As Mobile Data Grows, People Want Wireless Carriers To Buzz Off

23 Comments

[qi:044] No one really gives two hoots about carriers’ attempts to sell mobile applications via cellular phones. And yet, they keep trying and trying. Maybe a recent survey by Zogby (commissioned by Skype) would help persuade them to leave selling mobile apps to those who know how to do it. Folks like Apple (s AAPL) , RIM (s RIMM) and maybe Nokia (s NOK). Skype (s EBAY) is going to release the full results of the survey tomorrow. Zogby, a market research firm polled 3,000 mobile users in four markets — the U.S., UK, Spain and Japan — and came up with some interesting findings.

  • 62% do not yet view their mobile device as an extension of their computer.
  • Only 23% feel that they have more or the same level of control over their mobile device as they have over their computer.
  • 70% have never downloaded an application to their mobile device.
  • 67% want to be able to choose their mobile applications for themselves, rather than have their carriers choose for them.

According to the survey, about 19 percent of folks in the UK thought of their device as a phone and a computer. In the U.S., that number rose to 19.3 percent, while in Spain that number rose to 27.2 percent. In Japan, nearly 28.4 percent of people saw their mobile device as a combination of phone and a computer. That is a good sign for all independent app developers — we are seeing the emergence of mobile as a platform ripe for innovation. The usage of mobile data only reinforces that fact. Earlier this week, comScore reported that in the U.S. alone, nearly 63.2 million people accessed the Internet on their mobile devices, and nearly 22.4 million did so every day.

With that kind of growth, Skype, which commissioned the survey, has to be thinking hard about its mobile strategy, especially as it reaches saturation on the desktop. The company recently tied up with Nokia, and there have been other standalone offerings from startups such as Truphone to get Skype-on your mobiles. Skype also has two mobile-focused beta products currently available for testing as well.

23 Comments

Mohit Agrawal

Traditionally, the carriers have controlled the entire value chain using their walled garden approach. However, now they are in real danger of getting reduced to a dumb pipe as new business models emerge. Though it is difficult to say which business model would finally emerge, one thing is clear that carrier’s role is going to dimnish going forward. If anybody is interested in finding out about the business models in the wireless space, please click on the link ( http://www.telecomcircle.com/2009/03/business-models-in-the-wireless-industry/ )

joeworker

The only reason any sane person would want to be in the walled garden is because they were unable to break out or climb over the walls. Let’s face it, nobody wants to see tv shows made by comcast and nobody wants to see content from sprint. The model that has worked for ISPs, where the carrier provides the pipe and people who are good at content provide the content will hopefully prevail in the mobile space as well, although there are chill winds blowing in terms of bandwidth caps in the US. I suspect we will see more of this crap and that it will be largely associated with futile attempts to avoid becoming the bitpipe at the expense of the subscriber.

virtual web symphony

Mobile devices will never be able to compete with desktops/notebooks. Mobile devices should be used only for the purpose they are there. Downloading and running apps is always going to be too much for a device. Let’s live offline as well for sometime everyday.

Shreyas

The carriers have consistently tried to impose some contrived self attested technology over free markets. This whole thing has repeated before, look at IMPS (Instant Messaging and Presence Service) as an example, they tried to squash existing im services by publishing their own.

This was a colossal failure, because people don’t want their mobile services to be stand alone, they want it to work with what they use on their desktops and laptops. This logic holds good for voip too and for any service which has succeeded. If only they understood that. The biggest apps in the iphone marketplace are apps like Pandora, Facebook, Fring which connect cellphones to existing services. They are not dumb per-se, they just should stop re-inventing the wheel.

They are waking up though, Vodaphone acquired ZYB for instance. Clear case of acquiring a service which works across mediums.

Kady Dundas

I’m intrigued by the new carrier, Zer01 Mobile, that got some buzz last week. $69/month unlimited voice/data with no contract and they encourage people to bring their own WinMo phones. This seems like a step in the right direction, providing a service with fewer strings attached.

Anon

You want carriers to buzz off, but you want better wireless service?

John

I was looking at Verizon’s brew catalog and was surprised that twitter and facebook were not part of their app library. Most of the apps on their are subscription based which would lead me to believe a slower adoption is in place ($1.99 a month for pacman? come on).

On the GSM side, the US branded phones from T-Mobile and AT&T appear to have pretty locked down sandboxes for j2me apps so apps like Opera or others may not work properly if at all, further causing this erosion. They do make it difficult for consumers to truly discover the capabilities of their devices.

Om Malik

@absolutgcs,

the numbers of smart phone vs feature phone owners vary. i have the data but will go through the spreadsheets to give you a better sense of that information.

Om Malik

@Andrew Norton

I actually had a more snarky headline but then changed my mind. I had just meditated and well being mean wasn’t part of the plan today :-)

More importantly, I got some good food in me, so I turned to be even more mellow. But you are right — I don’t think the carriers actually do have a clue about what people want.

Reminds me of that movie with mel gibson :-)

Andrew Norton

We don’t need a survey to let us know that people want freedom to choose. This is the basis of free markets which apparently they don’t teach this type of thing at where ever the wireless carrier C-levels went to school.

absolutgcs

So what are some examples of carriers trying to sell apps nowadays? If you’re just thinking of J2ME on feature phones, maybe that notion is a bit dated? Some clarification would help.

Do you think it is possible for carriers to foster app development/growth on platforms like Android, Symbian/Maemo, iPhone, webOS, Blackberry? What if carriers brought something to the table to differentiate these platforms for their network, like carrier service integration? With a few of the aforementioned platforms going open source, do you see some different roles for carriers?

Would also be interesting to see the % of folks surveyed who have a data plan on their mobile device as well as the % of users who had feature phones vs. smart phones.

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