Europe and The Mobile Marketplace, A Response to Mr. Scoble

Robert Scoble recently visited the United Kingdom along with other bloggers and social media types as a part of the Traveling Geeks.’a0 After his visit to the UK, Mr. Scoble posted a July 9th article saying that Europe is “stuck on texting” based on his observation that youngsters in the Tube and around London weren’t using the mobile Internet, but instead were texting like crazy.’a0 Also, the hipsters in and around London were not donning the latest Nokia NSeries phones.’a0 Rather, these influentials were utilizing the iconic iPhone from Apple.

Scoble went on to use the point that because of Apple’s new dominance in the mobile marketplace and Nokia’s slow reaction and resulting loss of market share show that Europe has lost it’s innovative edge in the Mobile world.

I recently asked our CEO, Steve Ives, for his thoughts on Scoble’s post.’a0 Ives’ response is that Scoble is right and wrong at the same time.

Where Mr. Scoble is Wrong

Regarding Scoble’s assumption that Nokia is “stuck on texting”, Steve disagrees with Scoble’s assertion.’a0 To illustrate his point, Steve shows us a 2 year old study whereby M:Metrics surveyed U.S. and European mobile phone habits.’a0 At that time, the UK had twice the smartphone penetration than that of the U.S. where 8% of British had smartphones.’a0 Looking at other countries in Europe, Spain and Italy had even higher penetration rates with 10% and 18% respectively.

How did these smartphone-toting mobile customers, 2 years ago, use their phones?’a0 40% of British smartphone users were utilizing the mobile internet for news, information/entertainment.’a0 Meanwhile, in the United States, where feature phones dominated the market, only 14% of these customers were utilizing the mobile internet.

In the 2 years since M:Metrics conducted their study, smartphone sales in Western Europe have continued to grow, but at a slower rate than in the U.S.’a0 Gartner reported a 10% growth in smartphone unit sales in Western Europe in 2008, while the US market saw a dazzling 70% uptick in smartphone purchases.’a0 So, the US has almost caught up to European levels of smartphone usage.

Where Robert is Right

Meanwhile, Robert makes some very good points regarding Apple and iPhone uptake in the West.’a0 What thoughts did Steve offer on these points?

Looking at the US market, the main sellers in the smartphone arena continue to be the Apple iPhone and Blackberry platform from Research in Motion (RIM).’a0 Looking further at mobile Internet and mobile data use, it is known in the industry that the iPhone drives 10x mobile data usage than the old-style featurephones.’a0 In fact, Google has reported as much as a 30x usage on some touch devices.

Other touch phones such as Android devices like the T-Mobile G1 are showing similar metrics.’a0 However, BlackBerry users show lower Internet usage (aside from email, of course) than the new touch phones on the market.’a0 So, apparently, touch phones seem to be driving mobile Internet usage.’a0 And, in the West at least, the uS market is driving touch forward the quickest.

This change in market drivers has been a huge wake up call for Nokia, as the Finnish phone giant has been slow to embrace the touch form factor, and everyone knows Nokia is the largest player in the European mobile hardware market.’a0 But, Nokia has always been slow to embrace new form factors (remember the candy bar vs. flip phone debate?).

At Taptu, we feel touch phones will account for 75% of mobile internet usage by 2012.’a0 For further info, check out our whitepaper, available for download from our website.

Perhaps two years ago, Nokia could claim to be amongst the leaders in driving mobile Internet usage, but not now when you analyze the numbers.’a0 The mantle has been passed from Espoo to Apple (iPhone) and Google (Android) who, with the help of US consumers and their huge appetite for mobile Internet usage and the latest touch phones, are now driving the market.

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