Singapore gets smart

By Rohit Dadwal

Globally, 2011 is said to be the year of the smartphone. Although adoption rates have seen continuous growth across the world, cheaper devices and subscription plans will ensure a very significant increase in smartphone penetration. As consumers switch to more sophisticated devices the world over, marketers continue to see an opportunity for innovative mobile campaigns to engage consumers.

Although Singapore is a smaller market compared to the US, smartphone adoption in the country is remarkably similar to that of the bigger global markets outside of the Asia Pacific (minus Japan). A technological forerunner in the Asia Pacific region, Singapore is a place where consumers can be connected with on their smartphones at scale through immersive mobile experiences.

According to Informa Telecoms & Media, global mobile advertising revenue will rise tenfold to about $24.1 billion by 2015. Much of that growth will come from China and India. Mobile advertising is no longer just an emerging market; it has quickly grown into a major advertising medium. Informa also estimated that the global mobile data services market, including mobile advertising, was worth $224 billion in 2010. This market is set to increase to $340 billion in 2014.

In InMobi’s recent A Global View of Mobile Advertising: January 2011 report – Asia Pacific market, the total ad impressions from smartphones represent 23% of all impressions in the region. Although this percentage in the Asia Pacific continues to grow, the dependence on smartphones in Singapore is almost four times the Asia Pacific numbers. Up to 91% of all mobile ad requests in Singapore on the InMobi network came from Smartphones - a staggering difference between Singapore and the rest of the region.

The adoption of newer technology tends to be quicker in Singapore than in the rest of the region. For example, Nokia (29%) and Symbian (22%) operating systems (OS) are the leaders in the Asia Pacific market while Android (5%) and iPhone OS (11%) figures add up to only about half of Nokia’s hold in the region. In comparison, the iPhone OS holds a 69.6% share in Singapore based on InMobi’s network data. Coming in second and third in the local market were Android and RIM OS with 14.4% and 5.7% of impression share, respectively. The quick adoption/dominance of newer operating systems in the country is a testament to its tech savvy populace making it an ideal market for mobile innovation and outreach.

The marked difference in OS share rankings between the Asia Pacific region and Singapore reflects a blend of consumers that is unique to the region. Singaporeans as a people are coded to not be bested by anyone else and this is shown through their need to constantly be technologically forward.

How does this affect Singapore?

As mobile continues to grow in Singapore, several new technologies are being introduced and will be seen gaining pace. The proliferation of GPS phones with digital compasses has already given rise to a series of location-based augmented reality (AR) software platforms and applications. The combination of AR with location-based services (LBS) allows for graphic content related to the position of the user to be overlaid in real-time onto camera images taken by the phone. This makes for one of the most intuitive user interface currently available on mobile and also makes the consumption of location-based information a lot more fun.

QR coding is another technology that takes a more proactive step into interactive and in-depth marketing. This echoes the views of marketing industry leaders that the key to success on mobile is to incorporate mobile into the existing marketing mix. The real strength of mobile lies in it being used together with the traditional marketing channels rather than as a solitary medium. QR codes integrate the two, leading users into the more dynamic mobile channel from relatively static print ads and billboards.

3D technology is being incorporated in any and every gadget available in the market today. Probably the biggest announcement at the Mobile World Congress this year was of the LG Optimus 3D Phone and the LG Optimus Pad. It’s certainly been the most eagerly anticipated. The market will continue to see a lot more experimentation in 3D phones in the coming years. The technology will lead to the development of new content and advertising avenues.

The penchant for technology adoption also ensures plenty of competition between the different OSes, thus ensuring an ever-changing and improving smartphone market. While Apple is still in the lead in Singapore, its impression share has been affected by strong competition from both Android and RIM OS. Spurred on by steady competition, handset manufacturers have the perfect market to push the boundaries in, thus creating a survival of the fittest mentality in brands, not unlike the way Singapore itself is built.

With new mobile technology in the line-up and a strong consumer adoption rate, the mobile industry in Singapore continues to be one of the most exciting in the region. It is impossible to predict exactly how the next five years will go for mobile in Singapore, but looking back at how quickly it has evolved, we can imagine that more and more consumers will soon hold their entire lives in the palm of their hands.

Rohit Dadwal, Managing Director, Mobile Marketing Association Asia Pacific

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