As ever, we tried to keep this brief, and as ever, we failed miserably. Apologies, but 2012 was without a shadow of a doubt, the busiest, most exciting year in mobile marketing to date, so there's a lot to summarise. So make yourself comfortable, put your phone, and yourself, on Do Not Disturb, and relive the highlights of an action-packed year.
If it was an annus horribilis for Nokia and RIM, that's perhaps no great surprise. But who could have predicted that Facebook's IPO would go so badly? Or that it would pay $1bn for a one-app, 13-person company? It was a year in which the UK finally got 4G, Apple finally released a mini iPad, and owning a smartphone became the norm. So what else happened in 2012? Read on to find out all you need to know...
Augmented Reality firm Blippar got off to a good start, securing seed funding from Qualcomm, acting through its venture investment arm, Qualcomm Ventures. The good times continued for Blippar through the rest of the year as it secured more big client wins, and picked up an Effective Mobile Marketing Award.
Companies were queuing up to release stats showing the levels of mobile activity over the Christmas period. Analytics firm Flurry revealed that 242m apps had been downloaded on Christmas Day 2011, with more than 1bn apps downloaded in a week for the first time ever, the week in question being the holiday week of 25-31 December.
Figures from IBM showed that mCommerce sales in the UK increased by 186.5 per cent per cent in December 2011 compared to December 2010. Mobile shoppers accounted for 12.9 of online sales, up from 5.6 per cent in December 2010.
The IBM Benchmark Christmas Season report also found that 15 per cent of all visits to retailers' sites were initiated from a mobile device in December, up from 5.6 per cent a year previously.
And staying with the Christmas theme, research firm YouGov christened Christmas 2011 as ‘Kindle Christmas’, after releasing stats showing that 1.33m eReaders were gifted at Christmas, and that 92 per cent of these were Kindles.
In the first deal of real note in 2012, Synchronoss Technologies acquired mobile instant messaging and social networking firm Miyowa for $45.5m (£29.5m), with up to $13.5m in additional payments depending on an earn-out over the next four quarters. Velti was also on the acquisition trail, completing the purchase of CASEE, China’s largest mobile ad exchange and mobile ad network, as it bought the remaining 67 per cent equity in CASEE that it did not already own, for approximately $8.4m (£5.4m) in cash. Velti had previously acquired 33 per cent of CASEE in 2008.
A study from Arieso revealed that 1 per cent of mobile subscribers were responsible for half of all downloaded data. The study identified iPhone 4S owners are the heaviest data users, downloading three times as much data as iPhone 3G users, and twice as much as iPhone 4 users, who were identified as the most demanding in the 2010 study.
It was a bad month to be a big cheese, as first Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang resigned from the company’s board, and all other positions with the company, and then within days, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie stepped down from their roles as co-CEOs of BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM).
Despite this, in one of the year’s more surprising stats, figures from GfK revealed that BlackBerry was the best-selling smartphone in the British market for the second year running. BlackBerry grabbed 26.3 per cent of December sales, and averaged a 27.7 per cent share during 2011. At the end of 2011, the BlackBerry subscriber base totalled just over 8.5m active subscribers in the UK, and 75m globally.
Not to be outdone, as ever, Apple posted record revenues of $46.3bn (£29.8bn), and record quarterly net profits of $13.1bn, for Q1 2012, covering the 14 weeks to 31 December 2011. Revenues were almost double the Q1, 2011 figure of $26.7bn, while profits were more than double the Q1, 2011 figure of $6bn. Apple sold 37m iPhones and 15.4m iPads in the quarter.
February kicked off with the news that Facebook was to float, in a move that was thought would see the company valued at $80bn - $100bn (£50bn - £62.5bn). Facebook said it was seeking to raise $5bn through the IPO. Its S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that it generated $1bn in revenues in 2011, almost all from advertising, 65 per cent up on the previous year, and that it had 845m users, and 443m daily users. It also revealed that founder Mark Zuckerberg owned 28.4 per cent of the company.
Figures from mobile ad firm Jumptap revealed that Boxing Day 2011 saw tablet network traffic jump 229 per cent, as new tablet owners started playing with, sorry using, their devices. You can expect to see that figure completely smashed when Boxing Day 2012’s stats are revealed…
Meanwhile, a report from Frost & Sullivan showed the extent to which tablets had penetrated the boardroom, revealing that 75 per cent of European CXOs (any C-level executive) owned at least one tablet device. Which, 12 months ago, let’s be honest, usually meant an iPad.
And it was revealed that the ads during the Super Bowl would be Shazam-enabled, with almost half of the TV advertisers – including Toyota, Best Buy, and Pepsi – making their ads interactive with Shazam. The Mobile Marketing team, in fact, was in New York for the SuperBowl, which coincided nicely with some Materclass events we were running there with our friends from Camerjam, though our phones stayed firmly in our pockets during the ads for fear of roaming data charges...
Staying with the sporting theme, as excitement mounted in London in anticipation of the forthcoming Olympic Games, the Government put a dampener on things, warning, in a Cabinet Office report of a drop in mobile network speeds during the Games. To be honest, we can’t say we noticed.
And in France, the enduring appeal and utility of SMS was showcased, as peer-to-peer car sharing network CityzenCar deployed an SMS-based communication solution from Netsize, enabling its 12,000 users to rent a vehicle, with no commission, from other members – supported by the Netsize SMS solution, notifying car owners of rental requests by SMS, and texting the renter details of the car and location, which can be unlocked using the CityzenBox telematic device. Neat.
Mobile payments were in the news. Telefónica Digital and Sybase 365 partnered to develop a mobile wallet service, enabling customers to make online payments and peer-to-peer transfers using stored prepaid, debit, credit and loyalty cards, and also supporting POS payments via NFC technology.
Later in the month, Vodafone and Visa announced a worldwide mobile payment partnership, saying they would work together to develop a Vodafone-branded proposition that would be offered to consumers across Vodafone’s 398m customer base in more than 30 countries. And February was also the month in which Barclays launched its Pingit peer-to-peer payment app, which would go on to take the Mobile Payment award in the Effective Mobile Marketing Awards in November.
Meanwhile, a report from Magus and Investis revealed that only 20 per cent of FTSE100 corporate websites provided support for mobile devices. Of those that were optimised for mobile, 65 per cent had no device detection in place, meaning that their mobile content was effectively invisible to many users.
It wasn’t the best month for Apple. The UK Intellectual Property Office ruled in favour of Wapple, against opposition from Apple, to allow the company to keep the Wapple trademark. Since 2007, Apple had challenged Wapple’s trademark application of 2006, claiming that the company was trading off its brand and name, and that it led to confusion between the two brands. The name Wapple, derived from the acronym WAP (Wireless Application Protocol), was created by founders Rich Holdsworth and Anne Thomas in 2003.
Also in February, Apple cut prices on its iAd mobile ad platform, shortly after Google had announced changes to AdMob prices. The cuts saw the minimum spend for an iAd campaign fall to $100,000, from the original launch figure of $1m. And staying with Apple, a report from madvertise and AppZapp revealed that 255,922 apps were launched on the UK App Store in 2011.
Browser company Opera Software was on the acquisition trail, snapping up mobile ad agencies 4th Screen Advertising and Mobile Theory for a combined fee of $26m. Opera paid an initial $18m for Mobile Theory, rising to a maximum $50m if earn-out targets are met; and $8m for 4th Screen, rising to a maximum $14.5m with earn-outs.
Everything Everywhere, parent company to T-Mobile and Orange, announced plans to begin the roll-out of a 4G network in the UK before the end of the year, subject to regulatory approval in the spring. Which, of course, it duly received, with the service going live at the end of October.
And at the end of the month, of course, the mobile industry decamped to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress, where Nokia attempted to begin its comeback with a stand featuring, among other things, strangely-dressed people, and a 41-megapixel camera-equipped handset, the 808 PureView.
Staying with struggling handset makers, RIM declared in an interview with Mobile Marketing that 2011 had been an “unbelievably good year”. Wonder what they’ll say about 2012. Meanwhile, Millennial Media’s big announcement at the show was its mMedia self-service mobile advertising solution, designed to allow small or independent businesses to utilise mobile in their marketing, and gives app developers tools to monetise their apps. Just another quiet month in mobile then...
With Mobile World Congress stretching into March, Microsoft took to the stage to unveil Windows 8, with one analyst, Frost & Sullivan’s Craig Cartier, describing it as: "the next weapon in Microsoft's mobile arsenal”.
Elsewhere, Google's SVP of mobile and digital content, Andy Rubin, revealed that the number of Android device activations was running at 850,000 per day every day, pushing the total number of Android handsets in the market to over 300m. A few days later, Google relaunched and rebranded Android Market as Google Play, a cloud-based store which draws together its apps, books, films and music in one place – similar to the way iTunes functions on iOS. And Google wasn’t finished for the month, also launching GetMo, the UK version of its GoMo initiative in the US, which encourages businesses to move their sites onto mobile, by providing tools and resources to help them do so.
In the biggest deal of the year to date, Asian telco SingTel bought US mobile advertising firm Amobee for $321m, in order to help brands better reach their target audience and deliver relevant offers, rewards and promotions to its customers. In a news conference, Allen Lew, CEO Group Digital L!fe (designate) at SingTel, denied that SingTel was paying over the odds for Amobee, which, as of November 2011, had unaudited net assets of only $600,000. "The way we value this company is not based on the net tangible assets,” said Lew. “We value this company based on what we think it is eventually going to be worth."
A few weeks later, another firm was snapped up for what some saw as an optimistic valuation, as social games company Zynga acquired OMGPOP, developer of the hit mobile game Draw Something, for $180m, only six weeks after the game was released on iOS and Android.
In Germany, BMW partnered with Vodafone to fit adapted mobile SIMs into its ConnectedDrive cars. The Vodafone SIM will provide customers with access to in-car services, including BMW Online Services; a personal concierge service for BMW drivers; and an automatic emergency call function.
On the mobile payments front, Visa Europe took a 15 per cent stake in mobile payments startup, The Mobile Money Network (MMN). Meanwhile, as part of its plans to rid itself of non-core businesses, Nokia announced the closure of Nokia Money, the mobile money business it had launched in India in 2010. And the problems continued at BlackBerry-maker RIM, where an executive shake-up saw former co-CEO Jim Balsillie, chief technology officer David Yach, and chief operating officer Jim Rowan, all leave the company. The changes came as RIM reported a net loss of $125m and a 25 per cent decline in sales from a year ago. BlackBerry shipments were also down to 11.1m, a 21 per cent fall from the previous quarter.
On a brighter note, figures from the latest IMRG Quarterly Benchmark revealed that sales through mobile devices in the UK had broken through the 5 per cent barrier of total eRetail sales. In Q4, 2011, mobile sales accounted for 5.3 per cent of e-retail sales, shooting up from 0.4 per cent in Q4, 2009.
In the US, meanwhile, figures from comScore’s mobiLens service revealed that the number of US smartphone owners passed the 100m mark for the first time in January 2012, reaching 101.3m - a 13 per cent increase on October 2011’s figure.
Apple launched its latest iPad, but chose to call it “the new iPad”, rather than the iPad 3. By now we guess you have to call it the old new ipad… Whatever they called it, it was always likely to be a hit, and so it proved, with 3m units sold in the first weekend.
Mobile advertising revealed itself to be in rude health in the UK, as the IAB and PwC released their annual report, which showed that UK mobile ad spend had risen to £203.2m in 2011, 157 per cent up on the previous year. The celebrations continued as mobile ad firm Millennial Media launched its IPO, pricing 10.2m shares of common stock at $13, the higher end of the projected range, and raising $132.6m in the process.
But in a sign of how quickly fortunes can change, daily deals firm Groupon, which not so long ago looked like the next big thing, was given three months to clean up its act by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in the UK. The OFT required Groupon to improve the way it operates, and implement changes to make sure information on discounts and availability are clear and honest. It was the start of a bad year for the firm, as retailers and restaurateurs grew weary of giving discounts to people who seemed likely to visit their outlet only if there was a discount on offer...