Mobile Technologies Making Africa a Healthier Continent

Mobile technologies are changing life as millions of Africans know it. And it’s all for the better, according to a new AFP report, which highlights how free texts from South Africa’s largest HIV treatment site “are part of a push in Africa to boost health.”

Such efforts target Africa’s 624 million mobile phone subscribers, many of whom require timely medical care and treatments.

“I check my cellphone all the time — I think that’s why it [the drug regimen] is working so well,” one patient tells AFP. As it now stands, roughly 10,000 people have signed up for the txtAlert reminders, which have proven instrumental in helping treat the sick on a consistent, effective basis.

Thanks to the txtAlert reminders, missed appointments have tapered off drastically, down to 4% from 15% during the last four years.

mHealth is in the process of revolutionizing Africa, which is “poor in landlines and hospital beds but rich in cellphones.”

Whether for humanitarian or financial interest, mHealth companies are targeting African nations at a rapid pace. In Africa, the present (but still climbing) value of the mHealth sector is estimated at $60 billion.

“The opportunities for mHealth in Africa are nearly limitless. The continent carries a disproportionate share of the world’s disease burden, and some of the lowest per capita doctor to patient ratios,” says Adele Waugaman, who manages a partnership between the UN Foundation and Vodafone.

“Mobile phones are now being looked to as a tool to help overcome some of these entrenched global health challenges,” Waugaman concluded.

Quick stats on mobile smartphone usage

Smartphone ownership in the United States is surging. That’s according to fresh data published today from the comScore MobiLens service.

The report points to key trends in the US mobile phone industry during the three month average period ending February 2011.

For the three month average period ending in February, 234 million Americans ages 13 and older used mobile devices.

Based on comScore’s survey of more than 30,000 US mobile subscribers, estimates now place US smartphone ownership at 69.5 million, a substantial 13% spike from the preceding three-month period.

In the race for smartphone supremacy, Google’s Android grew 7.0 percentage points since November, strengthening its #1 position with 33.0 percent market share.

RIM, meanwhile, finished second with 28.9 percent market share. Apple placed third (25.2 percent), Microsoft fourth (7.7 percent), and Palm (2.8 percent) rounded out the top five.

With regard to mobile content usage, 68.8 percent of US mobile subscribers used text messaging on their mobile device in February 2011. Browsers were used by 38.4 percent of subscribers (up 3.1 percentage points), and downloaded mobile apps were used by 36.6 percent of the mobile audience (up 3.2 percentage points).

Similar noteworthy spikes were observed in the usage of social networking and mobile gaming.

Accessing of social networking sites or blogs increased 3.3 percentage points, representing 26.8 percent of mobile subscribers. Playing games represented 24.6 percent of the mobile audience, while listening to music represented 17.5 percent.

Nielsen: Mobile Usage Trends: Q3 and Q4 2010

According to a new mobile video report from The Nielsen Company, the number of U.S. mobile subscribers watching video on their mobile devices rose more than 40 percent year-over-year in both the third and fourth quarters of 2010, ending the year at nearly 25 million people. These mobile video users watched an average of four hours and 20 minutes of mobile video per month in both the third and fourth quarter of 2010–a 33 percent and 20 percent year-over-year increase in each quarter respectively.

The growing popularity of mobile video is due, in part, to the rapid adoption of media-friendly mobile devices, including smartphones. Whereas in Q4 2009 only 23 percent of US mobile subscribers had smartphones, by the end of 2010 smartphone penetration had reached 31 percent. Over time, it also has become easier to find, view and share mobile video, either via mobile apps or the mobile web.

Is there a point to QR codes in an SMS-dependent society?

By Giselle Tsirulnik at Mobile Marketer

QR codes are quite popular nowadays, with a lot of large brands incorporating the technology into existing marketing collateral to increase engagement. But, adding an SMS call to action to existing media can also connect consumers to richer experiences, so is there really a need for QR codes?

Both QR codes and SMS can be used to connect consumers to interactive content such as Web sites, video, pictures, apps and other multimedia. The difference is that consumers do not need to download apps to respond to SMS call to actions, like they do with bar codes.

“A subsidiary of Toyota created quick response codes in 1999 for tracking parts on assembly lines,” said Tim Miller, president of Sumotext, Little Rock, AR. “They represented a major advancement over traditional bar codes because they held more data, readers could capture the data at 360-degree angles, and the data could be decoded at higher speeds.

“But for marketers, QR codes just don’t make sense to me,” he said. “If you want to deliver content to a mobile device or link consumers to Web sites, apps, or multimedia, SMS via short codes can do the same thing in a fraction of the time – without a smartphone, camera, or installed reader.

“You can also get a compliant opt-in in the process.”

SMS’ familiarity
A study by ABI Research finds that consumers worldwide will send more than 7 trillion text messages in 2011, indicating that SMS is the the key communication tool of the modern era.

ABI’s data shows that consumers are increasingly comfortable communicating via SMS. According to Informa, 2010 SMS traffic in the United States was 1.1 trillion messages.

Ninety percent of the U.S. population sends and recieves text messages, according to Nielsen. With a current population of about 310,995,668, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, that means that approximately 279,896,101 send and recieve SMS messages.

Comparatively speaking, mobile bar code scanning is growing at a very rapid pace, but is only now starting to move out of the early-adopter stage, according to the ScanLife Mobile Bar Code Trend Report released in January.

Scanbuy claims that only 25-30 million consumers in the United States are scanning bar codes, representing a very large growth year over year.

“SMS has distinct advantages because of its reach, use by mobile subscribers of just about all ages, and standardization,” said Jeff Hasen, chief marketing officer of Hipcricket, Kirkland, WA. “When you create an SMS call to action, you don’t need to worry whether your target has an interest in QR codes, not to mention an app to engage with the image.”

What’s even more confusing is that Microsoft Tags, for example, can only be read by Microsoft Tag readers, so there is a lack of standardization in the space.

That means that consumers need multiple readers, depending on which codes they are scanning. It also means they need to figure out which app to open and when.

“Even if every brand published the same code format and every phone came installed with the same reader, I think consumers would still struggle to justify the utility of QR codes,” Sumotext’s Mr. Miller said.

“Consumers phones are cluttered with competing apps and all it takes is one frustrating experience trying to find the reader or take a picture of the code and many consumers won’t ever try it again,” he said.

“From the publisher’s perspective, you also have to consider how big these images have to be, how ugly they are, and all the extra space required for download instructions – not to mention the static nature of the URL that is likely embedded in the image. Does anyone really want to call their Web developer every time they need to end or edit a QR campaign printed in a magazine?”

Attractiveness of QR codes
Keeping all of this in mind, what then, is the attractiveness of QR codes to brands?

According to Mr. Hasen, QR codes do have their benefits.

A campaign using QR codes can often be implemented faster by brands new to mobile because they do not have to wait for a short code to be obtained and provisioned by all the carriers.

Another perceived advantage is that QR codes are cool and fit a brand’s personality.

But when it comes to choosing one or the other – SMS or QR codes – Mr. Hasen suggests taking an agnostic approach.

“As marketers, we should be agnostic when it comes to mobile tactics as long as we succeed in our goals of engagement that leads to trial, sales and loyalty,” Mr. Hasen said. “Many of Hipcricket clients, including Macy’s, are wisely choosing to provide consumers with multiple ways to engage.

“We are seeing this now in the Macy’s aisles in the Backstage Pass program that provides fashion tips, product information and more,” he said. “Macy’s is inclusive, even providing a URL at the point of sale for those who don’t wish to interact via mobile.”

At the end of the day it is about turning what used to be passive activities into interactive ones, per Mr. Hasen.

That means that regardless of whether it is a QR code, an SMS-to-short code or both, some sort of mobile call to action needs to be included in traditional media and other communications vehicles like point of sale materials to better engage consumers and drive them to purchase.

“QR codes have a buzz about them and are included in most conversations Hipcricket has with its clients and new business prospects,” Mr. Hasen said. “But for many quick service restaurants and other brands, SMS call to actions remain an indispensible part of the marketing mix.

“And SMS calls to action are becoming more and more commonplace,” he said.

Consumers prefer codes?
Mike Wehrs, CEO of Scanbuy, New York, said there are a number of reasons why the industry is seeing both large brands and thousands of small businesses embracing codes so quickly.

The mobile device can offer so much more than even a year ago, and codes can easily launch literally any action available – including SMS.

Marketers want to show more dynamic content like video and social networking which can also be adjusted in real time based on deeper analytics like location or handset type.

“The bar code is a more open and democratic solution that does not require a huge amount of investment or time to market,” Mr. Wehrs said. “Codes are visually more obvious than SMS so they are really turning into an icon which shows people there is something more here.

“A code converts anything into a ‘get more’ button,” he said.

But, one of the most important factors why code scanning is moving so quickly is user adoption.

Mr. Wehrs said people use texting for communication purposes because it is easy, but when it comes to engaging with a brand, people would rather scan a code than use SMS.

“It’s just that much easier to scan a code and launch really compelling content in one click than typing a short code, waiting for a response and then clicking for content,” Mr. Wehrs said. “Plus, let’s be honest, it’s pretty rewarding to scan a code to see where it goes in two seconds.

“We have actually run campaigns in the U.S. and abroad with both an SMS and a 2D code option, and we see more scans than texts,” he said. ” In fact, in the four campaigns that have offered both options, all of them saw more scans than texts.”

A service designed to take the “spam” out of SMS marketing

UK-based mobile operator O2 is seeing huge success with its “O2 More” SMS advertising service, announcing that it now has over 2 million actively engaged subscribers and over 1,000 advertisers.

Launched just 16 months ago with roughly 50 brands, O2 has found a winning strategy by adhering to strict user-privacy rules and maintaining high relevance with the messages it sends.  First off, the service only sends one SMS message per day, and the user explicitly details what kind of products and services they’re interested in upon sign up.  In addition, every single SMS contains an opt-out capability, so the customer can cancel O2 More at any time.

This is a big deal for a couple reasons.  This is the first large-scale attempt by a wireless operator to capitalize on the power of mobile marketing combined with a massive subscriber-base.  Also, it represents the immense success a service like this can be, if done properly.  We’ll no doubt see other operators follow suit in the near future.

“O2 More was created to give our customers what they really want,” said Shaun Gregory, Managing Director of O2 Media.  ”Breaking through two million customers shows that we’re delivering on that promise.  What’s more, we’re delivering new highly-targeted, relevant and effective forms of communication for brands. Mobile messaging is the only way that brands can open up a unique one-to-one dialogue with customers and create real engagement. O2 More is all about creating an exciting customer and advertiser experience, backed up by one of the UKs most respected brands.”

Key Q1 2011 Mobile Trends

comScore released new data from mobilens today offering new insight into the behavior and growth of the mobile phone market. Here are the three most important points we’ve gleaned form the data:

  1. SMS (sending a text to another person) saw zero growth, making us wonder if we’re seeing the beginning of a cap on this market
  2. Social network access grew by 1.1%, which we believe to be significant and underscores the ongoing trend that people are managing their social networks via mobile device
  3. App downloads increased 2X more than browser access. We think the root cause of this is people getting smart phones, many of which were probably acquired over the holidays. However, we expect to see less of a delta between these two statistics next quarter, as people with new smartphones typically load up on apps, but ultimately end up ignoring about 80% of what they download. This is what we call call “download and dump” behavior.

62% of consumers with web-connected mobile devices are buying goods via mobile

Mobile commerce may be maturing at a quicker rate than many experts have predicted, according to a report today from Adobe Scene7. 62% of consumers with web-connected mobile devices have purchased merchandise in a wide range of product categories using their mobile devices, the survey of 1,200 U.S. adult consumers who own these devices finds. Adobe notes in its report that the respondents’ mobile commerce adoption rate is significantly higher than current estimates for the overall population because respondents to this survey all own devices such as smartphones that connect to the web.

While more consumers are becoming comfortable shopping via mobile device, the Adobe Scene7 report finds they still don’t spend close to the amount they do via PC. The greatest segment of mobile shoppers, 45%, spent $249 or less via mobile during the last 12 months, the report says. By comparison, the average annual online spend per shopper in 2010 was $1,139, according to an estimate from research firm eMarketer.

Still, 62% is a strong sign for the future of mobile commerce, even among a group skewed toward smartphone owners. Mobile revenues are poised for big growth, many experts predict. U.S. mobile commerce sales are expected to hit $5.3 billion in 2011, up 83% from a year ago, according to Barclays Capital.

Users of iPhones, men and adults age 30-49 purchase more frequently, buy goods in more categories and generally spend more time shopping than their peers, the report also finds. Users of iPhones overall also spend more—66% report spending $250 or more on mobile purchases in the last 12 months. BlackBerry users rank second with 58% spending $250 or more.

Movies, music and games, according to Adobe, are the most popular buys, purchased by 43% of mobile shoppers. That was trailed by clothing, shoes and jewelry at 30%; electronics at 28%; and books, magazines and newspapers at 26%.

“Shoppers are reaching for their mobile devices to research products and prices at the point of decision,” the report, “Mobile Shopper Insights for 2011,” notes. “Curious consumers are scanning QR codes on outdoor advertising and in magazine pages to get more information about a brand or product. As the impulse strikes them, many shoppers are simply moved to purchase directly from their devices.”

The report finds most mobile shoppers are content with their experience. 80% rate their mobile shopping experience above average. And shoppers are about equally happy with m-commerce sites versus mobile apps. However, for some shopping activities such as researching products and comparing prices, a majority of respondents favor using mobile sites over apps. Two-thirds of the respondents say they prefer sites to apps for accessing product and other shopping content.

So what mobile shopping features do consumers most appreciate? Easy checkout , named by 57% of shoppers, is deemed a top feature, followed by product and pricing information at 53%. Visual information, such as full-screen product view, ranks third with 42%, followed closely by simple keyword search at 40%.

For visual tools, 54% say 360-degree spin is the aid that has potential to prompt them to buy. Side-by-side product comparisons (49%) and interactive zoom and pan (44%) follow. Respondents rank these features ahead of simple keyword search and customer ratings and reviews.

Full-screen image zoom with “next/previous” touchscreen buttons to navigate forward and backward ties with full-screen horizontal scrolling with dragging or flicking images left and right as the top preferred ways to scan pages or screens. Both of these viewing experiences were selected by nearly half of the respondents.

Women are more discriminating than men when it comes to mobile shopping. For example, easy checkout was rated important by 61% of women compared with 51% of men, and 44% of women say search is important compared with 36% of men. Women also place more importance on advanced visual features than men. They, more so than men, deem color-swatching and alternative images—such as an image of a sweater on a model or of a coffee table in a room—as significant. Women also appreciate a good deal more than their male counterparts. 42% of women compared with 35% of men say online promotions and coupons are important factors in their mobile shopping experience.

Men, however, like their mobile video. The presence of mobile video is one area that was rated by more men than women (38% versus 28%) to increase the likelihood to buy.

Top 10 Mobile Trends of 2010: Highlights from comScore’s Mobile Year in Review

Below is a summary of what we see as the top ten overarching mobile trends of 2010:

  1. Phones Keep Getting ‘Smarter’: Smartphone adoption continues to increase across the U.S. and Europe, with most markets surpassing 25-30% market penetration for smartphones. The proliferation of new devices hitting the market in 2010 – including the iPhone 4, Blackberry Storm 2, and Motorola Droid X – has given consumers strong smartphone options across wireless carriers that is helping this segment of the market gain traction.
  2. iPhone Dominates Device Sales: The top two devices sold in 2010 in both the U.S. and EU5 were the iPhone 3GS and iPhone4, respectively. The #3 device in the U.S. was the Blackberry Curve, while the #3 device in the EU5 was the Nokia 5800 – XpressMusic.
  3. Android Storms Smartphone Market: 2010 saw Google’s Android platform grab hold in the mobile marketplace in a big way. In the U.S. alone, Android’s share of the smartphone market jumped from 5% to 29% in just one year, and it leapfrogged Apple to become the #2 smartphone platform after RIM. The number of different smartphones running Android certainly helped accelerate this trend, as did the desire for many consumers on Verizon to opt for a smartphone with a strong app economy.
  4. The App Ecosystem Blossoms: iPhone paved the way for the app ecosystem to emerge as developers create new and interesting apps for consumers every day. While most early apps were developed primarily for the iPhone, we are now seeing vibrant app ecosystems for Android, Blackberry and others.
  5. Email Shifts to the Mobile Phone: 2010 saw usage of PC-based email decline, particularly among teenagers, and it appears that much of that email activity is moving to people’s mobile devices. While Blackberry was once in a league of its own in terms of email functionality, many other devices have since caught up, and consumers are responding. Email now exists across media and mobile devices will continue to be a growing part of that trend.
  6. Location is Everything: Location-based check-in services like Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places all entered the digital lexicon in 2010 and have begun to gain consumer adoption. Other GPS-enabled apps like Google Maps and Garmin have also proved to be among the most popular and widely downloaded.
  7. Social Owns Mobile: Social media is one of the most prevalent and fastest-growing activities on the mobile phone. In the U.S. the number of mobile social media users grew 56% to lead all content categories, and in the UK Facebook accounts for 40% of all time spent on mobile sites.
  8. Mobile Commerce Readies for Lift-off: Mobile commerce, or m-commerce, has yet to gain traction in a significant way, but as smartphone adoption accelerates, technology has begun to facilitate mobile transactions. The next phase in m-commerce will be the emergence of the “mobile wallet” with direct payments coming from the mobile device, with Starbucks leading the way among merchants in installing the technology for such payments.
  9. iPad Redefines the Mobile Landscape: Apple’s blockbuster launch of the iPad in early 2010 set the stage for a completely new category of device to emerge, as several other tablets and e-readers hit the market by the end of the year. As a reasonably sophisticated computing device that is also mobile, the iPad has given new definition to the types of behaviors in which consumers will engage in the mobile environment. The iPad is also causing time-shifting in how and when consumers engage with content, with the iPad showing a high percentage of activity late at night as people wind down for the evening.
  10. Mobile Advertising Market Takes Shape: As mobile media consumption increases, it was only a matter of time before the mobile advertising boom began to take shape. Apple got into the act with the introduction of the iAd, which has already attracted many of the top brand advertisers like AT&T, Citi and Disney. Expect to see more and better quality ad units alongside mobile media content in 2011.

You can see from this selection of highlights that 2010 was another outstanding year, and this year promises to shine even brighter. If you haven’t already downloaded the 2010 Mobile Year in Review, you can do so here. We hope you enjoy and that it gives you a few things to think about on your way to success in 2011…