The state of play with Australian Mobile

by Bernie Johnson
26 Nov 2010
4 min read
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The state of play with Australian Mobile

The recent AIMIA Mobile Phone Lifestyle Index provides some fascinating insights into the growth of the mobile channel over the past few years in Oz and supports the industry predictions at the start of 2010 that this would be the year mobile finally comes of age. With the current mobile media-consuming audience reaching 119% saturation in Australia (which now includes 26 million handsets and 250K iPads), mobile accessibility has definitely arrived. 2010 saw 3G handset penetration reach 67% for all mobile owners - this represents people in Australia who can actively consume internet content on their phones - driven by strong growth in iPhone and Android devices.

2010 saw 3G handset penetration reach 67% for all mobile owners

Across the Pacific in the US, non-phone Mobile Internet Devices now account for 17% of all mobile traffic (iPad, iPod touch, Sony PSP and Nintendo DSi etc), which is most likely a trend we'll start to see reflected in Australia! In terms of the US smartphone market, the iPhone accounts for 49% of all devices (AdMob Feb 2010), indicating that iPhone penetration levels are still to rise here, if Australia follows that lead.

Interestingly enough, SMS is still the technology which consumers value the most - probably a reflection of its lifestyle ubiquity. Some of the other attributes which are highly valued when it comes to consuming mobile media include:

  • Usability
  • Convenience
  • Fast delivery of services
  • Integration with social media platforms
  • Email activity is on the rise
  • Social media usage
  • Video calling

When we look at converged devices - especially ones that offer high-speed web capabilities - it's interesting to see how they're changing the landscape from an advertisers' point of view. The burning issues here in Australia are still speed and connectivity. I've recently switched to Telstra's NextG network and, although faster than when I was on Vodafone, it's still embarrassing how slow the download speeds are when compared to other parts of Asia and the UK. OK, I realize we've got a little more land mass to deal with here, but the inefficiencies our slow broadband is introducing to Australian business processes is massively concerning. Once we have mobile bandwidth in AU, consumption patterns for converged devises will grow exponentially - so bring on the NBN!

Location based services and geo-targeting

Location based services and geo-targeting is the other area of mobile which could represent the holy grail for marketers and advertisers. Apple has moved into this space with its iAd platform (used to serve rich-media ads to iPhone owners) and last year Google bought mobile ad-serving company AdMob. The problem is there's no distinct model for how this could yet work, without causing complete uproar amongst device owners. The immense distrust and contempt Australian feel towards mobile advertising is reflected in the fact that only 20% of people said they would accept ads on their mobile phone, down from 25% last year. For now we'll have to stick to Foursquare and Facebook Places.

In order to keep pace with new capabilities, Australian brands need to change their marketing and advertising budgets to reflect changes in consumption patterns. We're all aware that there's been a shift from traditional to new media, but effective capitalization on the changing mobile landscape also involves looking at a more granular breakdown of “digital media” spend and allocating to the different digital channels including online, search, social and mobile accordingly.

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