Smartphone growth is showing signs of exhaustion in heavily penetrated markets like the U.S. and Europe.
But not in emerging markets. Many of these are already mobile-first economies where mobile phones are more ubiquitous than either land-line telephones, PCs, or fixed Internet connections.
Mobile statistics are specifically impressive in the BRICs — Brazil, Russia, India, China. China is poised to overtake the United States as the world’s largest smartphone market, and new Chinese data suggest it has already done so, at least in the number of active smartphones. Tablets are cheap and seeing a huge boom in China.
In a recent report, BI Intelligence interviews a half-dozen mobile industry leaders and entrepreneurs on opportunities in the BRICs, breaks down how mobile-focused companies can pursue those opportunities, analyses key mobile statistics (smartphones, tablets, app downloads, app revenue) from the BRIC countries, isolates and analyses the five lessons that are essential to any mobile project in these markets, and looks at a case study of a successful music streaming service focused on Indian and Bollywood music.
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Here’s an overview of the 5 things to know before embarking on mobile projects in BRIC countries:
- The smartphone will be the main portal to the Internet for consumers in emerging markets. Already, in India, Web traffic from smartphones surpasses desktop traffic. One-fifth of global Web traffic is from hand-held devices, according to StatCounter, and that will only grow as mobile uptake proceeds in emerging markets.
- Don’t ignore the feature phone:Market-leading apps are still keeping one foot in the feature phone market, and for an important reason: That’s where the numbers are. Smartphone penetration among Chinese mobile subscribers won’t end the year higher than 20%, according to BI Intelligence estimates.
- Work with carriers: Emerging market carriers hold the keys to two important aspects of the mobile business — network effects and billing. Billing is a challenge in emerging markets. Credit card penetration is low. Only carriers have the reach, systems, and technologies to draw payments from prepaid and postpaid mobile consumers.
- Follow the rollout of low-cost smartphones and tablets: Since many devices in these markets are purchased for prepaid plans without the help of carrier subsidies, price cuts instantly make tablets and smartphones more accessible to consumers. Smartphone prices in India have fallen 30 to 35 per cent in the last three years.
- Understand Android’s dominance and its limitations: Android is the leading mobile platform in all the BRICs. Android dominance presents a challenge for app developers and publishers since the Google Play store, the main Android app store, has not proved an easy route to monetization in emerging markets. In China, there is very limited support for Google Play. Worse, app store fragmentation on Android is an even more serious problem than it is elsewhere.
In full, the special report:
- Breaks down some mobile statistics (smartphones, app downloads, app revenue) from the BRIC countries.
- Isolates and analyses the four lessons that are essential to any mobile project in these countries.
- Looks at a case study of a successful music streaming service focused on Indian and Bollywood music.