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The New SMS of Smart Phones

Posted on November 29, 2012
By Hari Ganapathy

The first wave of telco revenues was driven by text and voice. Thanks to shortened innovation cycles in the mobile eco-system, the revenue mix of telco industry is now poised to change. Increase in usage of mobile devices to access Internet and penetration of Internet enabled smart phones have accelerated data related revenue growth of Telcos.

Smart Phones leading Mobile Internet adoption The total number of mobile Internet users will be close to 85M by end of 2012. This represents a 170% year on year growth. In the same time period, smartphones have grown by a whopping 225% and it is estimated that there would be close to 75M smart phone users by the end of 2012. The interesting part is that by 2016, 26% of all mobile phones in India would be a smart phone. Given our 75% mobile penetration, the smart phone number is going to be a one massive target segment. One major reason for this growth has been the availability of smart phones across multiple affordable price points. With new models and attractive finance schemes this trend is expected to continue.

Shift in Consumer Usage Pattern With their limited penetration, smart phones are already changing the usefulness of our mobile device. Instant access to data (thanks to cheaper pay-per-use plans) has altered our expectations and usage behavior. Consumers are now open to access content over their mobile device. One of the ways to understand the surge of Internet-enabled smart devices is to take a look at the parallel app economy that has emerged. From just 1 billion installs in 2010, Google Play recorded 25 billion app installs in 2012. One of the key reasons for such tremendous growth has been the enormous amount of choice available to the user: from 250,000 apps on the Play Store in July 2011 to 675,000 apps in Sept 2012.

Change in App Usage Reflecting User Maturity Of the huge number of apps available, gaming and utility apps have traditionally dominated the app download charts world over and India in particular. With user maturity, ease of app discovery and choice-seeking behavior, the predominance of these apps has decreased and other categories have emerged. Data suggests that smart phone users in India are now moving towards a new set of what we call SMS apps - Sports, Media and Social apps. Over the last 6 months, ad requests from publishers belonging to these three categories has grown at almost 100% while those belonging to gaming has de-grown. The shift to SMS is symbolic of the shift of usage - smart phone is now used as a device to snack on content (to stay updated, socially relevant etc.) and not just kill time.

Demystifying SMS In sports, cricket apps continue to dominate as expected. Prominent apps include Cricbuzz and Cricinfo. Interestingly though, soccer related properties like goal.com have also been impressive in their reach. Among social apps chat and messenger apps like eBuddy and Nimbuzz have led the charge and niche social networking apps like TweetDeck and Ubertwitter have also gained considerable traction among consumers. The media category encompasses Music, News and Video apps. While streaming music apps like Dhingana and Saavn are gaining ground sub-par 3G/Wi-Fi infrastructure has been a dampener. On the other hand, News apps have seen enormous adoption. In fact almost all prominent news broadcasters in India now have apps across mobiles and tablets Additionally, news aggregator apps such as World News Papers and NewsHunt are also climbing up the popularity ratings. Video consumption is an interesting story. The clincher in the case of video apps such as TubeMate is the option for the user to download movies/video clips over 3G/Wi-Fi and consume it offline.

Sports Media and Social Apps Driving Time Spent on Mobile A recently conducted survey suggests that Indian consumers spend close to 95 minutes on their mobile devices. This number is more than the combined time spent on radio and newspapers. SMS apps constitute close to 50% of the time spent by consumers on mobile. What is interesting is that games accounts for only 15% of the total time spent. This increase in usage of Sports, Media and Social apps does not only does not only indicate user maturity but also a considerable shift in the overall mobile Internet eco system.

What Next?The mobile Internet revolution is on and it's no more a question of why mobile. The smart phone Sports Media and Social (SMS) phenomenon is a clear indicator that users are embracing the media by the numbers. The sooner brands experiment, the better positioned they will be to leverage the medium. Thanks to the SMS phenomenon, brands now have the opportunity to explore and connect to their target audience through content such as Bollywood and cricket that they are comfortable with. Given that smartphones and tablets are predominantly used to relax, entertain and consume content, consumers will be more than happy to engage with brands provided the context is appropriate.

Thanks to Tyron D'Souza who helped with the research of InMobi data for this post.

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