Mobile Segmentation and Marketing: Still Huge Gaps Among the Players

by: James Enck

Last week I attended two conferences in two days, and they might as well have been on different planets. Both were well-run and very interesting, but the audiences could not have been more different.

Open Mobile Summit: audience - older, very technical; laptops - many; WiFi - yes, free; iPhones - near-ubiquitous.

DB High Yield conference: audience - younger, not very technical; laptops - I counted two; WiFi - none; Blackberries - 99% penetration.

At the DB event, the organizers had very kindly set up a mobile charging station, with sixteen chargers arranged in four rows of cubicle enclosures. Throughout the day, being a keen observer of tedious things, I passed by the charging station several times, just to see who was using it. One quarter of the charger connections were for Blackberries (RIMM), and always hotly contested. Three or four were "universal", which I used to charge my HTC, but which a number of Blackberry users also eventually figured out would work for them. There were three spots for Sony-Ericsson, which I never saw being used, and four for Nokia (NYSE:NOK), which also had no takers throughout the day, as far as I could see. There was one iPhone (NASDAQ:AAPL) charger, which I saw being used only once.

I guess none of this should surprise me, but perhaps because of my visit to the Open Mobile Summit the previous day, it started me thinking about mobile segmentation, brand profiling, and user behaviors, and how non-obvious some of this stuff can be. Ostensibly, the DB conference should have had more iPhone users because of the demographic, and maybe they are iPhone users on the side, but their weapon of choice is clearly the almighty Blackberry. I also continue to be amazed at the lack of participants from the finance world in industry-facing conferences such as Open Mobile.

One other takeaway was the stunning graphic from Kenneth Karlberg of TeliaSonera (OTCPK:TLSNF), on slide seven in his presentation at Open Mobile, which tracked data users and volumes consumed on Telia Sweden's mobile network in December 2008. We knew anecdotally that iPhone users are different, but it must be a profound source of embarrassment to others in the space to see the difference illustrated so clearly, and it underlines a comment from a mobile app developer at the conference that, as far as he can see, the only investment going into the mobile app space is into iPhone apps. The rest have a mighty hill to climb.