Is there a mass market for location-based services?

Another day. Another thought-provoking post from Tomi Ahonen. This time he’s dissecting the latest “Asia-Pacific wide survey of 16,000 consumers in 29 countries by TNS Global.” Included in his analysis are troubling numbers for companies looking to build location-based services.

There’s a lot of positive information for mobile in the TNS Global survey, but before I talk about the positive stuff, let’s take a look at what Tomi says about the location-based services (LBS):

Bear in mind, that LBS services were launched around the same time as music, gaming and the mobile internet here in Asia; and even more alarmingly, LBS services were launched several years before cameraphones and MMS picture messaging. Yet LBS has found a total traction of 3 percent in this time, when other services get 30%, 40%, 50% even 70% usage levels.

I am serious that I truly do not believe in LBS as a mass market proposition. Don’t bet your company, product, brand or career on LBS, ha-ha..

This is pretty stunning for two reasons. First, the established pattern for mobile is that Asia is a year or two ahead of Europe and America is a year or two behind Europe. So location-based services have been there, done that, and not been adopted. Second, I highly value Tomi’s opinion and his doubts about location-based services even without the numbers would be enough to give me pause.

I’m not going to draw any conclusions now. I need to noodle on this a bit more.

Onto the good news.

Percent No. of People Notes
SMS 88% 1.23B More than the total number of email (or IM Instant Messaging) on the internet worldwide
Games 71% 994M So close to 1B
Camera 61% 854M 98% of those who have a cameraphone, use the camera
MMS 47% 672M Lots of recent discussion about whether or not MMS will finally take off. These numbers are encouraging.
Music 43% 602M Only 150M or so iPods in the world.
Internet 34% 476M This is better than I expected. Lots of room for growth.
TV/Video 20% 280M Approximate population of U.S.

Lots of good news there on what the mobile future might look like for Europe and America down the road. I’m particularly happy with the MMS and Camera numbers as they are two areas I have particular interest in.

Finally, all of this data is from Tomi Ahonen and Alan Moore’s blog. If you’re into mobile and you’re not reading their blog, you’re missing out.

3 thoughts on “Is there a mass market for location-based services?”

  1. I also need to think on this more, but tend to disagree with this conclusion for reasons similar to why the iPhone has such great web browsing numbers vs other devices. It’s such a superior experience. Most LBS are still primitive, hard to use, and not always terribly useful or wel supported by carriers.

    Plus, not only do most developers not understand what to do with location, most users don’t know either. It’s a newer concept than any of the other categories, and there are so few outstanding examples.

    Also, what’s the GPS penetration against these #’s? That also shifts the picture.

    I think when someone gets augmented reality right – especially the visual, interface, and usability parts, we’ll be talking about this in a very different way.

  2. @Dean: I tend to agree. That’s why I said I needed to noodle on this for a bit. My gut tells me that there is a lot of possibility in location-based services, but this would be the first time Asia hasn’t led in mobile.

    The numbers should at least should give us pause and cause us to seek out more information about what’s been tried and failed to gain traction.

Comments are closed.