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Is the future of mobile really here? Not exactly.

Is the future of mobile really here? Not exactly.

Frequent visits to travel sites and mobile-credit purchases lead researchers to pronounce mobile phones "reign supreme". Don't hold out for an all-mobile future just yet though, says Precious de Leon.

November 21, 2011 3:24 by

After a couple of years of hearing that the mobile trend is coming, is it really finally here in the Middle East? Let’s look at the numbers.

There are more purchases via mobile phones (29 percent) than PCs (26 percent) in the UAE, according to a study from TNS Global.

This 3 percent-difference is enough for a few mobile phone advocates to push the mobile trend forward again as THE thing to watch out for in 2012. Much like some tech trends have done over the past few years.

While figures are pretty much set, the way we read them can alter the meaning of these figures.

For example, one can say, much as The National article has, that the mobile purchase trend in the UAE have bucked the global trend, where 73 percent still make purchases via PCs while 50 percent use mobile phones.

Using the same statistic, however, we can also point out that while globally 73 percent of internet users shop online using PCs and 50 percent shop via mobile phones, despite high internet and mobile phone penetration ‘only’ 23 percent shop online and ‘only’ 26 percent shop via mobile phones.

With less than half of the global average of PC purchases, I’d say the country is lucky to see any online purchases at all, let alone through mobile devices—by the same token the UAE average for mobile purchases is only little more than half of the global average.

Highlighting the pliability of interpretation of these figures leads us to the point of view that perhaps the reality is we are still at a very basic and fundamental level in mobile.

It may still be very premature to say that there is a possibility of an “imbalance” in adspend as brand owners still invest in traditional advertising platforms like print and online. The reality is the percentage of smartphone users. According to an Arab Advisors survey released in October 2011, smartphones constitute 43.7 percent of total mobile handsets in the UAE.

So with the majority of consumers still off the ‘smartphone grid’ brands, especially those in the FMCG sector, will continue to purchase expensive ad space on TV and in print.

In addition, travel sites and mobile-credit purchases are hardly driving forces to encourage more companies to build purchase platforms for mobile devices, especially that each mobile phone has its own software and brands will have to create customised programmes for each platform (from Symbian to Android and Apple to RIM).

We’re not as impatient as we sound though. Our issue is with the hyping up of mobile devices bucking global trends. We’re more realistic that ‘going mobile’ in the region is going to take a little bit more time than some of us may expect.

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