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Entries in Android (7)


China Mobile, MTK lead China's mobile web 

Two things stand out in the latest quarterly survey of China’s mobile web by search firm Easou.

First is the dominance of China Mobile. Sure, it’s the 800lb gorilla, with over 700m subs, or 69% of the market.

But when it comes to the mobile web its share actually rises to 83%, according to Easou, China’s third largest mobile search provider.

Yet in the 3G market it has just a modest lead, with 37% of customers.

China Mobile is still mainly a 2.5G operator. Even today, more than four-fifths of China’s 1.02 billion mobile users carry a 2G device, and some 80% of online visits are via WAP, according to the Easou survey (in Chinese only). Many sessions are via multiple platforms, with WiFi accounting for 16% and non-WAP for 36% of visits.

The positive for the other two operators is that Mobile's market share is down six points over last year, thanks mainly to their 3G gain.

Bearing in mind that this survey is drawn from Easou's search traffic, which accounts for more than a fifth of the market, the other striking point is the two biggest mobile operating systems. They’re not the usual suspects.

The largest in fact is MTK, a platform offered by Taiwan chip firm Mediatek and which is popular among local brands such as Bird and Lenovo. Between them the many shanzhai firms have racked up just under 30% market share, well ahead of Nokia (25%) and Android (22%). iOS is well back in fourth spot on 5.77%.

Not to write off the latter two - Android added 4.8 points this quarter and is on track to overtake Nokia, which shrank, while iOS grew 1.3 points.

The success of MTK should give pause to global handset players, especially those eyeing developing markets. You wouldn't bet against it.


Just what do Android users do with their phones?

Good question raised by Business Insider blog.

Androiders vastly outnumber iPhonistas but when it comes to internet use it’s the iPhone and then daylight.

At least in the US, where Android leads iOS in market share 53% to 34%. Yet some 60% of mobile web visits came from iOS devices and only 20% from Android.

An IBM analysis of Black Friday online sales found an even bigger skew: iOS (iPads and iPhones) accounted for nearly 20% of transactions, Android 5.5%.

One partial explanation is that Apple totally owns the tablet segment. Although its dominance is slipping, the IBM study showed 88% of the tablet traffic was iOS.

But it still leaves the poser about why Android owners keep their phone in their pocket. The answer, of course, has huge implications across the mobile value chain.

The most plausible explanation I’ve seen far comes from Josh Marshall, publisher of Talking Points Memo - a political blog with a watching brief on tech. TPM’s own traffic figures site illustrate the trend. Around 23% of visitors are on mobile devices and of those 77% are iOS and just 21% Android.

Marshall thinks it might be “some mix of affluence and power-use."

If you’re really focused on living through your mobile device — shopping with it, constantly accessing news on it, getting really focused on apps, you’re far more likely to buy an iPhone. The demographics of affluence clearly play a significant factor as well. I suspect that’s why our audience for instance is even more tilted toward iOS than most.

Or maybe it's all about price.

As Marshall points out, handset brands have upgraded a lot of the mobile population onto smartphones in the past 18 months. Most of those are Android users. By definition they're not early adopters, and they may have upgraded for reasons of price, or fashion, or the ability to cut costs with OTT apps.

What will it take to make tham active on the mobile web? Is there a ‘killer app’ (a long time since I’ve written that phrase) out there? Or is US data pricing playing the key role in suppressing usage? 

Which is a prompt for a post on iOS vs Android in Asia. Let me fossick around.


Why can't mobile operators offer this?

Cellcos openly fear becoming dumb pipes, yet they miss tricks that customers love: like the SPB Wireless Monitor, which tells users how much data they've consumed.

GigaOm's Kevin C. Tofel took the Android app for a test drive:

You set personalized alerts based on an amount of data, or the cost of your data, and the application quietly monitors the data used by your smartphone or tablet... When the software sees that your data use has crossed a threshold, it immediately creates a standard, local Android notification to alert you.

Any operator who offers it will immediately have one over competitors who don't. Customers will use more data once they know exactly how far the meter has ticket over. Simple.


Android to the rescue

If you’re under 20 years old and not Japanese you might be surprised that Japan actually makes mobile phones.

Today only Sony Ericsson, half-owned by the Japanese electronics firm, sells phones in any volume outside the Japan market.

The disappearance of Japanese handset firms from the global stage is a business study on “how not to succeed” (and probably says a lot about the country’s wider economic retreat).

One reason has been the industry’s inability to refresh itself. Whereas western handset brands like Nortel, Alcatel and Siemens have disappeared or were sold off, only in the last 18 months have the Japanese players consolidated.

The other is because they decided to focus on the local market, building handsets to specs set by domestic operators - NTT DoCoMo in particular – perhaps in the belief that the rest of the world would follow.

In any case, the days of the narrow focus are over. Japanese handset guys are putting their faith in Android, the broadest church of them all.

Sharp, NEC, Kyocera and Sony Ericsson are all betting big on Android, the NT Times reports, noting that one of the shocks was the smash success of the iPhone, gaining 70% market share in a territory where foreign brands find it tough to get traction.

So Sharp is doing things it’s never done before, like opening up its lab and working with developers, and trying to focus on customers, not operators.

The combination of Android and Japanese hardware smarts is a natural one and, who knows, might propel one of the Japanese firms into the handset top ranks again.

But Gerhard Fasol, chief executive of Tokyo consultancy Eurotechnology, reminds that the Japanese firms are merely “soldiers in the Google army, with Google as king.”

Which also reminds that the Japanese firms are also missed recruiting targets for Nokia-Microsoft, who are well short of an army.


The age of the smartphone

Yesterday I mentioned the arrival of the sub-$100 Android smartphone as just one more headache for Nokia.

Taiwan and mainland Chinese design houses are offering turnkey chip and OS solutions to OEMs at $100 and less, promising to jump-start demand for Web-friendly Android-based devices in developing markets, where Nokia now sells most of its phones.

Now Apple’s getting in on the act. Bloomberg reports that a smaller, low-cost version of the iPhone is in production inside the Cupertino hit machine. Apple is aiming to get the device – which would sell for around $200 – to the market by the mid-year.

The Bloomberg story also confirms GigaOm’s scoop three months ago that Apple is planning its own universal SIM card that would enable consumers to enjoy access to multiple mobile operators via iTunes. That’s a huge development for the mobile industry – will post more on that later.

It just remains to be pointed out that the age of the mass market smartphone is here; consumers actually bought more smartphones than PCs in the last quarter of 2010.

We’ll hear a lot more about low-cost smartphones at the annual mobile industry confab in Barcelona next week.