January 31, 2010

The Smartphone Buzz

By Chester Ng, Account Manager (Southeast Asia)

Across Southeast Asia, we've been noticing a shift in the way consumers are surfing the mobile internet. A rapidly growing number of mobile surfers are using smartphones – Blackberries, iPhones and devices like high-end Nokias that use the Symbian S60 operating system – to access the mobile internet.

Some makers of these high-end devices are also noticing the shift and have started targeting their user base with mobile advertisements.

In Singapore and Thailand, smartphone users account for more than half of all ad page views of banners served across the BuzzCity Advertising Network. In Indonesia and Malaysia, 1 out of every 3 to 4 surfers is accesing the mobile internet from a smartphone. We're also seeing triple-digit growth in smartphone use in these markets.

Take note: smartphones are no longer just for professionals and high-end executives. Multimedia phones are now carried around as a status symbol by teenagers and workers. And among the youth, mobile chat is replacing texting. It's free and immediate.

In Singapore and Malaysia, the iPhone – driven by good marketing and by Apple's huge mobile app store -- is the in-device. In Indonesia and Thailand, though, the Blackberry is the phone to have. Blackberry is beating the iPhone on price in these two markets – about US$300 v. US$750 in Indonesia and US$435 for a Curve Blackberry versus US$765 for a 16GB iPhone in Thailand. Blackberry is also doing well in Indonesia because the sets are unlocked and consumers can choose their own mobile provider. iPhones are tied to Telkomsel.

But while more people are using higher-end devices, many consumers purchase a phone without knowing its full potential, which can translate into a loss of revenue for the app developers and other telecom partners. So companies like Nokia and Research in Motion, the maker of Blackberry, have begun targeted mobile ad campaigns to increase public awareness among their existing users.

Nokia is promoting OVI, its suite of internet services that features games, maps, messaging, music and videos. RIM is promoting its chat service, Blackberry Messenger (BBM).

I'd like to share with you now a few details about the BBM campaign, which is now in its second month. RIM is running a campaign that is targeted in two ways: by handset (only Blackberry users see the ads) and geography (the ads are run in India, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand).

The graphic banner ads have a clear message: "Chat with Blackberry Messenger: Download Now". Consumers who click on the banner are taken to a customised Blackberry mobile home page that have been designed in English, Malay and Thai.

More than 20,000 users have clicked on the banner ads so far and overall the campaign is meeting its core objective by educating Blackberry users about the phones' hidden functions.

If I were running the RIM campaign, I'd make one important change, though. I'd be sure that we ran text ads as well as graphic banners. All the Blackberry devices can read graphics, of course, but some publishers will only run text ads. That means RIM is missing out on a segment of the market.

Other phone manufactures should also take note. The market for multimedia phones in southeast Asia is heating up and one of the best ways for you to maintain a loyal user base is to engage consumers on the mobile internet.


Full disclosure here: I'm a Blackberry user and fan. Recently, I've had a lot of fun scanning the 250 or so new Blackberry-compatible applications and games that have been uploaded to Djuzz since its recent alpha launch. So far, my favorite Djuzz apps are two retro games: BomberXmen and TankZors.  These are remakes of 1980s classics, but each with a twist and now on mobile. BomberXmen is based on the strategic game Bomberman, first released in 1983 by Hudson Soft. TankZors is a remake of Nintendo's 1985 multi-directional gunfire game, Battle City. I won't say too much more or my bosses might think I've been paying TOO much attention to Djuzz and not enough to my accounts!