Living in a mobile laboratory

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According to a commentator in the Hong Kong Economic Times: Hong Kong consumers spend 129 minutes a day on their mobile devices, 90 per cent of that time is using applications and mobile internet-enabled services.

According to Hong Kong government statistics mobile penetration is 223% compared to 128% across the EU, though many of these are accounted for by cab drivers who double as a booking office for other taxis using a string of handsets spread across their dashboard.

Sometime after the summer in Hong Kong, the MTR (think Transport for London running the tube system) changed the message on escalators to the following in a grating passive-aggressive female voice:

Please hold on to the hand rail, don’t keep your eyes only on your mobile phone

Your mobile bill comes with a 12 dollar surcharge to contribute towards the cost of providing mobile access on the underground rail system, yet people don’t talk on the phone, they watch videos, play games, use messenger applications or update their Facebook page.

WhatsApp enjoys an email-like ubiquity, with AllthingsD claiming 50 per cent penetration for Hong Kong back in August this year. That sounds a bit low based on my empirical experience.

There are five mobile network operators for a city of seven million people resulting in price and feature competition:

  • Mobile data is basically all you can eat
  • LTE and Wi-Fi are easy to come by
  • Free local calls
  • Competitive IDD services
  • OTT video services are commonplace for Cantonese speakers
  • Some operator brands, notably 1010 try to differentiate by customer service and providing a sub-Vertu concierge service to business customers

Mobile tends to start filling micro-pockets of time when one might read a book or a paper, on the commute, in a taxi, at a restaurant or bar. It is often common to see couples sitting together at a table, not talking or acknowledging each other’s existence instead engrossed in their smartphone or tablet.

All of this phone use means that consumers have a battery pack that they take with them which can recharge a phone or a tablet over a USB connection. It is no coincidence that Huawei’s Ascend Mate 2 incorporates this battery pack functionality into the tablet, as the primary upgrade this time around.

More information
Hong Kong Economic Times commentary on ‘digital’ over-use (in Chinese)
Office of the Communications Authority – Key communications statistics (in English)
The Quiet Mobile Giant: With 300M Active Users, WhatsApp Adds Voice Messaging | AllthingsD
CES 2014: Huawei announces Ascend Mate 2 | NDTV