Research Notes

The difference between mobile portals and clients

As mobile services become more advanced and have increased possibilities to show content in new exciting ways, there is a need for new methods whereby mobile services can be delivered and presented. The current presentation and distribution methods are simply no longer up-to-date in connection with selling modern mobile services to end-users.

Mobile portals and mobile clients are two presentation and distribution methods that have attracted a lot of attention. The mobile handset is used as the presentation media and by using these methods one thereby avoids having to use other media outside the mobile universe. One of the reasons why these two presentation and distribution methods have attracted so much attention is that they facilitate impulse purchases to a much greater extent than the current methods used in connection with Premium SMS services, where primarily print media and TV advertising have been the most preferred.

Over time a larger share of the sales of mobile services will be handled via mobile portals or mobile clients, regardless of whether they are controlled by the mobile operators or by third-party companies. This is due to the process of purchasing mobile services is simplified and much more straightforward for the mobile users, which can result in larger sales of services. On some markets far more mobile services are currently being sold via operator controlled mobile portals and mobile clients, but there is a strong trend towards that sales in the future will increasingly be handled outside the operator controlled channels – a trend we are e.g. currently seeing in the Scandinavian countries, where the operators portals market share is decreasing.

These two methods are very different and this difference means that there are various advantages and disadvantages when using these two methods. This is why mobile players will carefully have to assess these advantages and disadvantages before choosing their future distribution channels.

Despite their differences, these two presentation methods have also some common characteristics. For example the user interface that the services have on the handsets is very similar and a mobile user will not be able to tell the difference whether they are using a client or portal based solution.

The integration between the presentation method and mobile handset is one of the most significant differences between the two presentation methods. This is especially due to that the mobile clients can be integrated in the mobile handset.

By using clients, the mobile operator has the possibility to replace the existing user interface on the handset. Instead the mobile operator can develop their own customised user interface that suits the mobile operators and its customers needs. Clients also give the possibility to replace the Application Programming Interfaces (API’s) on the handset, which makes it possible to change the original software that the handset is manufactured with. This change makes it possible to custom design software to suit the mobile operator’s needs and integrate mobile services and their functionality deeper into the handset, which results in a improved execution and experience of the mobile services.

A significant advantage of using mobile clients rather than mobile portals is that it is possible to use push-services. Push-services can increase the possibility of customers purchasing a mobile service, as the push possibility makes it easier to tempt customers with various offers they can browse on their handsets or by offering customers special prices etc on services that can be viewed on the customer’s mobile handset.

One disadvantage of clients is that they need to be installed on the customer’s mobile handset. This installation can either be a pre-installation before the customer purchases the phone in the store, but can also be handled after the customer has left the store with his new mobile telephone. In the latter case this requires that the customer downloads the client to their phone themselves. Pre-installation increases the operator’s costs, but on the other hand the customer immediately has access to the client from the time of purchasing the handset. Downloading the client requires that the customer has been made aware of this possibility. This requires that the operator uses large resources for marketing both the client and the Internet address from where the client can be downloaded (alternatively the customer can also receive an SMS containing the link to the Internet address).

A portal based solution is easy and cheaper to implement and service than a client solution and therefore has more advantages compared to a client based offering. In many cases it can therefore be advantageous to choose a portal based solution instead of a client based solution.

The largest disadvantage of using clients instead of portals is that the development and servicing of clients is significantly more expensive than for portals. This is due to the necessity of developing and servicing one client for each operating system and at the same time having to adapt each individual client to the various features on individual mobile handsets. The development and service costs are also influenced by the fact that the development of mobile operating systems is happening at a much faster pace than on the Internet, which is increasing the costs of using mobile clients.

Most mobile operators that have chosen to develop their own distribution channels have primarily chosen to develop portals rather than clients. The development of portals is far less complex as most handsets use the same standards to display Internet pages. The complexity in developing clients consists of the necessity of developing one client for each operating system and simultaneously having to adapt each individual client to the various features on individual handsets.

In Strand Consults report – Successful strategies on the future VAS market – we have conducted a thorough and in-depth analysis of these two presentation methods. The analysis includes a discussion of how these two presentation methods influence the market for mobile services and the various market players, based on a number of parameters including the number and variety of mobile services, size of customer base, marketing costs etc. 

Successful strategies on the future VAS market

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