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View Full Version : US Mobile Subscribers Reaches 50% Mark

Eric Lin
07-09-2003, 07:40 AM
<div class='os_post_top_link'><a href='http://www.digitimes.com/NewsShow/Article5.asp?datePublish=2003/07/08&pages=PR&seq=203' target='_blank'>http://www.digitimes.com/NewsShow/Article5.asp?datePublish=2003/07/08&pages=PR&seq=203</a><br /><br /></div>"The number of mobile phone subscribers in US rose from 128.5 million to 141.8 million in 2002, representing a penetration rate of roughly 49%, according to the latest annual report from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In comparison, the mobile phone penetration rate is about 60% in Japan, 88% in Italy and 107% in Taiwan."<br /><br />But those are old numbers. Today (July 9) there are <a href="http://www.wow-com.com/">147.5 million</a> subscribers. (There is a running figure constantly updated just under the top navigation bar.) According to the <a href="http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html">current population figures</a>, we just crossed the 50% mark. Rejoice!!<br /><br />We still can't compete with the number of text messages sent in other countries. Italy, the UK and the Philippines all outpace our total SMS numbers by about 100:1 despite the difference in population, and thus subscriber numbers.<br /><br />This article doesn't seem to say anything about the falling prices of data services and what that will do to data usage, but it does say that last year 10% of subscribers (total) used data services but that only accounted for 1% of all wireless revenues. This is where the Smartphone will make a difference to the carriers. Let's face it, we aren't going to buy one just to talk on are we? No. We're going to check our email, jump on to the web, and those with nimble fingers are going to be on MSN Messenger 24/7.<br /><br />What are your predictions for the impact of Smartphones on data services?

07-09-2003, 04:26 PM
Yes but the US smartphone penetration rate is ~0%!

I need a new phone now and the carriers are moving very slow to adopt the smartphone technology. I may just buy the nokia 3650 (or a treo) instead.

*sigh* can you tell I am bitter?

07-09-2003, 06:53 PM
I had an interesting conversation with my mother-in-law last week. She is a consultant and has been living in the U.K. for the past few years (U.S. citizen and will come back soon). She asked me if I knew about "texting" with a mobile phone. A coworker had mentioned it to her and she didn't know what texting was or why anyone would text on their mobile. This coworker then proceeded to show my mother-in-law all the text messages that had been accumulating unnoticed in her phone and helped her delete them.

As for a prediction of data usage in the U.S., I don't think smartphones will have much impact. Nor will the new low-priced data plans really. All of the data network functions of the MS Smartphone can already be done with existing phones and almost nobody is using them (in the U.S. anyway). I have a web browser on my Nextel phone. I can also use AIM and download java apps and ringtones over the air. I do send and receive a few text messages a week, including CNN news alerts, but otherwise don't get much usage out of my $15 data plan (which I think is unlimited usage). I did check my email a few times last week while out of the office, but that's the first time I've used that feature. I only once used the online contact synching.

Having a richer interface is not likely to get me to do these things much more. Although I've never had a useful mobile web browser so maybe there are things I would do that I can't yet foresee. I seriously doubt I would spend much time downloading and reading content. It sounds like it's currently a tedious process. It's going to take applications that make use of the network to really drive usage, not online content. For example a mapping application that can add new detailed map sections on the fly. Or perhaps intelligent network scheduling that can make itinerary changes based on external factors, e.g. group schedules, travel changes, etc.

So I see this as putting the cart before the horse. We're just improving the interface for functions that users have not decided they want. Do you think this is a case of build it (better messaging and browser) and they will come? Or do we need to see compelling network-enabled applications first to drive usage?

I do agree with the general theme here that we are at the early stages of something great here and I am very excited.


David McNamee
07-09-2003, 07:38 PM
I think that the Smartphone will help increase the useage of network data features, but only if the prices come down. I'm really hoping that AT&T will try to compete with T-Mobile's $20 all-you-can-eat plan.

I think SMS (text messaging) and web browsing are going to be the two features that receive the most help from Smartphone in the "regular consumer" market. That's because the Smartphone user interface makes them so much easier and pleasant to do than the other phones. I love SMS. I've had several SMS-capable phones, and none of them has a better experience with SMS than the Smartphone. The Siemens S46 took half-a-dozen button pushes - at least - before I could even start typing. The Nokia phones are, at best, the same number of button pushes as Smartphone (3) to get to create a new message. Plus - and this is strictly a personal preference - the new message screen on the Smartphone just feels more intuitive.

Web browsing on the Smartphone is the best browsing experience on a phone, period. That will only improve with the next revision. I'm hoping that it will include much of the updated web standards support that is in the new Pocket PC OS.

The enterprise market is going to see a real upswing in data usage when Smartphone gains traction. I'm itching to write an application that has a rich phone UI that calls out to a web service on the back end.

So, my prediction? Smartphones will definitely increase traffic. How much so will depend on the pricing.

07-09-2003, 07:50 PM
I'm itching to write an application that has a rich phone UI that calls out to a web service on the back end.

That's what I'm talking about. I think that's where the real data traffic will be. Especially in the corporate/enterprise market. Give me an example of what you are thinking about. What type of applications?

So, my prediction? Smartphones will definitely increase traffic. How much so will depend on the pricing.

OK, I can accept that. Maybe it will. I'm skeptical at this point because I think the abilities are there to do things like browsing and messaging already and the market has spoken. But it is entirely possible that a better interface could drive usage. Look what Mosaic did for the Web.

I agree with you about the difficulties of SMS on current phones. It's usually too many steps and not intuitive to a new user. I currently have a network-based messaging system with Nextel (like SprintPCS does) so I need to connect before I can compose. It's just short of intolerable. At least it's smart enough to dial a phone number in a text message.


David McNamee
07-09-2003, 08:40 PM
What type of applications?

I'll spin up a new thread on that topic later in the week - likely tomorrow. I've had a lot of thoughts about different enterprise apps that can be enabled by Smartphone. I want to put a few of them down coherently and get some discussion among the other corporate developer types monitoring this site.

Eric Lin
07-10-2003, 01:17 AM
i agree with david and will say that for me, interface makes a huge difference in how i use data services. before i got my smartphone, even when i was using a ppc phone, i never checked my email from a mobile device. sure i would send sms, and i would use the browser in my XDA (but NEVER the WAP browser in my t68) but i didn't email, and i didn't really take advantage of many other data services. the ease with which i can sync, read, and even compose email on the smartphone makes a big difference in how i use it. i wonder if microsoft couldn't work at making the rest of the internet apps as simple and compelling.