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March 06, 2009

Comments

Burcu Tüzün

Thanks for this great summary and interesting numbers you shared.

Sarah


I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Sarah

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Matt Riker

Its not a surprise. Mobile Marketing and email marketing are the wave of the future. We will see SMS being adopted more and more across the world.

Toni Paloheimo

Thanks for the nice post! I wonder if you have the details for the two studies - the Belgian and the Australian - you're referring to. They seem like interesting reads. Thanks!

Kelley Moore

I really enjoyed your article, however this line took me by surprise: "Yes, every car owner on the planet has a mobile phone, in the car, with them today. Every one of them." That is a bit of an overstatement. Not EVERY car owner on the planet has a mobile phone in the car with them today. In my personal experience, I can name 7 people I know that DO NOT carry a mobile phone in their cars with them. And, yes, they are of the demographic that one would EXPECT to have a cell phone with them at all times. Yes, we could argue that these people are making a statement by not carrying their phones in their car with them and I would agree with you. I am just passing along a friendly observation that the particular overstatement was not necessary to support your case--your other numbers are staggering enough without having to over-generalize. Please know that my comment is friendly feedback. I very much appreciate the data in your article. Kelley

Chris Puglisi - Digital Chris

Thanks for the great, informative post with quantifiable data. As an internet marketer, I hope companies start seeing the benefits of embracing SMS as a means of communication to both clients and employees. It really does have the capacity to be leveraged as a communication tool to help facilitate and enhance relationships and customer service.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Burcu, Sarah, Matt

Thank you for your kind commments.

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Toni, Kelley and Digital Chris

Good comments and questions. I'll respond to each of you individually here.

Toni - thanks. The Belgian study is Catholic University of Leuwen from around 2004 if I now remember correctly. It was quite widely refernced back then and I mention it in my recent books. We also have some mentions of it on the blog, so its kind of old news now, mentioned here more in passing and more recent studies have verified the mobile phone addiction.

Of the Australian study, it was (again I hope I remember now correctly, am writing from an airport lounge and don't have the data on my fingertips) I think Virgin survey of Australian users from 2008, might be April or May.

In either case, I have not read the actual study (I am not a sociologist, I'm a mobile business expert so this is more marginal to my interest, in monitoring the customer insights, while trying to maintain a deep knowledge of the actual services and revenues and profits of the industry) so I have only read the summary data reported in the telecoms press and blogs at the time..

Kelley - ha-ha, I like the argument and yes, obviously if one makes an absolute statement "every user" and you then respond with one example of non-user, I am proven wrong. You are right in a very extreme way of examining that statement. But I put it to you, that in every country today, the total penetration of mobile phones owned is larger today than the total ownership of cars. Also that all who own (and drive) a car (ie exluding the retired person who still owns a car but it is no longer registered and in use) in every country today, including even the USA and Canada - the two last laggard industrialized countries by mobile phone penetration - every car owner has also bought a mobile phone (with the absolute extreme exceptions, say of a mute person who is disabled so cannot speak, but has a license to drive a car?)

And then, every car owner, who has also bought a phone, will find the need to use the mobile phone daily. So now, the need to carry the phone with the person, transcends the moments one is in the car. I may not want to talk on the phone while driving, but I do need to have my phone with me later today, so it is with me, even perhaps turned off, but in my briefcase or pocket or handbag, while I drive..

Then, yes, there are some very connected people who want to "escape" the phone, and will deliberately seek opportunnities to be disconnected, and will deliberately abandon the phone. These people have moved beyond the connectedness, and they have once been part of the group who carried the phone everywhere, but today do not do so. yes, there are some of those.

Now one last point of clarification. A Blackberry is a smartphone ie it is a mobile phone (a cellphone) but many who use a Blackberry also have a second phone, so a typical American businessman may think of his Blackberry not as "his cellphone" and may think the Motorola Razr is his cellphone and the Blackberry is his "Blackberry". And many BB users are so addicted to their BB that they will "forego" the carrying of the alternate phone, and only carry the BB. But that still fulfills my definition. That user, if you ask him or her, do you carry your cellphone everywhere, may say no - but if you then ask the follow-up, do you carry your Blackberry everywhere - the same person says yes. In that case, this person does indeed carry a cellphone (the Blackberry) also in the car, while truthfully and honestly, that person would reply to your question, no he/she does not feel the need to carry his/her alternate cellphone everywhere (including always the car).

So far so good? Now to my argument. What you said, your 7 friends, probably was true a year or two ago. It may well be you honestly believe it to be true today. I would argue without knowing them, but from the 2008 statistics, that most probably, these 7 friends have very recently migrated to cellphones and very very recently become addicted to them. If you asked them last year, they would have answered as you expected. If you now in March 2009 call them up and ask them, do they have one cellphone, Blackberry or iPhone or whatever, usually with them, whether turned on or off, in the car as they drive, on a daily basis, you'd be surprised to find that most of them do. But also as you listed the specific 7 as a number, I do believe you do know these people very well, so perhaps one of them is your uncle who you know is totally against cellphones and keeps insisting he will never ever succumb to that stupid need of carrying one. There is an ever diminishing amount of these technology luddites in the world. They tend to be only found in Canada and parts of the USA anymore, you really can't find any in Europe or industrialized parts of Asia anymore. And their numbers are dwindling very fast in North America too.

And two alteranate chances. It is certainly possible that your friends have a strongly held religious or philosophical view about technology in general. I am thinking for example of the Amish in Pennsyvlania (but they would typically ride in horse-drawn carriages, not drive cars) and for example some extremely religious people like some Jews who have issues with using some technologies. And would you know it, there also are now mobile technology solutions for that, for example with Jews, there are mobile phone handsets and basic services, that are certified to be "kosher" ie religiously pure, by rabbis of the Jewish faith, etc. (I am not Jewish, this is just something I have read about as I observe regional differences)

The other obvious area is that perhaps your friends are very "artistic" people who have a philosophical interest and need to discard technologies and may have decided to deliberately not embrace mobile phones. I'm sure you can find 7 people in some extreme groups. But I also am totally certain, that if you stop 10 cars in London or New York or Los Angeles or Sydney or Moscow or Shanghai or Mumbai or Johannesburg or Rio De Janeiro, you get 10 car drivers who have at least one mobile phone in the car, and most of them, will have the phone also on and connected with the phone ringing "on".

But yes, if you stop 100 cars, you might find one in the USA or maybe as many as 2 in Canada who don't have a phone in the car. Maybe, on a lucky day. On another day, you'll get 100 drivers and 100 phones.

I have not done this kind of survey, obviously, it is my conjecture. It is based on the statistics and the addiction of phones and several universal trends. But I am guessing, that since you felt the interest to argue the point, you probably are in North America, and then, I will fully understand, that you would feel this way, because the change has been so recent, last year or two in America, that total mobile phone penetration exceeded total car penetration, so that you still cannot fully accept the statistic. |

I am not calling you a liar, please do not feel offended. I am sure you feel what you reported is true. I am very confident, that except for the cases I listed in the above (say mute people or people who for religious reasons do not own a mobile phone) if you actually surveyed your 7 friends, you'll find several of them, possibly all, already do behave as I explained. And also, that a few of them may mistakenly think that a Blackberry is not a cellphone so they'd reply to your question honestly and truthfully, without understanding what was being asked...

I hope this helps, and I am not saying I am 100% right, it is a continuously diminishing number of people and yes, out of 800 million registered cars in the world, certainly thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands will be still not carrying a phone. That is in the big scheme of things, less than one tenth of one percent. I am 100% certain, that globally the number today is less than one percent. For practical purposes, and any conceivable commercial uses, that means everybody. Statisticians tell us that when percentages fall under 2% they are undetectable by humans. So even if in an absolute numbers sense you are right, my general point does hold for practical commercial uses and needs. I hope we can agree on that?

Digital Chris - Thanks, yeah, we agree. And its a strong growth opportunity. I also like to add that the two are not mutually exclusive, a good campaign uses both digital channels and the strengths of each. Mobile is not the "final mass media" it is only one of 7 that will all co-exist into the foreseeable future. But mobile is the newest and youngest mass media, least understood and also, the one with the furthest reach and greatest potential..

Thank you all for writing

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Steve McCann

Great post, some fantastic statistics. Our UK based company has been selling 'desktop SMS' services for the past 7 years, largely into the public sector: universities, colleges, schools, hospitals, police. We have message usage stats, day by day going back to the day we started. I can tell you from experience that growth in messaging is phenomenal. Comparing Feb 2009 to Feb 2008 use increased by 229%. And these are not small numbers to start with. The sales pitch for SMS: It is to the person, to the point, quick, discreet and inexpensive. Regards Steve

Betty

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

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Richard Helyar

Worth noting that 1.5bn TV sets does not equal 1.5bn TV viewers

In emerging markets I imagine the number of viewers is going to be much higher than the number of sets

Tomi Ahonen

HI Steve, Betty and Richard

Thank you all for writing.

Steve, great stats and wonderful success. We wish you the best of success.

Betty, thanks.

Richard, good point. Note that also the reverse is true, that within the Industrialized World it is quite normal for a single employed adult to have two TV sets or more. Ie one in the living room, another in the bedroom. I would think that if we count the total viewing audience reach, in the Industrialized World it will be significantly less than total TV sets in use, but in the Developing world it will be even more the opposite, ie large families watching one TV set.

Then we get the economics. The Industrialized World has roughly speaking 1 billion people. So the TV population is overwhelmingly concentrated into the Industrialized World. And in the Developing World the TV sets tend to be with the small wealthy class and small growing middle class. These tend to have far smaller families (and get married later) than the large family poor populations..

Still, yes, probably the 1.5 B TV sets reach a viewing population of 2 B or so, maybe 2.5 B but nowhere near the 3.1 B total unique owners of mobile phone sets.|

Also it is worth noting one more part. The mobile phone unique owner population is very near a perfect match with consumers of "any disposable income" worldwide, ie a measure of the economically viable population, probably covering 98% of the planet's economic reach. The TV set population reflects TV owners - and this, smaller numberm reflects a more wealthy subsector of the global economy - every TV owner also has at least one mobile phone but most mobile phone owners today do not own also a TV set. Whereas the TV audience viewership includes lots of extremely poor family members (no jobs, no income) or very young kids who do watch Disney or Teletubbies but are not yet in the economically viable part of the economy. But once a parent gives a child a mobile phone, the child knows how to speak and usually also write, and even if not yet fully in the economy, is getting ready to join it.

but good point, Richard, yes, the total reach of TV is significantly more than just the owned TV sets, just like the total mobile phone owner number is less than the actual 3.4 B phones in use> We need to understand these nuances of these numbers.

Thank you all for writing

Tomi Ahonen :-)

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Also it is worth noting one more part. The mobile phone unique owner population is very near a perfect match with consumers of "any disposable income" worldwide, ie a measure of the economically viable population, probably covering 98% of the planet's economic reach. The TV set population reflects TV owners - and this, smaller numberm reflects a more wealthy subsector of the global economy

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Richard, good point. Note that also the reverse is true, that within the Industrialized World it is quite normal for a single employed adult to have two TV sets or more. Ie one in the living room, another in the bedroom. I would think that if we count the total viewing audience reach, in the Industrialized World it will be significantly less than total TV sets in use, but in the Developing world it will be even more the opposite, ie large families watching one TV set.

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This only shows that almost everyone owns a cellphone and sending SMS is way more convenient and is very cheap.

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disposable income" worldwide, ie a measure of the economically viable population, probably covering 98% of the planet's economic reach. The TV set population reflects TV owners - and this, smaller numberm reflects a more wealthy subsector of the global economy

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I read that the GSM industry has identified a number of potential fraud attacks on mobile operators that can be delivered via abuse of SMS messaging services. The most serious of threats is SMS Spoofing. SMS Spoofing occurs when a fraudster manipulates address information in order to impersonate a user that has roamed onto a foreign network and is submitting messages to the home network.

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Well, then lets compare to other measures. TV sets? 1.5 billion of those, so SMS is used by twice as many people as own a TV set. That should make many media execs stop and pay attention. Oh, but its not really comparing apples with apples, because broadcast analog TV is free, over the air.

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Coakley--who, and maybe this is just me, bears a resemblance to former Democratic veep nominee Geraldine Ferraro--will probably hang on to win, maybe even by a comfortable margin. But the Republicans couldn't be better situated. This is not a regularly-scheduled race in a presidential cycle, or even a regularly-scheduled race in a lower-turnout midterm cycle. It's a special election in January of a midterm cycle year in which the Democrats have unified control of the state and national governments at a time of voter unease. If lower turnouts in midyear cycles tend to help Republicans, turnout during a special election on a (cold?) January day could be even worse and, thus, less likely to favor Coakley.

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    Tomi Ahonen is a bestselling author whose twelve books on mobile have already been referenced in over 100 books by his peers. Rated the most influential expert in mobile by Forbes in December 2011, Tomi speaks regularly at conferences doing about 20 public speakerships annually. With over 250 public speaking engagements, Tomi been seen by a cumulative audience of over 100,000 people on all six inhabited continents. The former Nokia executive has run a consulting practise on digital convergence, interactive media, engagement marketing, high tech and next generation mobile. Tomi is currently based out of Hong Kong but supports Fortune 500 sized companies across the globe. His reference client list includes Axiata, Bank of America, BBC, BNP Paribas, China Mobile, Emap, Ericsson, Google, Hewlett-Packard, HSBC, IBM, Intel, LG, MTS, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Ogilvy, Orange, RIM, Sanomamedia, Telenor, TeliaSonera, Three, Tigo, Vodafone, etc. To see his full bio and his books, visit www.tomiahonen.com Tomi Ahonen lectures at Oxford University's short courses on next generation mobile and digital convergence. Follow him on Twitter as @tomiahonen. Tomi also has a Facebook and Linked In page under his own name. He is available for consulting, speaking engagements and as expert witness, please write to tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com

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