There’s trouble in Mobile Earth. Or so it appeared at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week. Darkness is spreading throughout the networks, as the twin towers of Apple and Android continue to suck application developers into their empires. But help was at hand. Step forward those plucky little hobbits at the GSM Association. Prior to the Conference their ivory burrow had been echoing to the sound of furry feet as they hastily put together the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) to thwart those twin evils of the cellular world.
ARPU is precious. Brand is even more precious. As without that, you’re just a data pipe. But both are fading. The only thing that consumers appear to value these days is downloadable apps, and lots of them. Last year at MWC, every operator was busy launching their own Apps Store. A year on, the cellular shires have realised fighting alone didn’t work, so they’ve banded together to pit their combined forces against the dark empire.
It’s an odd alliance, and probably one that is doomed to failure.
Everyone in the mobile industry wants to emulate Apple’s success with their Apps Store by having one of their own. They also want to believe that they’re offering mobile Internet. But if they were to spend just a few moments looking around they might question the sanity of either view.
There’s no doubt about the success of the Apps store. Customers with iPhones appear to be deliriously happy to pay to put shortcut icons onto their phones. But does it make sense? Or is the industry just repeating the self delusion it first perpetrated when it declared that WAP was mobile Internet?
There are some fundamental differences between mobile and wired internet, not least of which is, if the Apps Store concept is so good, why doesn’t it exist on the wired internet? Could it be because the mobile and wired internet really aren’t the same thing? The mobile industry does not want to talk about that, as it undermines the whole concept of the mobile internet. So let’s talk about it…
Forget Apps Stores, music and the web on your phone. A recent survey by market research analyst TNS has shown that the most used service reported by UK phone users is Bluetooth.
You know a technology has moved into the mainstream when it starts appearing as a noun or an adjective (much to the annoyance of brand managers). But in the UK, Bluetooth has just done just that. We wear our Bluetooths on our ears and Bluetooth our pictures to one another. It’s nice to discover that this unofficial consensus of colloquial usage has been endorsed by real data.