The Mobile Arms Race

Nokia 7110 WAP Phone

Nokia 7110 WAP Phone

Just like the major Super Powers of the 1980’s the “Arms Race is On” for the control of “Mobile”. This time it isn’t countries that are fighting for control and supremacy, but corporations.

Why Should You Care?

Control of the mobile space is very important as we start to access the Internet on the go. Valuable data can be gleaned from our location, that – when combined with our other habits- easily recorded online, can help deliver highly targeted content or advertising.

As a business it is a massive opportunity if you understand the space and can use it to your advantage. As an individual you should be aware of who is using your data and when and where your it is being used.

Facebook’s announcement of their “New Home on Android” to be revealed on 4th April has rumours flying that they will unveil their own mobile device. Bringing them inline with the other major players in this market.

The Contenders

In the mobile market currently Apple and Google are in prime position, both have their own devices and control of an operating system. I will also include Amazon as they have taken Google’s Android platform and manipulated it for their own use.

Whilst Amazon don’t have a true mobile device i.e. a phone, they do deliver a lot of content through their own ‘mobile’ tablet devices.

Running behind is Facebook, whilst a large part of its audience accesses the platform via mobile it isn’t wholly in control of the end user experience. The upcoming announcement may just change that, and if they can get enough leverage in the market recoup greater revenue via the device.

The Hardware & Operating System

Apple’s iPhone and it’s iOS platform is probably the slickest on the market with a focus user centric design. It is a ‘locked down’ platform though in terms of what both users and developers are allowed to do with it. This has its good and bad side. On the good side: applications tend to be of much higher quality and for developers as they don’t have as many versions of phone and OS to worry about. On the bad side: they don’t have the freedom to connect into the the underlying framework of the operating system and link to other utilities as they would like.

The Android operating system on the other hand is far more open. Available on a wide range of devices, it does have many versions with some of the older versions carrying limitations. Although developed by Google, the Android platform is free for any one that wants to to reuse and develop their own version. In fact until recently Google didn’t have a decent device of their own to run it on. With the release of the Nexus 4 this has changed, and the Nexus is ‘the’ Google Phone.

Amazon has taken advantage of the Android platforms open source licensing to develop its own version for use on the Kindle Fire tablets. They have cleverly taken the features that enhance the content they wish to sell and downplayed the communications side of both the device and operating system. They shouldn’t be ignored though, as they are able to leverage knowledge from the content that is consumed and you can be sure location is part of that data collection.

Facebook is the real straggler here. There have been many rumours that they were to launch a phone. And with their platform a mobile device only made sense, enabling to more effectively target advertising. Until now focus has been elsewhere, but it looks like they can’t ignore the obvious anymore. We shall find out for sure on April 4th.

The Content

Hardware and operating systems are only one part of the battle. Whilst the features of a device may attract users, technology is always advancing.

Content is the real gold that needs to been mined.

Where Amazon always had content, but no device, Apple built the device specifically for the content it also sold, music.

Google has had to work hard to get its content offering up to scratch and is only now boasting about the volume of applications in the Play Store. Applications have been the battleground for Apple and Google, with many developers still choosing iPhone version releases in preference to Android.

Apple has pretty much controlled the music market through iTunes, and nobody has been able to compete with Amazon on the book front.

Movies are still up for grabs, especially as the big studios are not to be as easily persuaded as Steve Jobs was able to do with the music industry.

Facebook certainly has a lot of apps, mainly games and tied to a desktop experience. Will these transfer to mobile? We wait to find out.


This is the biggest area up for exploitation through mobile and all 4 corporations have the ability to leverage location information.

The best placed is Google as it has proven with the popularity of Google Maps. Apple have already had a minor set back with their failed map application, whilst Amazon have yet to show their hand and Facebook? We can only wait to see.

Location is also the biggest opportunity for advertising revenue. Enabling businesses to use highly targeted ads to reach customers. Innovations here are likely to determine the winners as advertising revenue will be the largest slice of the mobile commercial opportunity.


Of course, search goes hand in hand with location. Again Google are way ahead, their algorithms are already geared to recognise the intent of the end user and deliver context based advertising.

A search on a mobile device already returns a very different set of results than the same search on a desktop.

Search is also a dream revenue stream for Facebook; could mobile be the answer?

The biggest issue for all is the effectiveness of mobile ads. Up to now the results have proved disappointing in comparison to their desktop counterparts. For local business appearance in the local results through Google+ Local and Bing Local are the biggest attraction.

The Power of Voice

Very much an early adopter technology, voice based search on mobile is one of the upcoming areas the big 4 are vying for control over.

When you use your voice to perform a search you are no longer going to a search engine first; the application you are using determines which platform to get its results from. Therefore the big battle is around the efficiency and quality of voice recognition.

The application that can transcribe more accurately will gain popularity, especially in uses cases such as when driving. Whoever develops the ultimate voice recognition software, if it isn’t one of the contenders, can then send search queries out to the highest bidder!

The Future Business Effect

Whilst we are in the developing stages of this mobile evolution you need to aware of what is going on. You need to ensure your business features in all the popular and relevant local listings.

Facebook may come in to play dependant on their offering so this should be followed closely.

Outside of this the biggest change in the way we promote ourselves will come with voice search. When this is ubiquitous we will need to have a clear understanding of what source data is being used to return results for any popular applications.

Although voice search is going to take time to develop, it was only 13 years ago that people started talking about mobile being the next big thing. At the time WAP was the content platform and there was no 3G, which severely handicapped its development.

So Mobile hasn’t taken long to get to its current usable state, and voice recognition is likely to develop much more rapidly.

About Sean Clark

Building successful online companies since 1999, we help you market your business online. Whether you need help with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Paid Search (PPC) or Social Media Marketing call us today on 01603 343477 for a free initial consultation.

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