Mobile Biz: Looking at the Numbers

There's a long article over at Wireless NewsFactor with an analysis of the mobile phone markets in both Europe and the U.S. It's not a great article (calling Symbian "open source") but it has some hard numbers from Nokia which are very nice, especially if you happen to be trying to put together a business plan that makes sense involving these types of devices:

Nokia, the biggest presence in the European mobile market and the largest mobile phone OEM in the world, continues to be the industry bellwether. The company believes the total market volume for handsets reached 400 million units in 2002, and in 2003 market volume will grow 10% or slightly more. In December, at the company's biannual strategy meeting for investors in Irving, Texas, company chairman and CEO Jorma Ollila indicated that he expects growth in 2003 will be driven by a combination of subscriber growth and a stabilizing replacement cycle.

According to Ollila, currently slightly more than a quarter of global subscribers upgrade their handsets annually, which means an average replacement cycle of about 2.5 years. This cycle has lengthened over the last 18 months, but Nokia feels it now appears to be stabilizing. The company projects that the mobile subscriber market will grow from more than 1.1 billion at the end of 2002 to approximately 1.5 billion in 2005. In 2003, Nokia expects to ship 50-100 million color handsets, all with Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), Java and browser support. Of these, approximately 10 million will be based on Nokia's Series 60 user interface-based on the Symbian.

Wow... that second-to-last bit is the best which I haven't seen before. 50-100 million MMS phones? Just from Nokia alone? Wow. These aren't all smartphones by any stretch, but they are capable GPRS phones which - like the article says - have Java and browser support. Very interesting to know. Add to this a strategic report released a couple days ago which revealed that "Nokia accounted for 91 percent of GSM camera phone sales worldwide in 2002," and you get a good idea why Nokia is the company everyone is watching now.

The strategic report also said that 18 million camera phones were sold in 2002 and another 37 million will be sold this year. Granted most of the camera phones were in Japan, but we're seeing a healthy number of them here in the West now (5 million?). These are the numbers everyone's been alluding to for years, but now the picture is finally coming into focus (*rimshot*). 2003 is the year when these multimedia/Java phones become common and that's going to mean a demand for apps and services - it's a fact.

So - being a geek, my first inclination is to target intelligent Symbian-based devices, but with hard numbers like these you start to realize the value of scale. Instead of concentrating on a market of 10-12 million smartphones, you can concentrate on a market 10 times that number. And hey, I can actually DO MMS and Java right now without even having to whip out my C++ books. But then again, so can any competitors... it's low-hanging fruit with not much barrier to entry. That's not a good thing, except for the manufacturers who get heavy competition for services meaning more demand for their phones.

Final thought: Once again I'm seeing the wisdom of Vodafone Live! It's all about simple to use packaged services. Get 1% of these mediaphone users to subscribe to a service and you're talking major success.

Next thoughts when I wake up: What services? And what types of gorilla marketing campaigns might be good to advertise those services?


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