LIVE FROM MOBILE APP WORLD 2010: Edward Kershaw, VP of Mobile Media, EMEA for metrics company Nielsen, used his presentation at Mobile App World 2010 this morning to highlight a number of trends in the apps industry, not least the fact that there is still an important role for mobile operators to play in the ecosystem in terms of aiding application discovery for consumers.
According to Kershaw’s presentation, the prevailing methods of app discovery are searching app stores from the mobile handset, and recommendations from family and friends – in the latter case adding a social element to app purchases, which he argues many app stores have so-far failed to embrace. However, Nielsen’s research found that consumers also identified “device homepages,” “carrier homepages,” and “email tips from carriers” as valuable sources of app information, even if these are not currently well used: “They say ‘I wouldn’t mind some suggestions occasionally’,” he argues.
Positively, Kershaw also notes that mobile phone customers “do not have an inherent fear of paying for stuff,” highlighting the fact that many consumers are already familiar with making content purchases (ringing tones, etc) from their handset – an attitude which can be carried over into the app space “if you get payment simple enough.” Citing US figures, Kershaw noted that 91percent of games buyers will pay for apps, a sentiment echoed by 86 percent of entertainment app users and 76 percent of news consumers. While the device user experience has aligned somewhat with that of the internet, so far user attitudes have not followed: “That feeling that content is worth paying for remains with smartphone consumers; I couldn’t say the same thing about internet users.”
Moving onto the growth of the tablet computer category, characterised by Apple’s iPad, Kershaw argues that “iPads are seen by consumers as far more mobile than they are sedentary,” contrasting with devices such as Sony’s PlayStation Portable, netbook computers and even Amazon’s Kindle eBook reader – although obviously not offering the same levels of mobility as a smartphone. Interestingly, this contrasts with recent findings from publishing house Conde Nast, which indicated that owners primarily use the iPad in a fixed location. Unsurprisingly, iPad users also exhibited different application preferences to smartphone users, preferring books, multimedia and magazines – “long form entertainment” – over the radio, news and music activities which dominate on the iPhone. iPad users are also “pretty happy to pay;” users are characterised as “largely pretty well off, that early-adopting bunch of guys – and it frequently is guys – that we all know and love.”
Finally, shifting to the choice of platforms, Kershaw noted a conflict for brands when creating a mobile strategy – “they are torn between the concept of cool and edgy, which might win awards, and mass market,” represented by the iPhone at one extreme, and Nokia’s Symbian OS devices at the other, with Android currently providing something of a middle ground. Despite the lack of focus on Symbian OS in the developer community, Kershaw notes: “It’s a brave pundit who writes-off Nokia. Nokia is a fighting company.”