Ten years on: operators have the chance to finish what the iPhone started
Last week was the 10-year anniversary of the iPhone. On 9th January 2007, Steve Jobs first announced that Apple was to launch a device that would ‘re-invent the phone’ and be like having ‘the internet in your pocket.’ At this time, the mobile industry was experiencing something of a stagnation.
The likes of Nokia, Motorola and BlackBerry dominated the device market – all produced perfectly solid units but each were representative of a limited and one dimensional user experience.
The global mobile operator community continues to search in vain for a ‘killer app’ that would finally justify sky high spectrum fees for connectivity – itself a patch and unreliable mobile data service. Few would have predicted that one device could have such a profound impact – not just on the smartphone market, or the mobile industry, but on how we all communicate, behave and share experiences, says Ted Woodbery, VP, Product Strategy and Corporate Marketing at Synchronoss Technologies.
An open internet experience
When the iPhone launched, Yahoo’s Jerry Yang, and Google’s Eric Schmidt were full of praise for the new device. Both were representative of the new internet age, a community of innovators that had struggled to penetrate the operator walled garden. The iPhone became a Trojan horse that would ultimately present an obvious mobile extension to the likes of Google, Skype, Amazon and Facebook.
The initial operator reaction was fiercely defensive. The term ‘over the top provider’ was born and operator industry dialogue and commentary revolved around revenue cannibalisation, the commoditisation of connectivity and the threat of becoming a ‘dumb pipe.’
There is no question that the launch of the iPhone and the introduction of ‘app culture’ indirectly contributed to the demise of some operator services, most notably messaging. The iPhone was one of the first devices to extend popular online communities like Facebook through mobility.
Other virtual communities have since been built by the likes of WhatsApp, SnapChat and Instagram. These services have thrived thanks to the creation and sharing of user generated content. A process which began in earnest since the first iPhone was launched.
Opportunity not threat
Coincidentally, on the same day the iPhone officially turned ten years old, an industry study from Juniper Research suggested that consumer migration to Over the Top social media services will cost mobile operators more than $100 billion in lost revenue this year alone.
The study reflects an industry preoccupation with what ‘might have been’ and ignores the significant opportunity that the evolution and ongoing transformation of digital consumer engagement presents to mobile operators.
Virtual communities have become successful because they’re inclusive, free (and therefore attract a significant number of users) and create a wealth of lucrative user data that can be further monetised. This includes the capturing and sharing of user generated content.
This presents a blueprint for operators to consider (with a very cautious and serious nod to subscriber privacy), especially because the intelligence they have on each of their customers is a great deal richer than what the OTT competition has.
Operators are getting the message
Carriers are now evolving from bundling SMS plans to new messaging tools. They are redefining their relevance in messaging and finding different ways to use the platform. This includes going where the money is and looking at how third parties are delivering value and emulating success to create their own messaging platforms.
As messaging moves from Peer-to-Peer to Application-to-Peer, where AI-powered apps such as chat bots talk directly to customers, new toolsets can enable carriers to keep pace with the modern messaging times.
Operators are looking for toolset solutions that are relevant in cloud, messaging and voice. The intersection between chat and messaging is fascinating because of the rich data, personal content, history, data and contacts. Operators are all taking very different approaches in different markets as they aim to reduce churn and improve their relevance and value to subscribers.
Connecting cloud and messaging
One area of interest for Operators is the intersection of cloud and messaging together that creates a compelling service experience. Personal content is kept safe, content is made available in messaging and data analytics mines conversations that are rich in valuable data to help create more potent user experiences.
The personal cloud stores the customer’s personal content, messages, identity information and the Network Address Book for enabling messaging and commerce between subscribers and third parties.
Messaging apps have incredible retention rates compared to mobile app averages. After install, only 36% of users launch the average mobile app within the first month, versus 68% for messaging apps. With cloud management, monetising can become more instant with one click servicing provisioning and automated provisioning of third party apps, providing a more fluid experience and rapid consumption.
Messaging evolution: finishing what the iPhone started
The iPhone was successful because it took brought ‘internet thinking’ to drive forward messaging services that desperately needed digital inspiration. Operators can learn from this by using the same thinking to drive messaging evolution. Operators can use their distribution strengths to their advantage and market their value as a cloud provider in a way they can own.
The author of this blog is Ted Woodbery, VP, Product Strategy and Corporate Marketing at Synchronoss Technologies
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