Mobile Applications


Informa, a multinational publishing and Conference Company, reported that the number of messages sent using free chat apps like “WhatsApp” has overtaken the number of traditional paid-for text messages sent using SMS. BBC revealed that, according to Ovum, more than £15bn of SMS revenue was lost in 2012 due to the popularity of chat apps. Looking back, Apple app store only opened in 2008 and WhatsApp only launched in 2009, proving the explosive growth of chat apps and its significance in the market.

Free apps are not merely muscling in on the messaging territory of mobile service providers; WhatsApp has now integrated a voice chat function. A single text and call for free on the go will have huge impacts on the future of mobile service providers. According to research by Gartner, worldwide devices including PCs, tablets and mobile phones will reach a total 2.4 billion units by the end of 2013, a 9% increase from 2012.

A growing mobile workforce, bandwidth-hungry apps and content, and changing demographics, have given rise to a new wave in communication and consuming information. In today’s age of ‘one click access’, users demand a seamless experience across the board. Expectations are high and mobility is an increasingly important channel in the delivery of applications. With smartphones becoming more and more prolific, apps are becoming an increasingly important part of our lives.

And with communication services available free of additional charge with existing data plans, more people will opt to use free communication apps instead of using traditional services. The continuous growth of smart devices implies that communication apps will take over the position of SMS. Therefore, mobile service providers will need to look for alternative opportunities to generate revenue and shift their focus to data. Securing and managing the data on mobile devices is likely to become the priority as the popularity of smartphones and tablets continues to skyrocket. 

Context is something that has come up and this is one incident where it plays a truly crucial role. In order to remain competitive in this changing market, mobile service providers need to understand context; offering intelligence that allows them to deliver the right data to the right user at the right time, quickly and securely. Understanding what kind of data it is, who is accessing it, from which network, and from which device is key to its secure delivery. Once they understand that, mobile operators can build new products and services to maintain their customers’ satisfaction.  

The key to a successful user experience strategy is ensuring that company applications and networks are accessible, but secure, and users can be seamlessly connected as they move and switch devices.

Success today requires an infrastructure designed to approach application delivery from a service-to-consumer perspective. F5 delivers on those expectations and consumer demands, whether the consumer is a customer on a mobile device in another country or a colleague working remotely via a personal smartphone or tablet.

While there is still a long way to go before SMS becomes obsolete, any mobile service provider that chooses to ignore the threat posed by the arrival of free chat apps is going to be left behind. Apps and free chat apps in particular are about making data and communication accessible to all. Understanding context will empower service providers to build new revenue streams and secure an advantage over the competition.


Linda Hui is Managing Director, Hong Kong and Taiwan at F5 Networks


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