Smartphones vs. Non-Smartphones

Christian Kreul

My name is Christian Kreul and I am managing partner of Displayboy GmbH headquartered in Germany, operating the mobile affiliate program With more than six years working in the online mobile business, I’ve seen virtually the entire development process of this exciting medium, and nobody ever thought that mobile would become a serious revenue generator.

In this issue, I would like to provide you with some information about the different types of mobile handsets and how to make the most revenue from all of them.

There is still plenty of revenue to be generated by the dumb phones if you know how to do it.

Recently, you cannot move without hearing the phrase smartphone all since the highly publicized iPhone hit the market. This amazing phone supplies an easy to use application store to purchase games and other productive software. In addition this phone offers an all-in-one functionality, allowing the user to make phone calls, check emails and browse the web, listen to music as well as play games and we can’t forget porn!

The iPhone and handsets like it have changed the whole look and feel of mobile phones and many of today’s top companies are investing all their time and effort in keeping up with this amazing new device and several other similar devices out there.

As we’re active in the mobile Internet world for more than 10 years, we have noticed that most U.S. companies who are active in the mobile business are only supporting smartphones. They simply ignore all other non-smartphone traffic and lose potential revenue, not appreciating that most of the mobile users around the world are not yet using these smart devices and in essence can never sign up for any services.

Don’t get me wrong —at SexGoesMobile we believe smartphones are taking over the market, but that process is years away and there is still plenty of revenue to be generated by the dumb phones if you know how to do it. Let me provide some ideas, and tell you why it is important to support non-smartphones as well!

In 2011 global mobile subscribers will exceed five billion. So more than five billion people in this world will have a mobile phone and this is a very impressive number in anyone’s estimation. Now let’s have a closer look at Apple. How many iPhones are there —and let’s include iPod touch plus the iPad since 2007? Apple has sold around 150 million of these devices, which is very low compared to the number of global mobile subscribers. Of course now you have to add other smartphones including Android, Blackberry, and the others. I am pretty sure we are safe to say that the share split between smartphones and non-smartphones is about 20/80. Of course these numbers will change in the future but it will still take a long time.

It’s not an easy task to find reliable numbers, but at least there are some reference points like Admob. Admob is a provider of mobile advertising and was bought by Google some months ago. Admob publishes some Metrics periodically across their advertising network. In May 2010 they handled ten million requests in 92 countries and they discovered that Nokia is still the leading device in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. Across the entire Admob network smartphones generated 46 percent of the mobile traffic. So, more than a half of the traffic was generated by non-smartphones. I think it is also important to know that Admob doesn’t allow any advertising for mobile adult content, so we’re only talking about mainstream sites in these figures.

Another interesting set of numbers came from com-Score in May 2010. They did a three-month research study on the US mobile phone from Dec. 2009 – March 2010. Their research showed that 234 million Americans aged 13 and older were mobile subscribers. The TOP 5 devices were Samsung (21.9 percent), Motorola (21.9 percent), LG (21.8 percent), RIM (8.3 percent) and Nokia (8.3 percent). As you can see, while everything might appear to be smartphone focused in marketing and the media, the reality is that there are not really many smartphones included in the actual statistics through 2010.

I talked to a US company several months ago and tried to convince them to send us their non-smartphone traffic, as they didn’t do anything with it at all. They told me they could not imagine that people are browsing the mobile web from such devices. Further, they had tried it years ago on their own and were not really able to browse the web properly. In the end, I managed to convince this company to send only their nonsmartphone traffic as it was just ten minutes work on their side to send me this traffic. Today they’re glad to generate additional money from these devices, which they had just wasted before.

As supported by the data above, comScore claims in their report that 30.1 percent of all Americans are using a non-smartphone to browse the mobile web on a regular basis. Should we ignore this potential?

If you analyze your mobile traffic and break it down by country you will be surprised which countries are browsing your websites from a mobile device. You’ll find the country list includes India, South Africa, Indonesia and a lot of Latin American countries. The smartphone penetration in those countries is very, very low, as people simply don’t have the income to afford such modern phones. Non-smartphones on the other hand have a penetration rate of more than 90 percent in these countries.

Perhaps more important is the fact that users in these countries browse the mobile web on a regular basis for several reasons. First of all, these countries have not developed the broadband infrastructure enjoyed by North America and Western Europe, so it is easier to focus now on building a mobile infrastructure. Combined with the infrastructure shortcomings, people don’t have the budget to afford a PC either; it’s just too expensive for them. So especially in BRIC countries and emerging markets, people skip the PC to access the Internet and use their mobile phone instead! And of course they have a demand for porn in these countries as well!

So why don’t so many companies support non-smartphones? Well, it’s a bit complicated. All the thousands of different devices are supporting several formats, have different screen resolutions, and are limited in terms of memory - and in some cases several additional barriers that require a lot of time, effort and resources to support them. Unfortunately, it is a very fragmented business. Also, many of these older devices don’t support JavaScript and other newer web technologies we take for granted now. So they don’t even appear in many analytics tools. When you check your statistics for mobile traffic —the actual number of mobile visitors is much higher than the numbers you see!

Many companies still think that the nonsmartphone market will be over soon, but think about the global implications. Sure, smartphone pricing will come down over time just as with all technology, but we are talking about replacing four billion handsets. As mentioned before, I believe that this will take many more years. I understand the strategy, focus on the future; it’s understandable. But at the same time, don’t ignore the opportunities of today. Employ an all-encompassing strategy that addresses all your traffic for revenue generation, don’t waste anything.

As a mobile industry pioneer, SexGoesMobile has created a mobile database of over 8000 supported handsets over the years. We can help you to monetize your traffic browsing from these devices which you currently do not support all over the world. It does not cannibalize your existing actual mobile revenues — in many cases you are not even aware that these mobile surfers are even on your sites — their handsets cannot even be detected by your analytics!

In the next article of this series I am going to cover the topic “Billing Options on Mobile Devices.” So stay tuned!

Please send me any questions, feedback or ideas for other article topics I should cover, and don’t hesitate to contact me via or my profile.