Has the iphone changed the face of mobile marketing?

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The recent Comscore statistics show that UK iphone users seem to do more of everything: more internet, more social networking, more application downloads and more email. What are the implications of this for mobile marketing? Will it, in the words of Apple, 'change everything'?

Keeping it in proportion
There is no doubt that the iphone is a popular handset. With just under 2% of people in the UK owning an iphone, it makes it one of the most popular single models. However, other manufacturers have more than one phone model on the market. When it comes to smartphones, Blackberry have around double the share of Apple and Nokia, with models such as the N95, having double again. The most popular phone in the UK, though, is not a smartphone at all, but (based on 2008 figures) the more humble Nokia 6300.

So why is there such a disproportionate share of mobile media use in favour of the iphone? The answer comes from the fact that its operating system is beautifully simple to use. When combined with the inclusive data plan that comes with the phone, it means that dipping into a website or downloading an application is seamless. Nokia's N95, for example, lacks a QWERTY keyboard making the process of navigating the internet much more complex, which is reflected in the relatively low internet usage.

All about applications
The great success of the iphone has been the application downloads from the Appstore. This run-away success was largely unforseen, as Steve Jobs admitted on the first anniversary of the Appstore.
The advantage of developing an application for a mobile phone, rather than just a mobile web site, is that it gives the user a much more functional and seamless experience. Because an application runs within the phone it does not have to rely on a continuous data connection to the internet, so it can run much faster. It can also access a range of functions within the phone, such as the GPS for location, contacts and in the case of the iphone, the Accelerometer. Although games have proved the most popular, other applications, such as news, weather and social networking have also struck a cord with users.

Marketing to iphone users
If you are working in mobile marketing it is impossible to ignore the iphone factor. Purely in terms of handset sales it is a niche product, but both the level of mobile media usage and the demographic of 18-44 year olds shows that it represents a significant group of opinion formers. This was ably demonstrated with last year's must-have iphone application, the ipint. This was a promotion by Carling in which the phone became a virtual pint of beer. Tipping the phone allowed the user to virtually drink the pint. The genius of this campaign was how viral it was. The whole point of the application was that you shared it with your friends. For every download there were dozens of people without iphones who witnessed their friends drinking their virtual pint.

Reaching the iphone audience is simple. The Appstore is the place that iphone users go to find their games and utitilies. A brand simply needs to create an application and upload it to the store. It is no surprise that many brands are developing iphone applications, from Universal's Blu-ray app to flight information from BA and NRU, an app that shows you the nearest places to go from Last Minute. The opportunities to use applications to develop engagement with a brand are considerable.

On the downside
Besides its relatively small market share, there are other drawbacks with the iphone. Firstly there is the development cost. Unlike many other mobile phones are Java-based, the iphone has its own operating system and programming language making the cost of development considerably more than just a simple mobile site.
Although it is considerably less expensive than many above the line campaigns, it is more costly than developing a mobile web site. Some marketers have been exploring ad supported applications, rather than developing their own, but so far, the user response to this advertising has been poor.

The demographic for the iphone is also quite specific. For example, reaching a youth audience would be difficult. The cost and subscription package for the phone puts it firmly in the 18+ age group. There are also relatively few women using the phone. Smartphone owners are 65% men and with the iphone the number of men using it is closer to 75%. Beer-based apps make sense, but it may prove difficult to engage an iphone audience with an application for cosmetics.
Perhaps the greatest drawback of the iphone is that 90% of free applications downloaded are opened just once or never at all.

Clearly, marketing specifically for the iphone is not appropriate for every brand or campaign. If it fits the demographic and there is a compelling application, the iphone offers some excellent opportunities. However with 93% of iphone users accessing the mobile internet a good well presented mobile website may be the simplest solution to reach this significant audience.

To find out more about how we can help you with iphone apps and mobile marketing, please see our contact page or call us on 020 7490 8779

Written By: Paul Norman (First Tutors)