Bango’s partnership with Telstra to offer carrier billing, follows similar moves made by US and European network operators. Telefonica’s BlueVia platform has provided operator-billing for Google Play in Spain and Germany since Q3 2012. Telenor has also partnered with BlueVia to provide further support for operator billing. Verizon Wireless also recently became the last of the top four US operators to launch its carrier billing when its service went live on 31 October 2012 on Google Play.
The rise in operators offering carrier billing services underscores a growing effort from both application store owners and mobile network operators to offer alternative payment options, increase conversion rates, and utilize new billing platforms to monetise and enhance the end-user experience. Globally, payment providers and application store owners (Bango, RIM, Nokia) report 1x – 3x times revenue growth with carrier billing versus credit cards. With carrier billing platforms in place, the role of network operators shifts to address the larger connected mobile ecosystem of merchants, developers and customers.
The move is a positive one for Google, which has been improving its ability to monetise Android content throughout 2012. IHS research indicates that while Google Play still generates lower content revenue per addressable device, it is starting to close the gap on Apple’s iOS App Store. Verizon’s recent move to support billing for Google Play at the same time as it announced the closure of its own application store, illustrates how in many countries operators are recognizing the reality of their new role in the mobile content ecosystem. As operator’s own content services decline, the ability to provide billing support for other stores will be a key way for them to retain some stake in the mobile content business.
Samsung, as Apple and
Nokia are all too aware, is on a hot streak. During the first quarter of 2012,
Samsung’s smartphones accounted for 40 percent of all Android-based phones sold
globally, while no other Android-supporting vendor achieved better than a 10
percent representation, according to a May 16 report from Gartner.
Overall, smartphone sales
rose 45 percent year-over-year, with 144.4 million units shipping during the
first quarter of 2012. Lagging feature phone sales, however, caused the overall
mobile phone market to decline by 2 percent—its first decline since the second
quarter of 2009, according to the firm.
Samsung overtook Nokia for
the No. 1 spot, as IHS
iSuppli said in an early estimate in April, shipping 86.6 million units
to Nokia’s 83.2 million. Apple followed the pair, with shipments of 33.1
million iPhones, and behind it came ZTE, on shipments of 17.4 million units,
and LG, with 14.7 million units.
BlackBerry maker Research
In Motion finished in seventh place, behind Huawei but ahead of Motorola and
Sony Mobile Communications, respectively.
phones accounted for 56.1 percent of all smartphone sales, Gartner analysts
believe that differentiation is becoming a challenge for manufacturers. Motorola
CEO Sanjay Jha, among other executives, has spoken to this point,
saying Motorola plans to release fewer but more differentiated devices. Likewise,
a spokesperson for ATT, at the launch of the HTC
One X, said a focus on design, a strong camera and the collaboration
with Beats Audio were ways HTC had looked to differentiate that device.
“This is particularly true
for smartphones based on the Android OS, where a strong commoditization trend
is at work and most players are finding it hard to break the [mold],” Anshul Gupta,
a Gartner principal research analyst, said in the report.
“At the high end, hardware
features coupled with applications and services, are helping differentiation,
but this is restricted to major players with intellectual-property assets,”
Gupta added. “However, in the mid- to low-end segment, price is increasingly
becoming the sole differentiator. This will only worsen with the entry of new
players and the dominance of Chinese manufacturers, leading to increased
competition, low profitability and scattered market share.”
Strong Apple iPhone
sales—shipments increased by 96.2 percent year-over-year—came with, thanks to China,
Apple’s No. 2 market behind the United States. China accounted for sales of 5
Additionally, Gartner added,
“On top of the sales through official carriers’ channels, there was an increase
in transshipments from Hong Kong, where volume has been growing over the past
year, to reach a sell-in of more than 3 million units.”
With China Mobile, the
world’s largest carrier, in talks with Apple to officially
offer the iPhone, the importance of China to Apple, and the mobile
industry on the whole, is likely to intensify.
Again showing their
impact, China, and the Asia-Pacific region on the whole, were also contributors
to the quarter’s overall lackluster results. While Chinese
New Year generally helps to make the first quarter the strongest in Asia
(again, a boon for the world market, which usually experiences an aggressive
dip after the high of the fourth-quarter Western holidays), a lack of new phone
launches from leading manufacturers caused users in Asia to delay upgrades,
said Gartner, “in the hope of better smartphone deals arriving later in the year.”
Follow me on Twitter: @eWEEK_Michelle.