Nokia’s New Asha Touch Devices are Smartphones for the Price of Feature Phones
By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)
If you read the tech press covering the mobile space, you will certainly hear lots of talk about iOS and Android, and there is even talk about Windows Phone becoming the third mobile ecosystem. This is all well and good but the opportunity is very much skewed to the more developed consumer markets such as Western Europe and the USA. Those markets are swamped with an abundance of apps from all sorts of developers trying to make money from the various apps stores – it’s almost become pot-luck whether you will ever make any money for all you app development efforts. Unless of course you monetize using inneractive (shameless plug).
So why is this the case? Put simply, the price of smartphones that primarily target the Western world typically represent a much higher proportion of a person’s annual salary in emerging markets, which makes them unaffordable to most of the world’s population.
So, is there an opportunity in emerging markets and how can a developer actually make any money from this?
In Mary Meeker’s D10 presentation, based on Morgan Stanley’s research, smartphone subscribers only make up one sixth of all mobile subscriptions. You can see that presentation here.
So that leaves 5/6ths of the world’s population who could use apps but are almost prohibited from using them simply because of the price of the devices that are able to run them. Surely not!
It’s true, many smartphones are available at competitive price points (like the Lumia 610, which is available at €189 before taxes and subsidies). However even this price point will exclude a very large percentage of the market.
So what about those emerging markets in which many people depend on their mobile phone as their primary computing device? Do they not deserve to be connected to the internet and to be able to consume content via a comfortable and intuitive user interface?
Before I dive into what these devices offer, it is important to understand that the lines between smartphones and feature phones have blurred. In fact, ask ten people how they define “smartphone” and you will get eleven answers. The definition is very unclear. It can run apps? Asha does that. It has a touch-optimized interface? Asha has that. It has advanced connectivity and surfs the Web? Check. So what makes Asha phones feature phones? In one word; ‘price’.
Nokia’s Senior Program Manager Series 40 Developer Relations, Rupert Whitehead explains “Asha devices are intended to bring the mobile internet revolution to the next billion consumers across the globe, and we are excited to see that happen. Furthermore, we also believe that many of the next billion people will connect to the internet for the first time using an app.” To be honest, at the prices that these phones are being sold, there is no reason Nokia should not accomplish that goal. The three new Asha phones are priced from €63 (excluding taxes and subsidies) and offer incredibly good value for money for those who want a smartphone like experience without the high price tag.
So what do consumers get when buying any of these new touch Asha devices? Nokia explains “The beautifully crafted Nokia Asha 311 is a fast and fluid 3.5G capacitive touchscreen device, powered by a 1GHz processor to provide a great internet experience. The bright and edgy Nokia Asha 305 is a fun and affordable phone, featuring the exclusive Easy Swap dual SIM. Its sister, the Nokia Asha 306, is a single SIM model, and becomes Nokia’s most affordable Wi-Fi handset to date.”
Those sound like smartphone specs to me.
Also, all three devices offer the Nokia Browser 2.0, a major update to Nokia’s web surfing offering that now uses cloud technology to reduce data consumption when surfing the Web. Sites load up to three times faster in comparison to devices without cloud-accelerated browsing, according to Nokia. The devices also offer social integration and smart management of content consumption including a download manager.
OK, so the devices are solid, and then some. But the major question you are asking yourself is “What about apps?” Are developers really creating apps for this platform or are they all flocking to iOS and Android? And what about actually making any money from this market segment? According to Nokia, ”The Nokia Store has just broken the 5 billion downloads landmark. From January to April, 42% of all content downloaded from Nokia Store came from Series 40 devices. Just one year ago, that number was just 12%.” Those are impressive numbers, by any standard.
OK, so hardware is solid, the OS is stellar, and the apps are there. So, how do developers actually make money from apps to this market? They’re meant to be consumers who don’t have much money to spend on apps right? Well, there are 410 Nokia developers with apps that have generated more than 1 million downloads. Several have reached more than 100 million downloads, some developers have even reported that they’re earning more than $1000 per day for their apps – how can that be so? Nokia developers are utilizing various monetization methods to generate substantial and ongoing in-app revenue, including using in app advertising with inneractive’s app monetization exchange. This offers Asha developers a robust and simple one line of code SDK with over 120 ad partners and true global coverage of local targeted ads, including all emerging markets.
OK, seems like Nokia covered all its bases here. If you are still not sold on Asha for emerging markets, get this! Nokia announced that all users will receive an exclusive gift of 40 EA games to download for free and keep forever – which alone represents over an estimated €75 – a great deal for consumers but also a shrewd move on Nokia’s part to get feature phone consumers used to getting the most out of their phones and start to think about apps. These games range across action, arcade and sports, and include titles such as Tetris®, Bejeweled®, Need for Speed(TM) The Run and EA SPORTS(TM) FIFA 12.
Still not convinced? OK, this should do it. The Nokia Asha 311 also comes with 15 levels of Angry Birds pre-loaded onto the phone, perfect for making the most of the touchscreen and 1GHz processor. What else can a mobile consumer ask for, right?
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