China Mobile seeks to drive up app downloads

23 August 2010

BEIJING: China Mobile, the world's biggest wireless network operator, is hoping to encourage an increase in the number of consumers downloading applications in its home country.

The company boasted 554m subscribers in June 2010, including 31.76m signed up since January this year, with the typical customer posting an average usage time of 520 minutes a month.

But revenues from voice calls are now a secondary priority behind “value-added services”, sales of which climbed 13% in the first half.

China Mobile unveiled the Mobile Market, an equivalent to Apple's App Store, in August 2009, hosting video, software, e-books, music, games and similar content.

It has registered over 500,000 developers and offers 200,000 apps for corporations and individuals across multiple devices, rather than being restricted to one handset, unlike the iPhone.

By the end of Q2 2010, 25m apps had been downloaded, indicating the growth of what China Mobile termed the "internet of things".

"This initiative creates a new cooperative marketing model in the mobile internet and is a win-win situation for our in-house R&D and other software developers," the firm claimed. "It has also created a new venue for online sales."

China Mobile has established the target of securing 200m Mobile Market users by 2012, rising from a projected total of 20m in 2009.

Increased smartphone use will be a key contributor to this trend - China Mobile itself recently rolled out the OPhone, employing a variant of Google's open source Android platform.

Samsung, Lenovo and Dell have expressed an interest in producing OPhone handsets, as they seek to tap in to an enormous potential audience.

To further strengthen its presence in this area, China Mobile forged a partnership with Nokia Siemens Networks in August to deliver services enabling a "converged communications experience".

While initially aimed at businesses in select regions like Beijing and Hunan, the gadgets concerned, such as video-sharing and conferencing tools, will soon be made available for individuals.

"Today's users demand seamless access to multimedia applications without being constrained by the devices or network they are using," Ding Weiqing, head of Nokia Siemens Networks' account team for China Mobile.

Upon the launch of the Mobile Market, BDA, the research firm, argued it had the benefit of not charging developers a fee, as is required by Window's Marketplace, Android Market, the App Store and Ovi Store.

"China Mobile's large mobile subscriber base provides Mobile Market with a huge addressable market," BDA's report said.

"This huge user base gives China Mobile distinct advantages in marketing its mobile services … [and will help] consolidate its central position and improve its competitiveness."

Baidu, the leading online search giant in China, is also rumoured to be building a wireless operating system of its own, echoing Google's strategy.

Data sourced from Forbes/Reuters; additional content by Warc staff