Apple losing its bite

With eyes set on how the launch of Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and new handsets from Nokia will impact Apple’s Western dominance, a new report points to mobile network operators as the new ‘king makers’ in emerging markets, as smartphone giants adapt their strategies and handset functionality to acquire their next billion customers from these regions.

The 2013 Emerging Markets Mobile Attitudes Report from marketing technology company Upstream, which commissioned YouGov and Vanson Bourne to poll the views of a representative sample of 3,670 adults in Brazil, India, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, revealed that while Apple’s success in the West has been predominately shaped by its premium brand status, the door is open for others such as Nokia to stake its claim on the emerging market audience.

The report reveals that Apple (21 per cent) only secures third place on emerging market consumers’ wish lists – after Samsung (32 per cent) and Nokia (22 per cent). Despite its recent decline in Western markets, Nokia has been named the brand most Nigerians would like to own (37 per cent), and second favourite in Brazil after Samsung. While an appetite for high-end smartphone devices exists throughout emerging markets – 16 per cent willing to spend more than $450 on a device – the report finds that brand desirability cannot guarantee success in these new markets. The report reveals that almost a third of consumers (27 per cent) with less purchasing power will ultimately bypass their favourite brands and buy devices with similar functionality, but at a cheaper price.

A data boom of a different kind

The report also points to the huge significance of mobile phones to consumers in emerging markets, where it is the most used device for one in two (47 per cent) over laptops, tablets or desktop PCs. The report shows that 60 per cent of consumers are prepared to spend up to $5 every month on mobile applications, and in Brazil, one of the fastest growing mobile markets, 14 per cent of consumers would pay $10 or above every month.

The report also points to the wide range of services consumers in emerging markets are using their handsets for. Over half of all Nigerians (56 per cent), 40 per cent of Indians and over a third of Brazilians (37 per cent) would like to access content or applications relating to health services. Additionally, access to educational content is highly demanded in Nigeria (74 per cent), India (50 per cent) and Saudi Arabia (40 per cent). One similarity to the West is consumer interest in social media: 70 per cent of Indians, 69 per cent of Brazilians, 61 per cent of Saudi Arabians and 78 per cent of Nigerians keen to access to social networks such as Facebook or Twitter from their mobile phone.

Operating with an advantage

Where others will fall at the various hurdles in the race to new the markets, mobile network operators are a step ahead with a unique advantage. The lack of access to credit cards and banking facilities in these regions has meant that the majority of consumers polled (42 per cent) expressed an interest in being billed for content and apps by their MNO.

Marco Veremis, CEO, Upstream comments: “The current App store model present in the West, which requires consumer credit or debit card details, is not one that can be easily transferred across into emerging markets. Thanks to the established billing relationship in place with consumers, the report identifies the huge opportunity for MNOs to build a more appropriate and effective model and deliver the data content and applications that consumer’s desire. In addition MNOs actually own the most pervasive marketing channel in those markets to drive adoption for apps, the mobile phone itself. In many of those markets people do not have access to other channels available in the west.”

Veremis adds, “We will see some unsuspecting winners in the open battle for emerging market consumers. Given the unique billing and marketing relationship mobile network operators have with consumers in emerging markets, they have the opportunity to be crowned Kings. Mobile operators not only have the power to create data plans that are suitable and affordable, but also to provide services which do not require credit/debit card services – something that large numbers of people in emerging markets have no access to.”

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