Smartphones go mainstream with all age groups.

Today, behaviors across the board are far more “similar” than they are “different.”

Over the past few years, smartphones have clawed their way into becoming a pervasive presence among consumers in all age groups.

That’s one key takeaway message from Deloitte’s 2017 Mobile Consumer Survey covering U.S. adults.

According to the recently-released results from this year’s research, ~82% of American adults age 18 or older own a smartphone or have ready access to one. It’s a significant jump from the ~70% who reported the same thing just two years ago.

While smartphone penetration is highest among consumers age 18-44, the biggest increases in adoption are coming in older demographic categories.  To illustrate, ~67% of Deloitte survey respondents in the age 55-75 category own or have ready access to smartphones, which is big increase from the ~53% who reported so in 2015.

It represents an annual rate of around 8% for this age category.

The Deloitte research also found that three’s little if any difference in the behaviors of age groups in terms of how they interact with their smartphones. Daily smartphone usage is reported by 9 in 10 respondents regardless of the age bracket.

Similarly-consistent across all age groups is the frequency that users check their phones during any given day. For the typical consumer, it happens 47 times daily on average.  Fully 9 in 10 report looking at their phones within an hour of getting up, while 8 in 10 do the same just before going to sleep.

At other times during the day, the incidence of smartphone usage quite high in numerous circumstances, the survey research found:

  • ~92% of respondents use smartphones when out shopping
  • ~89% while watching TV
  • ~85% while talking to friends or family members
  • ~81% while eating at restaurants
  • ~78% while eating at home
  • ~54% during meetings at work

As for the “legacy” use of cellphones, a smaller percentage of respondent’s report using their smartphones for making voice calls. More than 90% use their smartphone to send and receive text messages, whereas a somewhat smaller ~86% make voice calls.

As for other smartphone activities, ~81% are sending and receiving e-mail messages via their smartphone, ~72% are accessing social networks on their smartphones at least sometimes during the week, and ~30% report making video calls via their smartphones – which is nearly double the incidence Deloitte found in its survey two years ago.

As for the respondents in the survey who use smartwatches, daily usage among the oldest age cohort is the highest of all: Three-quarters of respondents age 55-75 reported using their smartwatches daily, while daily usage for younger consumers was 60% or even a little below.  So, in this one particular category, older Americans are actually ahead of their younger counterparts in adoption and usage.

The Deloitte survey shows pretty definitively that it’s no longer very valid to segregate older and younger generations. While there may be some slight variations among younger vs. older consumers, the reality is that market behaviors are far more the same than they are different.  That’s the first time we’ve seen this dynamic playing out in the mobile communications segment.

Additional findings from the Deloitte research can be found in an executive summary available here.

Is Mobile Fraud Getting Set to Balloon?

mobileMobile commerce is the latest big development in e-commerce.  So it’s not surprising that nearly all companies engaged in e-commerce expect their mobile sales revenues to grow significantly over the next three to five years.

In fact, a new survey of ~250 such organizations conducted by IT services firm J. Gold Associates, Inc. finds that half of them anticipate their mobile revenue growth to be between 10% and 50% over the next three years.

Another 30% of the companies surveyed expect even bigger growth:  between 50% and 100% over the period.

So … how could there be any sort of negative aspect to this news?

One word:  Fraud.

Fraud in e-commerce is already with us, of course.  For mobile purchases made now, a third of the organizations surveyed by Gold Associates reported that fraud losses account for about 5% of their total mobile-generated revenues.

For an unlucky 15% of respondents, fraud makes up around 10% of their mobile revenues.

And for an even more miserable 15%, the fraud losses are a whopping 25% of their total mobile revenues.

Risk management firm LexisNexis Risk Solutions has also been crunching the numbers on e-commerce fraud.  It’s found that mobile fraud grew at a 70% rate between 2013 and 2014.

That’s a disproportionately high rate, as it turns out, because mobile commerce makes up ~21% of all fraudulent transactions tracked by LexisNexis, even though mobile makes up only ~14% of all e-commerce transactions.

The propensity for fraud to happen in mobile commerce is likely related to the dynamics of mobile communications.  Unlike desktops, laptops and tablets, “throwaway” phone devices are a fact of life, as are the plethora of carriers — some of them distinctly less reputable than others.

fraudsterConsidering the growth trajectory of mobile e-commerce, doubtless there will be efforts to rein in the incidence of fraud – particularly via analyzing the composition and source of cellphone data.

Some of the data attributes that are and will continue to be the subject of real-time scrutiny include the following “red flags”:

>   A phone number being assigned to non-contracted carrier instead of a contracted one means the propensity for fraud is higher. 

>   Mobile traffic derived from subprime offers could be a fraud breeding-ground. 

>   Multiple cellphones (five or more) associated with the same physical address can be a strong indicator of throwaway phones and fraudulent activity. 

The question is whether this degree of monitoring will be sufficient to keep the incidence of mobile fraud from “exploding” – to use Gold Associates’ dramatic adjective.

I think the jury’s out on that one … but what do you think?

Google Glass: Far-sighted … or fuzzy?

Google Glass fashionI’ve been blogging about Google Glass forever, it seems — or at least as far back as 2009 when the early conception of the product, then known as “Google Goggles,” was in its preliminary stage of development.

The Google Glass product was “soft-launched” in 2012, but it’s only become available to the broader consumer marketplace since the spring of this year — at about $1,500 a pair.

So … how has Google Glass done so far?

“Underwhelming” might be one way of putting it.

As it turns out, there are a number of key factors that are hindering consumer acceptance of this new piece of electronic gadgetry. Consider these points:

  • Substandard quality of images and video compared to a ~$200 smartphone:  oversaturated colors, lack of depth and dimension and all.
  • Battery life in normal use that is far less than promised: only about three hours instead of a full day.
  • Although somewhat streamlined compared to the beta versions of the product, it remains a somewhat “clunky” wearable device — or as Forbes magazine puts it, a “fashion failure.”
  • The general “creep-out factor” of constant surveillance remains a psychological barrier to many consumers.

Indeed, the jokes haven’t abated about the kind of people who make up the cadre of Google Glass “early adopters.”

“Glassholes” is one of the not-so-nice monikers they’re being called.

Going forward, Google Glass faces even more competition in the “wearables” category as computer power migrates into watches, jewelry and clothing in addition to eyeglasses. Even as these concepts become more mainstream, I suspect that Google Glass will continue to lag behind other products which seem to be harnessing the “high-tech-meets-high-fashion” concept more effectively.

We saw clear evidence of that this past week with the introduction of the Apple Watch.

Whereas Google has taken a “brute force” approach in the technological aspects of Google Glass (with design playing second fiddle), Apple has taken its technological innovation and packaged it in a way that resonates with the marketplace at a more visceral level.

If you glance quickly at someone wearing Apple’s watch, you’d be hard-pressed to think it’s anything much different from an analog version.  If Google hopes to have the same kind of success that Apple is poised to have, it needs to start thinking along those lines, too.

But one wonders if Google is “hard-wired” that way …

Samsung gets its marketing knuckles wrapped – twice.

Samsung logoTech manufacturing giant Samsung’s “questionable” marketing activities have been in the news this past week – again.

This time, it’s reported that the company has been fined a $340,000 penalty for paying people to post trash-talk comments about competitor HTC’s products in customer online forums in Taiwan.

Back in April, the Fair Trade Commission in Taiwan opened an investigation into allegations that Samsung had recruited certain employees along with freelance writers from the outside to flack the shortcomings of its competitors’ products.

In addition to the company being held culpable, two of Samsung’s outside marketing firms were fined for their part in the marketing shenanigans masquerading as natural content.

This is pretty big news in the world of smartphones.  HTC and Samsung are major competitors in this highly competitive marketplace, and both companies offer products that operate on the Android platform.

But Samsung’s fortunes have risen dramatically over the past year as its global smartphone market share jumped from ~19% to ~30%.

By contrast, HTC’s share declined from ~9% to slightly less than ~5% over the same period.

Evidently, Samsung couldn’t resist the temptation to kick a competitor when it was already on the ropes.

Chalk it up to the “take no prisoners” atmosphere in the cutthroat competitive world of mobile technology – the “New York Garment District mentality” writ large.

“Astro-turfing” isn’t new, of course.  But the practice is usually the province of smaller companies with fewer scruples … or marketing people who are simply unaware of proper marketing etiquette (and often backed by legal opinion).

Amateur hour
“Amateur hour” at Samsung’s marketing department makes the company look just … silly.

For a company as large and as sophisticated at Samsung, it does seem a little … odd.  And certainly not in good form.

But as it turns out, this isn’t the first time Samsung’s gotten caught with its marketing pants down.

Just a few months ago, the company was discovered bribing various people to “talk up” its development activities – and “talk down” their competitors – during the Samsung Smart App Challenge competition.

Android developer Delyan Kratunov went public with ongoing correspondence in which a viral marketing company working for Samsung offered him $500 to cite positive mentions on the Stack Overflow online community.

The instructions were specific:  Mr. Kratunov would need to ask a series of “casual and organic” questions about Samsung’s app challenge over a month-long period.

Later, the marketing company attempted to distance itself from the egregious behavior — but not before the incident had been exposed.

My response to Samsung is this:  You’re already winning.  There’s no need to engage in “adolescent business behavior” of this kind.

It’s in very bad form … and sooner or later it’ll come back to bite you.

Stuff like this always does eventually.

Growth hits the skids in two key industry segments.

economic doldrumsAs further proof that the worldwide economy is sputtering in a pretty major way, here come two reports on stalling growth in two key industry segments: hospitality and mobile communications.

Technology research and advisory firm Gartner, Inc. has announced that it is revising its 2012 mobile growth projections downwards.

In fact, Gartner is reporting that worldwide sales of mobile phones actually declined nearly 3% during the second quarter of the year.  That’s a rude awakening for a market segment that’s been nearly impervious to downward economic pressures up to this time.

And on the hospitality front, industry research firm Hospitality Resource Group (HRG) is reporting that worldwide hotel rates during the first half of 2012 are essentially flat, following a significant rise charted throughout all of 2011.

While a smattering markets scattered around the world (Moscow, Mexico City, Dubai, San Francisco) have charted hotel rate increases in the 10%+ range, there were far more urban areas that experienced rate declines, led that dramatic drops in the following markets:

  • Bangalore, India: -30%
  • Barcelona, Spain: -26%
  • Munich, Germany: -20%
  • Bombay (Mumbai), India: -18%
  • Istanbul, Turkey: -16%

It may be comforting to hear the reassuring words of select politicians in Europe, Asia and North America as they reiterate that recovery is just around the corner.

But the facts on the ground are delivering an unmistakable message that’s far different – the commercial equivalent of a skunk at the garden party:  The economic doldrums aren’t going away anytime soon.

Taking the “phone” out of “smartphone.”

SmartphonesAs more consumers migrate to the smartphone from traditional feature phones, we’re seeing a transformation of the mobile phone away from its original “tele” purpose.

That’s the conclusion of several studies by analytics firms Flurry and Wireless Intelligence.

In an analysis of smartphone users’ app activity conducted in December 2011, Flurry found the an interesting breakdown of daily activity that places mobile gaming at the top of the list:

 Playing downloaded mobile games: ~49% of daily app activity
 Interacting with Facebook and other social networks: ~30%
 Viewing mobile entertainment: ~7%
 Checking/reading news: ~6%
 Other applications: ~8%

And Wireless Intelligence found some very intriguing figures in its analysis of smartphone user activity conducted in mid-2011.

Of the average ~38 hours of time spent on smartphones per month, actual “phone calling” represented less than one-fourth of the time:

Messaging activities: ~29% of smartphone user time
 Interacting with apps: ~29%
 Voice activities: ~23%
 Web browsing: ~19%

What we’re seeing is that the original purpose of the cellphone has devolved into a position of distinctly lower importance. In time, it could well become the asterisk at the bottom of the page.

And this is happening inside the span of 15 years.

To borrow a phrase from former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, you’d be hard-pressed to cite another device that has so “fundamentally and profoundly” changed its functionality and user purpose over such a short amount of time.

It makes one wonder what the next 15 years will bring …

Are Mobile Communications Taking Over the World?

Mobile communications taking over the worldHow hot is mobile communications these days? Extremely, according to Internet marketing über-specialist Aaron Goldman, who recently cited a number of information factoids to back up his contention:

 There will be ~5 billion mobile devices in use by 2012. That’s the equivalent of ~70% of the world’s entire population.

 Penetration of smartphones has now reached ~38% in the United States … and higher in Europe and Asia.

 The average smartphone user in the U.S. and U.K. has 23 mobile apps on his or her phone. (In Japan, it’s even higher at 45 apps.)

 Four out of five smartphone users use their phone to shop or research purchases while they’re in the store.

 Even more interestingly, ~43% of mobile Internet usage actually happens at home. Evidently, the desktop being mere steps away isn’t as convenient as whipping out the phone to get the needed information..

 Mobile makes up ~20% of all searches on Yahoo, which translates into ~528 million Yahoo searches on mobile devices every month. (Google isn’t far behind, with ~15% of its searches on mobile.)

 Mobile is clearly making strides in the local market; just under 30% of all mobile search queries are ones with “local intent.” For desktops and laptop PCs, only about half of that proportion are “local.”

And Goldman has another interesting stat to share: Nearly 40% of smartphone users access the Internet while using the lavatory.

Now, when Internet surfing takes over from bathroom reading … that’s proof above all else that mobile has definitely arrived!