April 25, 2008

Mobile Experience Asia: Conclusion

The Mobile Experience Asia journey has come to an end. During the past three weeks, I have had the pleasure of visiting some of the most interesting and intriguing places/people. My journey began in Taipei-Taiwan and trekked further south into Indonesia where I visited the cities of Bali and Jakarta. The food has been amazing and I’ve taken atleast 3,000 pictures thanks to digital technology.

There are some takeaways from my trip. The way people use their mobile phones in Asia is vastly different than the way we do. In the U.S., we care much about conformity; especially within business applications. We rely much more on email communication; in the areas of outlook exchange server, push-email and BlackBerry enterprise solution. Our smartphone economy is largely driven by the business sector, outfitting our business road warriors with the latest in technology to increase productivity. Our conformity extends to the usage on the web. After all, we sort of claim the stake in creating the internet economy. Therefore, we care much about a smartphone’s ability to browse the web in its full capacity (ie. iPhone’s Safari is a big hit).

In Asia, mobile phones are viewed as a status symbol; the latest and greatest handset would offer cool functionalities (ie. HD Camera, Camcorder, Electronic Wallet, Streaming TV, etc.) and could be the envy amongst friends. Asians love to text; much more than I have ever imagined; you can substitute SMS for Email and it would be okay for them. Asians trust network operators to come up with cool widgets or mobile apps and spend much of their phone usage based on what is given to them. They don’t explore as much on open platforms (ie. Web Browser solutions). In this brand-centric world, mobile phone’s outer appearance, design and name (ie. Nokia, Sony Ericsson) has more influence on a buyer’s decision than its core functionality [at least to the vast majority of this market]. As mentioned before, most of the mobile stores do not have working demos, therefore, Asians would buy a phone purely based on a phone’s outer appearance and brand. I am very shocked to see how much Nokia has dominated the market outside of the U.S. Around here, Nokia is king, from the NSeries to ESeries, it is the object of people’s affection.

In terms of handset selection, there are more varieties of GSM phones throughout Asia and they are within ease of access (As mentioned before, a mall would have a dozen of manufacturer stores or 3rd party vendors). There are subsidized and non-subsidized phones. In fact, people buy more non-subsidized phones here just because they are very demanding on what they want to have. Asian telecoms are very open to work with resellers and does not object to subsidized or non-subsidized phones. Whereas in the U.S., we would have to find unlocked handsets off of a handful of websites or eBay. This is because our big four telecoms would prefer to keep their customers in a subsidized program to lock them into 1- to 2-year in contract. By doing this, they can only offer limited subsized phones to their stores. Adding to the fact that Verizon and Sprint are running US-only CDMA network, this further reduces our GSM handset selections.

This Mobile Experience in Asia has been great for me. My Nokia N95-3 kept up all the of its promises and delivered the Voice, WiFi, and GPS functionality as promised. I am very pleased to see the evolution of mobile technology at a global level. I can't imagine how advance my next trip to Asia would become.

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