had speech-to-text input, the new app includes the Siri-like spoken results that Google introduced for Android devices months ago. If Google has a structured result from its "Knowledge Graph" database, the female assistant voice will read it back. If not, Google will simply provide a more traditional list of web links.
Typically these structured results are presented as "cards." They can include images and other rich information and constitute "answers," where Google is confident of the result. Google introduced this "assistant-powered" voice search capability and knowledge cards in Android 4.1 in early Q2 (we're now up to 4.2). Accordingly the differences between the Google experience on iOS and Android are now less pronounced -- so to speak.
The one missing piece from the new iOS app (which Google probably cannot execute on iOS) is Google Now. Google Now is the company's predictive search capability that combines users' search histories, time of day, location, calendar information and other signals to provide personalized and other contextually relevant information (e.g., traffic, flight times, nearby restaurants) -- without requiring the user to affirmatively conduct a search.
It doesn't always work. But when it does it's very impressive.
Google is the dominant mobile search provider across platforms, with a nearly 95% share in the US market. In a Q2 consumer survey about mobile search, conducted by Opus (n=503 US iPhone 4S owners), 19.3% of respondents indicated they used the Google search app. The remaining majority (roughly 70%) of users either entered queries in the search box in the Safari toolbar (where Google is the default) or they went to Google.com to search the mobile web.
Related: Google now says that there are in excess of 700,000 Android mobile apps. That number is now at or near parity with Apple.
The battle between Apple and Android is quickly turning into a face off between Apple and Samsung as the latter obliterates all other Android competitors. This morning Samsung announced massive Q3 profit, while IDC estimated that the Korean conglomerate had shipped just under 57 million smartphones in the quarter.
By comparison Apple sold just under 27 million iPhones in its fiscal Q4, which ended September 30.
A noteworthy aside related to the chart above, Nokia is gone from the ranks of the top global smartphone vendors.
In contrast to Samsung, HTC, which had been one of the early leaders with Android, is now really struggling. The company saw a nearly 50% decline in revenue for Q3. In part because it's getting squeezed out of the Android market by Samsung's success, HTC has turned its attentions back to Windows in an effort to diversify revenues.
However, unless or until Windows Phones start to gain share, the smartphone landscape is really about Apple and Samsung. Everyone and everything else is just an "also-ran."
A few years ago Opera bought mobile ad mediator AdMarvel. Today the company released its Q3 State of the Mobile Web report, which focuses on advertising. It features some great data about platforms, revenue categories and CPM rates. All the data are drawn from Opera's global network of publishers and advertisers representing 40 billion ad impressions per month.
One of the major findings is that 70% of mobile ad impressions are happening in North America (mostly the US). Asia is next and then Europe.
Distribution of ad impressions globally
Opera also reported eCPM rates by region. The global average eCPM was $1.31, with the US average slightly higher at $1.37 and Europe lower at $1.13:
Opera reported on ad revenue by smart device. The company said that iOS devices generated more revenue and higher eCPM rates than competing devices:
Once again, this quarter, iOS leads the pack in monetization performance with an average eCPM of $1.64. This outperforms the global average eCPM of $1.31 by over 25%.
The iPhone and iPad in particular saw higher eCPM rates than other devices. Interestingly, despite the much larger number of Android phones, the iPhone generates roughly 2X Android revenue for Opera.
The company also pointed out that while RIM/BlackBerry is losing share in global markets its position remains strong in the UK.
Opera said that the category "Business, Finance & Investing" generates more ad revenue than any other in its network. It also said that 73% of Opera's mobile ad revenue is coming from apps (vs. mobile Web).
You can review the full report here.
Yesterday the first reviews of Microsoft's Surface RT tablet came out. (RT is the iPad competitor starting at $499; a more laptop-like Windows Pro tablet will debut later at higher cost.) There were some positive reviews, a bunch of mixed reviews and a few that were largely negative. Here's a sampling of comments:
Many of the reviews argue and hope that the RT tablet will improve over time and that a second or third generation version of the device will be significantly better after Microsoft addresses some of the weaknesses, bugs and criticisms.
Surface RT had appeared to be off to a good start, selling out pre-orders. However one tech blog, critical of the device and calling it dead on arrival, suggests that the majority of the pre-order sales were to Microsoft itself for employees:
I've heard that Microsoft made 250,000 initial Surface RT tablets, half of which (125,000) were the now sold-out 32GB model. But of those 125,000 tablets, a full 80,000 were purchased by Microsoft itself for employees. That means only 45,000 consumers and corporate IT managers have plunked down for Surface RT.
It's hard to know how much credibility to assign to such a claim. If it's true however it indicates either a lack of public awareness or a lack of interest.
While Windows Pro tablets will compete with higher-end laptops (at similar higher prices), RT competes with the iPad and the larger Android tablets. In that context, given the mixed reviews, Surface RT will probably struggle. Accordingly the first generation device probably will only see modest sales, suffering essentially the same fate as Windows Phones have suffered to date.
The broader Windows 8 operating system has received many positive reviews but some very mixed ones as well. Microsoft is praised for boldly overhauling the PC OS but dinged for creating potential confusion for consumers. There have been a few Microsoft observers who have even predicted "disaster" for the company.
The Windows 8 handsets are shortly to be released as well. The Nokia Lumia 920 has been lauded for its design but the device is no blockbuster or savior for Nokia or Microsoft in the mobile arena.
With potential consumer confusion over Windows 8 (the OS) and the probability that Microsoft powered handsets and tablets will be overshadowed by Apple and Android devices in holiday sales, the company is unlikely to get the immediate sales boost it needs. Indeed, the new Microsoft tablets and Windows Phone 8 devices were supposed to reset the company for the new multi-platform era. However so far it appears that Microsoft has right now only made a kind of down payment on potential future gains.
Carrier backed US mobile payments initiative ISIS is finally live in two cities (Austin and Salt Lake City) this week after several delays. ISIS relies on near-field communications (NFC) and is very similar to rival Google Wallet, which also uses NFC technology. Like Google Wallet, ISIS will work at merchant locations with NFC-enabled POS terminals. There are approximately 300,000 such terminals in the US.
Currently there are nine phones across T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon that are compatible with ISIS. As many as 20 are expected by year end.
Google Wallet, which has been in the market for a little over a year, has seen very low levels of consumer adoption and usage. That's partly because there are relatively few available compatible handsets. Carriers have also not been entirely cooperative. Verizon in particular has blocked Google Wallet on its handsets, theoretically because of security concerns. However, ISIS is a direct competitor and were Google Wallet to succeed ISIS might not. As it is ISIS is a very long shot for the carriers.
Beyond this there is limited consumer awareness and interest in the US in NFC-enabled smartphone payments.
Recognizing that it must do something to broaden the appeal and potential adoption of Google Wallet, the company is preparing to relaunch it soon. The Google Wallet site says, "The next version of Google Wallet, coming soon. Request an invite."
As part of the invite request process the Google Wallet site asks whether users have an iPhone, Android or "other." As widely known, the iPhone is not currently NFC compatible. All this suggests that Google is partly moving away from NFC or, perhaps more accurately, broadening Wallet's capabilities so that many more people can use it without NFC handsets.
Currently there is no leader in mobile payments in the US market. However, there are early indications that Apple's Passbook is seeing some traction among iPhone users. While Passbook supports stored value cards it right now doesn't fully support mobile payments.
For several reasons I had occasion to look back at some of the mobile predictions I made in January. At the risk of sounding self-important or boastful many of them have come to pass. In fact I was somewhat surprised by the number, which is why I'm posting about it now.
For review, here are the original predictions from January:
Here are my comments and updates on each item:
Not bad . . .
When Microsoft introduced its Surface line of tablet computers earlier this summer the burning question was: how much would they cost? While price isn't the only variable that will determine success or failure it's a big one.
Since that time several PC makers have started to announce their Windows 8 laptop lineups, with most machines coming in above $600. However today Microsoft inadvertently revealed the pricing of the devices. The screen in the Microsoft store has since come down. Below is a screen capture of the pricing page.
The basic RT model, which is Microsoft's direct iPad competitor, starts at $499 (32GB). If you want the "Touch Cover" keyboard, it goes up to $599 and then more for greater memory. The more fully equipped Windows 8 Pro models will cost more. But they essentially are the PCs of the future; a hybrid machine that will combine on-device and cloud storage.
The interesting question now that the RT's pricing has been revealed is whether consumers will consider it an iPad competitor or a laptop alternative. If it's the latter it will be in something of a different category and could do quite well. However if it's regarded and positioned as a direct iPad competitor it may suffer.
In-app messaging provider Urban Airship has just introduced a very interesting new product: Location Messaging. This is the fruit of the company's acquisition of SimpleGeo last year.
Geofencing (Placecast) and ad geotargeting (xAd, YP) have existed for some time. However Urban Airship's new product offers very precise location targeted messaging -- with the ability to mix in other audience segmentation data as well:
As a result publishers/developers are able target specific types of users by location. There's a wide array of possibilities in terms of the way this can be deployed, for loyalty or yield management purposes or to stimulate new sales. There are two qualifications: users must have the publisher's app installed and s/he must have opted in to receive push notifications.
Urban Airship has created 2.5 million "pre-defined geofences" for publishers. However they can also define (or exclude) their own custom geofences. These can be as wide as a metro area (or larger I suppose) or as precise as a park or city block.
There's lots of hand-wringing going on about publishers being unable to sufficiently monetize mobile. However, mobile push notifications offer a terrific opportunity for brands and offline businesses to drive increased sales -- if used judiciously. Accordingly the company shared some performance data with me. It was impressive.
Urban Airship said it beta-tested Location Messaging this summer during the Olympics. The company reported on its blog that "The Official London 2012 app . . . utilized Urban Airship Location Messaging to send more than 10 million location-based push messages to people in . . . Olympic venues." In addition, "Nearly 60% of app users had location-sharing enabled and location-based pushes achieved clickthrough rates of around 60 percent."
Urban Airship CMO Brent Heiggelke pointed out that despite the potential effectiveness of Location Messaging brands and marketers must be extremely careful about the content of messages they send and their frequency or risk having their notifications shut off or apps uninstalled by end users.
Apple and Amazon are the two major companies that could really shake up the "mobile payments" landscape. To some degree Apple is on deck to do that with its mobile wallet Passbook. However consumers remain to be educated about Passbook and its capabilities.
In addition, we're eventually likely to see iTunes stored credit cards become available to Passbook -- though the current iPhone is incompatible with NFC. Execution at the POS thus would be an issue unless Apple uses different materials in its future handsets.
Amazon is another "sleeping giant" in the realm of mobile payments. Indeed, from an "m-commerce" standpoint, Amazon is already in mobile payments with its existing "Checkout by Amazon" platform. However TechCrunch reported a rumor that Amazon was developing a Square competitor (SMB dongle). I wouldn't be surprised if it happened -- and relatively soon.
Amazon already has a developed payments infrastructure that supports e-commerce (online and in mobile) as well as a peer-to-peer PayPal rival. In addition Amazon may be second only to Apple in terms of the number of consumer credit cards it has on file.
While Apple claims 400 million consumer credit cards on file, Amazon has something above 200 million. The company could almost flip a switch (notwithstanding the POS issues) and become a major player in "mobile payments." It could also quickly enter the segment with the introduction of a Square-like dongle and/or the acquisition of another mobile payments provider (e.g., Braintree, Boku).
We should expect news along these lines from Amazon in the next six months. I would be very surprised if the company sat on the sidelines very much longer.
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop famously opined that there would have been less "opportunity for differentiation" had Nokia developed Android handsets. So it went with Microsoft -- and the two negotiated exclusivity provisions and other agreements. For example, Nokia Maps replaces Bing on the new Lumia 920. And Windows is the only software being used on high-end Nokia smartphones.
As part of the overall deal Microsoft is also giving Nokia billions of dollars in payments and support. What probably would have been better for the Espoo, Finland-based company is a deal that gave it the flexibility to develop Windows and Android devices, much like Nokia's Asian competitors Samsung and HTC.
To date Nokia has sold roughly 7 million Lumia units, with 4 million of those sold in Q2. Accordingly there is some positive momentum. But it's far from clear how Nokia handsets will fare in Q4 2012 with the iPhone 5 and very popular Samsung Galaxy 3 and Galaxy Note 2 competing for consumer attention.
Though impossible to estimate with any certainty, my speculation is that had Nokia produced its current hardware but with an Android OS version it would be looking at millions more units sold (perhaps 2X - 4X). My view is that the drag on Nokia handset sales is Windows rather than the hardware. This is especially true in the US market where Lumia sales are below 1 million units.
Indeed, comScore (see chart) continues to report declining Microsoft market share in the US. It's now below 4 percent. Windows Phone 8 is supposed to change that but there's nothing to indicate that the new devices will see an explosion of consumer interest.
It's not entirely clear why Nokia didn't reserve itself the option to produce an Android handset. Perhaps there's an unannounced "escape clause" that allows Nokia to explore alternative operating systems if the existing Lumia line fails to deliver enough sales for a long enough period of time.
Appcelerator released its Q3 developer survey. The quarterly survey this time polled more than 5,500 developers globally on their attitudes toward various platforms and future-trend predictions.
The survey result that's going to get most of the attention is the one that found 66% of developers believe "that it is 'likely to very likely' that a mobile-first social startup will disrupt the market for social applications on mobile devices and take market share from Facebook." Indeed, this describes Instagram before Facebook acquired it for roughly $1 billion.
Other top-level survey findings include the following:
The survey also indicated that developers were interested in Windows Phone 8 smartphones but that they were taking a wait-and-see approach. Only when Windows Phones crossed relatively high penetration levels would developers turn their attention to the platform in earnest. However developers were more sanguine about the prospects for forthcoming Windows 8 tablets.
It's also interesting that despite sales developers don't seem very interested in the Kindle Fire. Perhaps that will change if the recently upgraded line of Kindle tablets sell well.
Finally it's curious that despite continuing market-share gains developer interest in Android continues to erode. This must be a reflection of the challenges of making money on the platform.
Bango says this will allow users to buy game credits, apps and other virtual goods through "frictionless operator billing, paying on their phone, without the need to register personal details."
Bango also has deals with Google (Play), Amazon, BlackBerry App World and Opera's Mobile Store. The company added that its conversion rates are higher than the industry average for carrier billing:
Conventional operator billing is expected to achieve a 40% conversion rate. Put simply, most mobile commerce customers who click ‘buy’, do not successfully buy. Billing with the Bango payment platform delivers an average conversion rate of 77%. Most users who click ‘buy’, do buy.
While carrier billing is useful in countries where there are many "unbanked" or where the specific transaction is likely to be conducted by a younger user, in the US and much of Europe credit cards are a preferred method of payment by most adults.
Carrier billing is much more widely available than other forms of mobile payments for obvious reasons. However carrier fees are much higher typically than credit card fees and settlement can take months depending on the country.
Even though Facebook eliminated Facebook Credits, which was a surprise to me, it's possible that Facebook will eventually acquire a mobile payments provider. Bango's market cap, for example, is only $118 million. Facebook could buy the company and associated revenue stream, as well as a set of global carrier relationships -- instantly.
Amazon is the king of mobile retail; Wal-Mart is the leader of offline check-ins. Last week there were two sets of parallel data released that provided some insight into how consumers are using mobile devices, both for "m-commerce" and in stores.
Data from comScore found that among US smartphone owners “4 out of 5″ are going to retail site/apps on their handsets. Some of this is in-store price and review checking.
ComScore put the total number of mobile-retail visitors at roughly 86 million. Unsurprisingly Amazon was the leading retail destination with an audience of almost 50 million smartphone owners.
These mobile-retail site visitors were both somewhat younger and more affluent than corresponding retail site visitors on PCs.
The number four mobile retailer on the list above, Wal-Mart, is the leader when it comes to in-store check-ins. According to data compiled by LocalResponse this summer from Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp and Instagram, Saturday is the most popular day to check in followed by Friday and then Sunday. Most check-ins occurred in the afternoon or early evening.
LocalResponse also found that men were more likely than women to check in. However gender check-ins by store varied, with Target being the most popular store for women. BestBuy was the most popular check-in retail location for men.
While some retailers are creating incentives for users to check-in, this should be exploited much more aggressively both to get people into stores and as a corresponding analytics tool to indicate the success of various promotions. Hashtags, offers and other mechanisms could be used to track specific promotions. In addition, users could be "messaged" (on Twitter) or otherwise notified (i.e., on Foursquare) while in stores with further promotions and rewards.
In general traditional retailers have yet to fully recognize the potential and utilize social media check-ins for in-store loyalty and sales purposes.
Apple is famous for moving people along to the next software or OS upgrade. And iOS 6 appears to be no exception.
Less than 24 hours after it became available for public download, the new mobile OS was responsible for 15% of overall Apple device traffic on the Chitika ad network.
To measure this, Chitika said it "took a sample of millions of mobile ad impressions coming out of the Chitika Ad network ranging from September 19th to September 20th 2012. The growth rate of iOS 6 was then compared to total iOS Web usage using a time series to illustrate the rate of adoption of the new OS."
I asked Chitika whether they could extrapolate and tell me how many actual devices this represented. They declined to do that.
Source: Apple quarterly reports
If we make the assumption that the 15% of Chitika traffic translates 1:1 into individual devices -- in other words, 15% of the traffic is from 15% of all the iOS devices -- then we can crudely extrapolate using the chart above.
The iPhone 4 and 4S can upgrade to iOS 6. Apple hasn't broken out the sales figures by device generation but everything before Q2 2010 was iPhone 3GS and "below." The iPhone 4 was announced in June, 2010. Since Q2 2010 Apple has sold roughly 193 million iPhones.
It's safe then to say that well over 100 million iPhone 4 and 4Ss are in the market (that's a conservative estimate). If 15% of those now have iOS 6 running that means there are roughly 15 million such devices (around the world) that have downloaded the new OS only 24 hours after launch.
These numbers could be way off but they're probably not.
Today the pre-ordered iPhone 5s are arriving and people around the world are buying them from local stores. Accordingly the number of iOS 6 phones in market could be over 20 million (downloads + sales) within a week or two.
Today iOS 6 became available for download by the public. Among the many features of the OS upgrade, Apple Maps is getting the most attention. But perhaps more interesting is Passbook, Apple's mobile wallet. Passbook isn't a full-blown mobile payments vehicle like Google Wallet or even PayPal but it could have an immediate and profound impact on "mobile payments" and mobile loyalty programs.
As I discuss in my post on Screenwerk, Passbook could soon become the most important mobile loyalty channel for enterprises and SMBs alike. Passbook will allow users to store and retrieve tickets, boarding passes, loyalty cards, gift cards and stored payment cards. It won’t allow users to upload a general credit card (like Google Wallet) or tap into their iTunes account credit cards for mobile payments. But that’s probably coming.
Also launching today is a third party platform and API from Tello called PassTools. That's going to make it much easier for brands, enterprises and small businesses to quickly start creating "passes" and coupons and otherwise utilizing Passbook, which will have an installed base of millions very soon. I discuss the features and implications of PassTools over at Screenwerk.
Passbook may help train millions of people to use mobile wallets, something no one else has so far been able to do.
Also this week Square announced a $200 million "series D" funding round at a more than $3 billion valuation. The company is on track to do more than $8 billion in transactions (gross) this year.
Finally, this morning Groupon opened up its new Square-like SMB-focused payments tools, Groupon Payments, to the entire US market. Groupon will first go after its own daily deals merchants and then try to expand its merchant customers by undercutting Square and others with lower fees. Here's what Groupon is charging to process transactions (with a Square-like card reader or keyed in):
Activity surrounding the various flavors of mobile payments in the US is intensifying. These three developments in the space of essentially two days reflects that.
While consumers remain skeptical or ignorant or indifferent -- 71 percent in our recent survey said they're not interested in mobile payments -- the growing visibility of mobile wallets and mobile payment options (especially Passbook) will likely change all that.
If you want to see a case study in poor management at a major company look no farther than Hewlett Packard. Once an exemplar of high-quality corporate culture and employee satisfaction the company is a mess. The catalog of mistakes is long. Among them the purchase, fumbling and effective shuttering of the PalmOS.
Late last week current HP CEO Meg Whitman said that the company has to get into the smartphone business -- or more precisely back into it -- because that's where the growth is in the computing market.
If you recall, HP bought the PalmOS for $1.2 billion under former CEO Mark Hurd who was pushed out for falsifying expense reports among other ethics violations. Hurd had big plans for PalmOS but his ouster scuttled them.
When the acquisition was announced in April, 2010 I wrote the following:
It's a good outcome because HP needs to have a mobile strategy and it gives Palm and the WebOS a way to continue. Chief HP rival Dell is very clear on the critical role of mobile and portable Internet devices in its future and is rolling out numerous Android and WinMo handsets later this year.
Lenovo was also taking a look at Palm and will itself be moving more aggressively into mobile.
Given HP's financial clout and resources WebOS could emerge as a reasonably strong competitor -- perhaps most directly to RIM -- in the coming months and years, especially with new form factors. And that probably includes a WebOS-based tablet.
Obviously none of that happened. As a kind of salvage maneuver, HP decided to open-source WebOS but hasn't done a very good job of rolling that out.
Had the Palm assets been better managed HP might have a viable smartphone right now and/or be offering a open-source alternative to Android. But those outcomes would have taken vision and execution, neither of which HP seems to have.
It's quite unlikely that HP can make an Android phone that will effectively compete against Samsung and HTC. It might be able to make Android tablets but it won't be able to make them very profitably given the price competition now in the market. So while there's plenty of growth in mobile (smartphones, tablets) it's unlikely to be an area of strength or profit for HP.
Even though Nokia's Windows Phone 8 handsets and all the new Android devices feature NFC capability, its absence from the iPhone 5 deprives the technology "a mainstreaming opportunity" in the immediate future. Unlike any other company in the mobile industry Apple has the ability to popularize and educate consumers about new technologies.
A case-in-point is Siri. Speech recognition and "voice search" long-predated the iPhone 4S; however Siri was able to popularize them in ways that even Google and Microsoft could not. That would also have been true of near-field communications had the iPhone 5 incorporated it.
Apple's Passbook software/app is a mobile wallet, which will enable transactions (i.e., Starbucks stored value card). However it won't be a full-blown mobile wallet that stores a credit card an enables contactless payments. That could come with the iPhone 5S or "5N" (for NFC).
Obviously "the industry" will be moving forward with NFC rollout plans: Project Oscar in Europe, ISIS and Google Wallet in the US and so on. However consumers still need to be educated about the use cases and benefits of the technology. In some isolated situations they are or have been but for the most part -- certainly this is true in the US -- they remain ignorant of the technology itself let alone what it can do for them.
On the broader subject of mobile wallets and mobile payments (NFC is only one flavor) most US consumers have little or no interest today:
Source: Opus Research (August, 2012), n=1,501
In the US market at least there's a double challenge: sell consumers on the benefits of mobile payments, which Apple can and will help do with Passbook and other third party apps, and sell them specifically on contactless, NFC-enabled payments.
Much like President Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention, the iPhone 5 announcement today "did what it had to do." It had to deliver a 4G capability as well as a larger screen. It did both, with a 4-inch display as opposed to the current 3.5-inch display.
In addition it offers a slightly longer battery life, a better camera and it's thinner. It also uses a new chip for better performance overall. It has enhanced audio and a smaller dock connector. It doesn't include NFC. While NFC wasn't widely expected it's still a major disappointment to the industry given Apple's ability to elevate new technologies and educate consumers about them.
The handset is the same width but taller than the iPhone 4S, which might make it aesthetically awkward. I haven't seen one in person yet. On a personal note, I would have liked to see hardware that was more of a departure from the 4S but I suppose that will have to wait.
The 3GS has been discontinued. The iPhone 4 now becomes free with a two-year carrier contract. The 4S drops to $99 and the 5 costs $199 for the entry level model (which is what most people buy). In the US it's available from Sprint, AT&T and Verizon.
This phone will probably sell well -- just how well remains to be seen. Pre-orders start on Friday with delivery on September 21.
As many of the pundits remarked after Obama's speech last week, it wasn't entirely inspiring but it "gets the job done." The same can be said for the iPhone 5.
If you're interested in more detailed coverage there's much much more, about every aspect of today's announcement, on Techmeme.
Apple's rivals have been trying to get out in front of the iPhone 5 and the announcement today. Nokia held its Lumia/Windows Phone 8 event last week. Motorola (Google) announced a number of new Android handsets and, of course, Amazon had its big Kindle Fire press conference last week as well. All of these anticipated the iPhone 5 announcement today and tried to preempt it to some degree.
Last night Google's Hugo Barra casually posted some stats on his Google+ page: "Today is a big day for Android... 500 million devices activated globally, and over 1.3 million added every single day."
Android is the dominant smartphone platform in the world -- in case you forgot. And Google wanted to get that stat out there and inserted into the blizzard of articles that will be published today about Apple and the iPhone: " . . . but Android is the market leader with 500 million devices activated globally."
The iPhone 5, as I said on my personal blog Screenwerk," is a critical release for Apple because Android phones have caught up or in some cases surpassed the device (i.e., LTE support, NFC). The new iPhone today must offer a larger screen and LTE support at a minimum to maintain consumer interest.
An unintended leak on the Apple site indicates that there will in fact be LTE support. We'll see what else in less than a half hour.