Australia has 8.7 million smartphone users and the highest tablet penetration rate globally, yet Australian corporations have been slow to react to this trend. Mobile banking was prevalent in neighbouring New Zealand in 2007, yet Australian banks have only taken mobile banking seriously since 2011. What is installed for the future and why do businesses need to ensure they are ready?


Figure above: Australian businesses are falling behind our neighbouring countries in taking a ‘mobile first’ strategy.

Australia is currently ranked 6th in the world with the highest smartphone penetration in the first quarter of 2013, ahead of the UK and the United States. Google data shows that only 55% of websites by Australian businesses have been optimised for mobile. This is a poor figure when you take into account that Australia has one of the highest smartphone and tablet penetration rates in the world.

Smartphone and tablet adoption rates in Australia are high due to a number of factors:

  • Australia’s 3G and 4G networks are generally faster than other networks around the world
  • When the Apple iPhone launched in 2008, all major Telco companies in Australia at the time (Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, and 3) carried the phone – a phenomenon unique to Australia. In the US, AT&T is the exclusive carrier of the iPhone.
  • The launch of the iPhone in 2008 was impacted by the GFC which occurred towards the end of 2007. Europe and the US were most affected by the GFC, whilst Australia experienced better growth rates than other developed countries.
  • Australia has a large proportion of expats and immigrants who need to communicate with loved ones back home using social media tools such as Skype, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, WhatsApp, Viber and Tango. Such social media tools on a smartphone allow communication to occur regardless of the time difference or location. Research by Roy Morgan shows that Australians born overseas are 55% more likely to use Skype than the average Australian.
  • Australians download more apps than any other country – it is used to perform product searches, mobile banking and online shopping.

So why have Australian businesses been so slow to react?

Part of the problem is that trusted analysts have been poor at predicting mobile growth rates in Australia. In reality, mobile internet usage has grown exponentially year-on-year, making it difficult for organisations to keep up. Additionally, many organisations are unaware of how much website traffic is actually coming from mobile devices. Many organisations will be surprised to find that the amount of traffic coming to their websites have steadily increased since the last time they checked.

Is this likely to slow down anytime soon?

No, according to Kareem Tawansi, CEO of software development provider, Solentive Software, “Smartphones enable you to be productive whilst on the go.”

“Organisations need to ensure that they view their mobile strategy as equally important as their long-term business strategies. The rate at which Australians are adopting smartphones and tablets presents immeasurable opportunities that businesses can capitalise on, but they need to act now.”

“The longer it takes businesses to react to this mobile trend, the further behind we fall compared to our Asian neighbours such as South Korea,” advised Tawansi.

Furthermore, Gartner has predicted that mobile payment transactions will grow by 44% in 2013. The ability to pay using your mobile device has been possible in many countries for the past decade; however Australian businesses have yet to seriously invest in this area. This prediction should provide further impetus for organisations to take a ‘mobile first’ strategy.

“Mobile payments will become increasingly popular with the increased prevalence of Near Field Communication (NFC) applications and Apple’s new iBeacon technology which is available through iOS7,” predicted Tawansi.

Apple’s new iBeacon is a radio hotspot that supports a technology called Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Unlike the NFC that only works by tapping the chips together within one or two centimetres, retailers will be able to guide customers around a store up to a radius of 50 metres. It can even direct customers to a particular spot on a shelf and eventually, even make mobile payments.

The potential of iBeacon is only limited by a company’s imagination of possible applications. iPhones and iPads running iOS7 are already equipped with the technology. The impetus is now on organisations to develop applications for use in their shopping malls, schools or hospitals. Mobile technology is being developed and adopted in Australia at a rapid pace; it is now time for Australian businesses to catch-up to the demand of the Australian consumer.

“Australian organisations need to act now or risk losing market share to their global counterparts,” concluded Tawansi.

Additional Links

G. Barker, Why Apple iOS7 is a luminous iBeacon, October 2013 – (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Z. Fox, The 15 Countries With the Highest Smartphone Penetration, August 2013 – (Mashable)

T. Lyngsfeldt, OPINION: Why Australians love their smartphones, July 2013 – (AdNews)