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UK to Australia – my Mobile observations

In my role as Head of Mobile for Precedent I have just returned from Australia working with our teams in Melbourne and Perth running several mobile seminars and strategy discussions with clients. I am genuinely interested in how digital strategy, trends and acceptance differ across countries and sectors. My  last strategy work in Australia was in 2011 for a government department, and so with anticipation I set out to see what changes there have been in mobile reach.

Carrying enough mobile tech (tablets, phones and Ultrabook) to keep the most connected person engaged I found to my surprise the HP Slate 7inch android tablet for sale at the airport for a £100. This is an indication itself how we are moving towards a tablet society. Statistics show us that tablet sales have now overtaken laptop and predicted to outsell desktop next year. Buying the tablet for family use I started my digital journey to Australia.

In Melbourne the coffee culture is impossible to ignore, with small independent coffee shops attracting clients with quality of coffee and free WiFi. This was a key observation, as WiFi is not as prevalent in Australia as it is in the UK and is seldom free and often poor quality. This is surprising as the Australian mobile network is very strong in places with 4g widely available. So after my own mobile provider O2 telling me I had spent £16 for just looking at the map on my phone and checking my email for the hotel address I switched off data roaming and became a WiFi slave and continual connection hunter. Enjoying the weather and Precedent offices, the view from the Perth office shown below, I looked at how things are in Australia from a mobile perspective.  

Perth Office

Apple is kingpin in Australia with 75% of mobile users, Android is noticeable by its absence when discussing devices and  Blackberry is practically non-existent. When asking during the seminars who had more than one phone, a common occurence in the UK, very few people raised their hands. Interesting, I also found a generally low level of tablet ownership or usage from our seminar audiences, as only a third of attendees had both a tablet and a smartphone - in the UK its usually more like 60%.

On a very slick and modern train service in Perth, I saw fewer travelers glued to their phones compared to my commute in Edinburgh, and I saw very few tablets being used. In cafes then it is obvious that iPhones are used by all ages although only a few Android devices seem to be making an impact.

Thinking about the business side of this picture, ensuring your brand is well presented on mobile should be considered critical, however I found less than 20% of the organisations I spoke to had any mobile offering. This is significantly lower than the UK, where there is an active swell towards mobilising brands. However, Australian organisations can be very progressive, so I expect very quickly mobile optimisation will develop across all sectors. Business change is rapid in a fast developing digital culture, and following discussions on mobile strategy with leading companies, my conclusion is that there is growing appetite to develop which surpasses that in the UK. As in the UK the tendency is to wrongly assume a responsive mobile approach is always optimal, we must think of the user and context of use first, rather than simply reflowing current content - remember to emphasise the joy of use on the mobile.

Digital mobile introduction has picked up speed in the last two years since I worked with clients in Australia and I predict the next two years will see a rapid development of mobile optimisation, catching up with and potentially outpacing the UK.  Australians have a “can do” attitude to all things including creative thinking and the use of technology.

We might be able to beat the Australian's to the Ashes this summer but I do not expect we will keep ahead when it comes to mobile innovation with their 'lets get it done' approach. I look forward to seeing and being involved in the interesting digital path being plotted in Australia.