Quick to pick up on international trends, Romanians are embracing the new mobility, using their mobile applications on-the-go. For what purpose? Industry pundits say local consumers use their smartphones to play games, check the weather forecast, peruse leisure options, read publications, check train times and look for a cab. While some consumers are prepared to pay for the application they want, freebies enjoy the most success.
A mobile phone application setting out the Christian-Orthodox Calendar, which lists the year’s religious celebrations in order, would probably not land up on the average person’s “most popular downloads” list. However, it just so happens that this application was downloaded a total of 2,000 times from Androider, the website of the Android community in Romania, which is home to applications for the Android operating system.
Similarly, the application Cantarile Evangheliei (the Gospel Songs), which offers the first 250 songs from this work, was downloaded 500 times through the same channel.
These applications were born out of a marketer identifying and addressing a specific local need. In the same vein, an application such as Keep the Dogs Away, which in Romania has been downloaded 200 times, might not enjoy as much popularity elsewhere, simply because… there are no stray dogs on the street there.
“For the time being, the combination of mobility, broadband and cloud services, with applications added on top, means major business opportunities for the consumer market, but, maybe more importantly from our point of view, for the enterprise market,” Michele Gressani, country manager at Ericsson Romania, tells Business Review.
One example that could illustrate this view is Urbo.ro, a website that provides information on 100,000 firms as well as restaurants, shopping locations, beauty spots and leisure options in more than 10 Romanian cities.
“The growth in the market of smartphones in Romania, along with increased desire from users to have access to information in real time, has highlighted the need to develop an application,” Cristina Cojanu, sales and marketing manager of Adulmec SRL, which developed the application, tells BR.
Urbo.ro App is the first one in Romania that uses Augmented Reality technology. “Visitor Beta allows you to visualize every location around you with the help of the camera on your mobile phone. All you need to do is point the camera at the building you are interested in, and our application will tell you what type of venue it is, as well as details about it,” says Cojanu. Urbo.ro App has more than 3,000 active users.
Coming soon to smartphones is the mobile application ZeroLaMie, developed by Ursus Breweries for mobile phones, which can be used via SMS and the mobile web to help drivers calculate their blood alcohol level. “When we built this application, we wanted it to be an instrument to remind people that alcohol and driving are incompatible and to make it accessible to a larger public,” Diana Klusch, director of corporate affairs Ursus Breweries, tells BR. “In the first week since its launch, more than 200 people used the application via SMS while the version available on the mobile web had 24,000 uses, confirming the demand for such a tool. We are preparing to launch this application for smartphone users too.”
According to a ranking made for Business Review by the Androider website, the mobile applications that were downloaded the most were Romanian Weather, which provides a weather forecast, HotnewsRo, a reader of the Hotnews publication, the Cinemagia application for film schedules, a Romanian currency application, Feroviar, which offers a guide to train times in Romania, and AndROtaxi, a list of all taxi companies in the country.
“The Romanian consumer is a sophisticated mobile user, very curious, in touch with the latest international innovations and eager to try them him or herself. What this means is that, while the local market may have had a later start in the mobile applications race, it has great potential for fast growth over the next period,” predicts Gressani.
Revenues from mobile applications are forecast to reach approximately USD 25 million worldwide by 2014, encouraged by the appearance of dedicated platforms for the sale of mobile applications, which are mass-market oriented but also apply to high-performance handsets, according to a study carried out by Juniper Research.
By 2013, the number of smartphones and tablets is projected to reach 3 billion worldwide. The global trend of more mobile businesses can also be seen at a local level. Mobile devices are increasingly used for the administration of business with a degree of efficiency similar to that of PCs.
Meanwhile, the number of employees who will use smartphones and tablets is tipped to reach 1.2 billion over the next three years. As many as 90 percent of the managers of IT departments are considering the development of applications for mobile devices in the near future, while 50 percent of organizations are planning to implement such applications over the next 12 months, according to surveys carried out by Gartner and Forrester Research.
“Worldwide, the applications economy is just getting started. Last year saw a total of 11 billion downloads at an estimated value of USD 25-35 billion, according to Ericsson estimates. The same is true for Romania,” Gressani tells Business Review.
According to the Techtalk global study carried out by GFK in December 2010, 52 percent of smartphone owners use their telephone to find out the address of a store, 40 percent compare prices of products, while 35 percent look for discounts.
Among the most frequently used applications, Nielsen mentions Facebook, Google Maps and The Weather Channel. Users are interested in categories of applications such as games, news, maps, social networks and music.
Games are the mobile applications that enjoy the highest sales in Romania, according to Gabriel Ionita, senior manager of products & services development at Cosmote Romania. This is why the company started a partnership with Gameloft and even launched a micro-site dedicated to this supplier’s games. Other game suppliers Cosmote works with are EA Games, THX and Digital Chocolate.
Currently the most downloaded games include 2011 Real Football, Asphalt 4: Elite Racing, Ferrari GT 2: Revolution, EA SPORTS FIFA 11 and the Need for Speed series.
The cost of applications on the Romanian market is generally between EUR 0.79 and EUR 5. There are exceptions, such as certain navigation applications. “We expect revenues from the sale of games and applications to increase threefold by the end of 2012,” says Ionita.
At the end of last year, Orange created the Orange App Shop and also launched a section of applications within the Orange Portal.
As is the case with the other application stores, the most downloaded applications for Orange are those which are free of charge, mostly those related to lifestyle, sports and beauty.
The most downloaded paid-for applications by Orange Romania customers are those that sell for under EUR 2.99, excluding VAT. But there are also users who download applications for EUR 14.99, the maximum price in the company’s portfolio.
The operator also has on offer its own applications such as Orange Film for i-Phone and Android, TV Live from Orange and Your Account for iPhone, which offer smartphone users access to Orange services. On the short term, Orange intends to launch other applications and collaborate with local developers.
Launched at the level of the entire group, the program Orange Partner Connect will allow application developers, including those in Romania, easily to get their applications into Orange App Shop and sell them to clients in all the countries where France Telecom is present.
“Consumers are more and more educated and apart from free of charge applications, they are willing to pay for various applications such as navigation, business, entertainment or applications for children,” says Oana Comanescu, portal manager at Orange Romania.
Games: 2011 Real Football, Asphalt 4: Elite Racing, Ferrari GT 2: Revolution, EA SPORTS FIFA 11, the Need for Speed series.
Feroviar (train timetable)