Thursday, 16 September 2010

Lies, Damned Lies & Mobile Statistics

The mobile industry is one of many which seems utterly obsessed with statistics. It doesn't matter what they are about, someone will horribly abuse them to make a point. There are plenty of statistics which show that Apple has an absolutely unassailable market position, just as there are plenty which show that Apple has a relative low market penetration. You can use these however you want to justify any position you wish to take. The problem is that it can be very difficult to see through ill-conceived headlines and soundbites.

In the past week, I've been confronted with statistics which just didn't seem to add up. Firstly on Twitter, Ewan MacLeod retweeted (original Tweet by Ken Shimada) this message:

on iPhone: BCN reports that 22.6% of July mobile handset sales were Smartphones. 80% of them were iOS based, and the remaining were Android.
I was surprised by this. We all know that iPhone and Android sell well, but they're not the only players, and frankly I don't believe that RIM and Nokia each only sell such a small amount as to be negligible in the stats. I replied with:
@kei_shimada @ew4n There were no BlackBerry sales? My Mobile magazine keeps telling me that BB Bold and Curve top contract lists
This is true. I get Mobile Magazine through the post every fortnight. Each issue contains a breakdown of UK retails sales for the previous week, both prepay and postpay. Postpay top ten is always dominated by RIM, and they often feature in Prepay. Prepay is dominated by cheap Nokias. I've never seen Apple on this list, not once. Actually, I don't necessarily read every issue, but I have still never seen Apple in the UK top ten retailing handsets, and it isn't even as if their sales are divided across a wide range of phones. I know that this is UK only data, but what I've heard anecdotally is that Apple sells lots of phones, but they're still not on the list. There is some back and forth between Ewan and myself, and then I get a reply from Ken.

@rival @ew4n these are Japanese stats.
OK, so now we're getting somewhere. There are two problems becoming clearer to me. Firstly, that Twitter encourages us to just write down the bare bones of what we want to say. We don't have the space to write a lot of qualification for statistics. Secondly that people will easily bend stats without explanation. Ken followed this up with:

@rival @ew4n read carefully, nobody said market share.
No, nobody did say market share, but the did start talking about shipping numbers. Now that I know I'm not comparing worldwide sales and UK sales, it starts to make more sense.

Ken then sent this absolute classic:

@rival @ew4n not all stats are bullshit if you understand what they mean :-)
That is my point. Stats are obviously not bullshit if we understand what they mean, the problem is that stats are being banded about without any qualification. Without even mentioning which market the stats we're for. Without any visibility of the underlying data allowing independent analysis. Stats like this are bullshit. They don't aid anyone in understanding a market, they are distortions of the truth.

Anyway, yesterday I found this blog on TechCrunch (yeah, I know, its my own fault).

Apart from the immediate nonsense of it, it has this to say.

Nokia’s stock has been hammered by its failure to gain real traction in the high-end segment. Its US listed shares have tumbled to just under $10 a share as of Wednesday morning trading— from an all-time high of more than $60 back in June 2000. Furthermore, although Nokia proudly waves the number “260,000,” the number of Nokia smartphones sold per day according to the company, the figure distorts reality.

Nokia is scrambling to defend its market share. On the high-end it’s dwarfed by RIM, Google and Apple in the United States— Symbian only captured 2% of the smartphone market in the first quarter, according to Nielsen.

The figure only distorts reality if your reality only exists in the United States. What Evelyn Rusli is saying here is that it doesn't matter that Nokia shifts 260,000 smartphones (not feature phones) each day, but that they only have 2% market share in the United States. Yeah Evelyn, the rest of the world are just wrong and will come around to the American way of thinking.

Gartner has a more complete view of the worldwide smartphone market. See Table 2 here

Table 2
Worldwide Smartphone Sales to End Users by Operating System in 1Q10 (Thousands of Units)




1Q10 Market Share (%)



1Q09 Market Share (%)






Research In Motion





iPhone OS










Microsoft Windows Mobile










Other OSs










So, now we can see a much better picture. We have actual data, not stupid headlines, not misleading quotes. Worldwide, Nokia is in decline, but it still is by far the largest supplier of smartphones, selling just about as many handsets as iOS, Android and RIM put together.

Now, compare and contrast these three statements:

on iPhone: BCN reports that 22.6% of July mobile handset sales were Smartphones. 80% of them were iOS based, and the remaining were Android

Furthermore, although Nokia proudly waves the number “260,000,” the number of Nokia smartphones sold per day according to the company, the figure distorts reality.

Nokia is scrambling to defend its market share. On the high-end it’s dwarfed by RIM, Google and Apple in the United States— Symbian only captured 2% of the smartphone market in the first quarter, according to Nielsen.
Nokia is with world's leading manufacturer, selling 260,000 smartphones worldwide each day.

Lies, damned lies and statistics. I once had an argument with someone who responded with "Facts? Don't give me facts. You can prove anything with facts." That stopped me in my tracks, but I now think it may be a quote from something. At the time I thought that the person was an irrational fool, but every day I'm coming round more and more to that point of view.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Reasons why 2010 is the year of mobile in travel

I've just read Timothy O'Neil-Dunne's essay on why 2010 is not the year of mobile in travel. He has made several well reasoned arguments, most of which we've already thought of and addressed with the Datilo for Travel software. Disclosure: I work for Datilo Limited.

Let's run down his arguments, with my personal response to each issue.

"1. Platforms – the splintering of the platforms is far greater than in the PC based world and even within application platform there are so many splinter forms that the consistency of the user experience is FAR less. There are also radical differences between platform types. For example, the iPhone and the Blackberry have really different UI/UE. Good news is that 80% is concentrated onto three platforms Android, iPhone and Blackberry."

Wow - well obviously I agree with him. This is why Datilo was developed with MoSync - a cross-platform tool for mobile applications. This is why Datilo supports Symbian S60, Windows Mobile, Android, J2ME and Moblin. We'll have Blackberry very soon, and possibly iPhone if we can get through Apple's processes.

"2. 234 million people in the USA used a mobile device in December 2009, according to Comscore. However, only 47 million smart phones were shipped, with the number of Smartphones in actual operation estimated at 65 million vs 308 million people in the USA."

Yeah, and add on the same again just in India alone. Datilo for Travel isn't just for Smartphones. This is part of what we do - championing the 'feature phone', and demonstrating the 90% of Smartphone apps work just as well on much cheaper hardware.

"3. The variations in performance mean that for the vast majority of time (and this will not change in the near future) the performance of the UI due to vagaries in the network performance mean that the impatient user will often have to wait minutes for a response – similar to comparing dial up with broadband. These are theoretical speeds – I am talking about real world experience when trying to access information."

Yeah, again I agree. This is why Datilo for Travel (and all Datilo apps) are made to run primarily offline. The app downloads the small packet of data (often less than 100k) which is required for that user. They can then access this when they need to and only connect when required. More on this later.

"4. Connection breaks – you have to recover the connection and start over…. You know what I mean."

I do know what you mean Timothy, and as I've written above it is something we've directly addressed.

"5. Consistent mobile broadband speeds mean that the amount of time when a smart phone is able to actually obtain acceptable signal/performance to operate will come down significantly – we estimate that this number exceeds 40% of the time – this is based on my own experience."

Hmm, I find it better than this - maybe this is just a North American experience. I think that we've got better connections in Europe. I've just come back from the Pyrenees, and even up a mountain in France I got an HSPDA connection. Still, if you're app runs offline...

"6. Physical window aperture on the device – i.e. the ability to view the application on the screen."

So this is a UI question, and possibly in to make up the numbers. Mobile phones have small screens, and always will do by definition. If you just want the number of your hotel though, a small screen works well.

"7. Vision impairment – yes, this is a big deal. According to the Vision Council of America, approximately 75% of adults use some sort of vision correction. About 64% of them wear eyeglasses, and about 11% wear contact lenses, either exclusively, or with glasses. Over half of all women and about 42% of men wear glasses. Similarly, more women than men, 18% and 14% respectively, wear contacts. Of those who use both contacts and eyeglasses, 62% wear contact lenses more often."

OK - Got me there. I've not thought about this enough. Expect changes in the next version. I wear glasses myself, but for those users with very bad vision, we can improve our app.

"8. Dexterity impairment, juggling impairment."

I'm not too clear what you mean here. If you mean that touchscreen smartphones aren't as easy to use and some people make out, then I completely agree with you. However, we leave the choice of device to the customers.

"9. And last, by no means least, THE HIGH COST OF ROAMING. At the recent Tnooz #tcamp3 event in Berlin, I described the iPhone as the devil incarnate. For the next few years – until our favorite EU commissioner Nelly Kroes gets her way AND such moves to reduce charges are adopted by other countries – this will be the biggest impediment to adoption of travel apps."

Yep - its extortionate isn't it? What you need is an app where you can download your data on your home network, and take it abroad with you. If you need to update it, you can do so on your terms, and download a compressed packet with all your data in it, not surf until you get what you're looking for, and paying for all the data you don't want.

Finally, we get to

"So fighting through the clutter is not easy.
What now becomes a characteristic is that there is no clear portal for mobile apps. The major portals of the web, going back to the early days, were the search engines and early value-added apps – eBay, Expedia et al."

This is why we produce apps for businesses. Our customers can distribute their app to their customers. No looking around or finding misleading software.

Timothy, we'd love to have a more detailed conversation with you about this 8-).

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Great use of social mobile media

So I'm trapped, trapped I tell you, in the south of France. I'm having to put up with 25c of brilliant sunshine, blue skies, cheap wine and Golden Virginia at €7 for 40g. Ahh.

We were hoping to fly back today. When I got up everything looked right. The UK and France have reopened airspace and airports, my flight was after 1pm, and the BA website said it was on. By the time my wife got up, the flight was cancelled, and it looked like we were going to have to drive back with a three year old after all.

I got onto the phone to BA, but I kept getting cut off. The queue was absolutely full. So whilst I'm redialling on the landline, I get my mobe out. This is the twitter message I sent

Ahhhgghh. Flight has just been cancelled. Just get engaged tone from BA I can't even get in the queue.

About ten minutes later I read this

@rival It will take a while to update on but you'll be able 2 make your changes on Manage My Booking (if you booked directly with us)

Nice! Even though I can't speak to them, I'm getting some response. Even if it isn't very helpful.

@British_Airways The update booking option is greyed out for me.

Less than one minute later comes the reply

@rival If you booked through a travel agent, they will have to make the changes otherwise, you'll need to call us UK - 0800 727 800

Hmm, that's actually a different number. I try it, and I'm able to join the queue. So while I'm waiting, I read this:

We expect to run flights to all of our longhaul destinations today from Heathrow & Gatwick and our shorthaul services will resume after 1pm

"So why is my flight cancelled?" I think.

@British_Airways So why is my 18:05 flight cancelled?

We still have a large no. of aircraft, pilots & cabin crew out of position,we're working around the clock to minimise any further disruption

Good answer

@British_Airways Yeah, I understand. Thanks.

Jack comes to find out what is going on, so I tell him that I'm talking to the pilot on Twitter. He wants to talk to him as well.

@British_Airways Jack (aged 3) asks "is it because of the voocano?"

Now the thing is, that this is a typo, not Jack having difficulty saying 'volcano'. Anyway.

@rival :) Thank you for sharing Jack's new word.

Wow, they're really putting a human face on a big corporation. Finally get through, only 45 minutes. I genuinely think that is alright, considering.

@British_Airways Wonderful talking to Kelly now. Rebooked for tomorrow. Well done BA! Very relieved I didn't book Ryanair

I even get a retweet along the way from @JamesMerrimanUK along the way.

I think that really highlights some of the ways that mobile social networking has evolved. Its really helped me understand BA's problems and to understand that they're just people too. Thanks BA,