I wrote this post about mobile usage in Asia during my holidays in Singapore. However, I only got a chance to publish it now. Too many other ideas on content and sharing of thoughts, and new ideas. Seems as if my brain is always buzzing. I suppose it is, and I love writing as my creative outlet.
My recent trip to Singapore, 10 years since I have been to Asia properly with the exception of a trip to Turkey, times have changed with the arrival of smart phones. A podcast mentioned 300m middle class mobile phone users in China, and some research suggests a population of 260m in Asia alone (stats from 2016); in comparison the USA has 325m people (2016) and Europe about double that: 741m. Asia as a whole counts 4.5bn and Africa 1.2bn people. Take those numbers in. Just because I have been to India recently, you can count another 1.25bn people in India alone, an emerging and tech savvy market.
Let’s digest that for a minute and look at (observed) behaviour. People are constantly on their phones. In Europe, London, they are, but Asia I found that behaviour even worse. That is of course if it is a bad behaviour, or is being on the phone constantly the new norm? In Singapore people were on their screens 24/7, playing whilst being on the tube, whats app and wechat when queuing, and voice messaging being quite high. Particularly younger people listened to voice messages on chat applications constantly, recording and sending them. A new generation of people with a new usage behaviour. I bet their call charges are non existent. Some stats already show that phones are used less for voice calls than ever before, and that the use of text, data and internet access has long outweigh the use of the phone as a phone (as in calling someone). Weird no? I just renewed my contract and pay less per month but have 20 GB of data. That’s a lot of data!
So the phone as we intended it has disappeared. People don’t talk to each other anymore but use it to send messages. See the picture, who remembers those kind of phones? Anyway, the intensity and the phone being the main internet access point for a younger generation is new. That means the phone is the gateway to shopping and ecommerce, banking, saving and retirement planning; gaming and entertainment, food orders and life style choices. Anything happens on the phone, from watching movies to news, to reading. And of course social media usage. It’s a mobile first generation (Kudos to Mr. Mobile, Mark W).
From a business point of view I could do the easy maths. Let’s assume 50% of the population is 16+ and in the market for smart phones. Probably even more. But even 50% of a population of 1.2bn or 4.5bn people is a lot. That’s 600m or 2.25bn (!) people respectively. If 10% buy an app or a product they like via a phone for 1 US$, your turn over is in the millions with the app purchase alone. Anyone not getting the scale of things here? It justifies the investments companies like Grab are making, WeChat, Facebook, Amazon and others by accessing any of the markets above. The sheer scale of things is crazy. If you are investing in Grab now, an Uber like service for anything from transportation to delivery, then you are getting an ROI that is manifold. Of course that’s why the big boys are doing it, and why I started investing in Asian tech Fonds 🙂
The recent experience sparked a lot of thoughts around mobiles, mobile usage and how the other part of the world accesses both resources and the internet. It showed me the commerce opportunity and the way we are using the mobile phone in the future, as I am certain our European way of trying to avoid screen time will vanish with the new generation. Not a week my 9 year old is asking for his own phone. Laptops seem old school, tablets with keyboards might just be accepted, but boy, if you have a mobile phone and a credit card, you have all you ever going to need. Or do you?
Life is changing, I keep saying that. Having purchased an iPhone XS recently, the main justification was that I use FaceID. I liked the sound of it, and so far it has been better than fingerprint technology. The Apple Watch is nice, and I love the health tech (a market soon worth over 1 trillion US$), but maybe I wait for the 2019 model. I am not sure yet. Normally, I am not a first mover, but early adopter. But as technology moves on, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep up. How will our boys live when they are our age?
Hope this sparked some thoughts. Isn’t it a fascinating world we are living in?