The Mobile world, the App Store soars, Latin America stumbles

The world, on mobile

There is certainly no question that mobile is taking over. What was once just an adjunct to the dominant desktop is now the primary way most users connect to the internet. The most quickly adopted technical advance in human history, its proliferation has created a world linked in ways that our grandparents would have thought impossible. Time magazine posits that the next billion internet users will be mobile-only, and we agree. Mobile is reaching more people than ever before, and a staggering 50% of the entire world will be connected via mobile internet by 2020. From a business standpoint, it underscores how critical it is that every brand have a solid and well-thought-out mobile presence. It’s no longer enough to just think about maybe making an app as a one-off or afterthought, it is the new business standard.

The comparison to the industrial revolution seems obvious, but it’s apt. A shift in our technology is changing the lives of everyone it touches. Even with a relatively small 1.5 billion users, mobile has already changed the way we interact with one another, do business, and even shifted the language itself (the word “textspeak” was even added to the Oxford English Dictionary). We’re watching a shift not only in technology but in the basics of human communication. There’s nothing snarky or clever to say about this news item; ours is simply to be amazed by the incredible shift we’re lucky enough to see from its inception.

App Store knocks it out of the park. Again.

Evidently the first week of January was a record-breaking 7 days for Apple. Over half a billion was spent on apps and in-app purchases. Developers have now cumulatively earned $25 billion from the sales of apps and games in the App Store. Meanwhile, Samsung is looking at its lowest profits since 2011, a fact surely caused at least in part by Apple’s intrusion into Samsung’s formerly solitary ownership of the large-screen phablet market. More people are switching to Apple as the 6 and 6 Humungous (no judgment; I own one) offer everything that used to be the sole domain of Samsung. With little excuse to buy high-end, large-screen Android devices, that leaves the platform’s future propped up by lower-end and lower-priced phones, eating into formerly mammoth profits.

Globally, of course, Android will always continue to dominate, since it’s built by multiple manufacturers, comes in a dizzying number of varieties (at least count there were 18,796 distinct Android devices), and is willing to play at price points Apple would never consider. Android is at risk of becoming the “cheap” platform, but the demand for mobile spans all socioeconomics, even where you’d least expect (after all, there are even two million mobile phone owners in North Korea). Being the “cheap” platform might not be such a bad thing.

One thing we’re interested to see is how Apple’s increasing market share affects Google, whose Maps are no longer Apple’s default. Google certainly still controls the dominant market share, but they still made a pile off OS. How it will impacts their bottom line remains to be seen. As Ben Evans said, “the first phase of the platform wars is over: Apple and Google both won.”

If mobile is global, why is Latin America ignoring it? 

Not too long ago, I led a study on app translation. Specifically, we looked at how many of the large brand apps are translated into Spanish. We found that of the 45 million Hispanics in the United States, 86.5% speak Spanish as their first language or second language. In spite of this huge opportunity to engage with an active market segment, we found that the vast majority of brands aren’t translating their apps into Spanish. It’s a major oversight and an unforgivable missed opportunity.

So imagine my annoyance when I read that almost all brands in Latin America seem to be suffering from this same sort of mobile blindness. An infinitesimally small 0.1% of ad spending in Argentina is focused on mobile. And all of Latin America is much the same; mobile is largely ignored by brands, meaning massive missed opportunities to increase engagement and drive sales. Latin America’s focus on social media engagement is sadly lacking, too, with brands spending only $2.52 on social network advertising per user, compared to the US’s $46.

Lest you think that Latin America is behind on mobile adoption, keep in mind that Latin America officially has more mobile phones than it has people. This oversight (if such a middling word can be used for such a gaffe) is inexcusable, and we wonder when Latin American brands are going to start serving their 341 million mobile users.