The following is a guest contributed post from Marco Veremis, CEO of Upstream.
In December, Google upgraded its Chrome for Android data saver mode, which removes images when loading over a slow connection and helps users save up to 70 percent of mobile data when browsing the web. The connection also runs much faster and smoother than it has in the past, when it only saved users 50 percent of mobile data.
This feature will initially be available in India and Indonesia before it rolls out to other countries as part of Google’s effort to conserve data for mobile users in emerging markets. Areas that face persistent mobile connectivity issues, like India and other growth regions such as Brazil and Africa, stand to benefit from the upgraded data saver mode should it be expanded into additional markets.
The Impact of the Upgrade
Emerging markets have become more and more essential to the tech industry because they contain large, untapped audiences with a keen interest in relevant, localized mobile content. Many big name companies like Facebook, Netflix and Apple have begun making offerings in the emerging markets. In 2015, Facebook’s Internet.org or Free Basics by Facebook tool provided limited Internet access minus cost but fell under criticism when users realized the service did not offer anything beyond Facebook’s scope. Facebook fell short in assuming that cost was the only block between emerging markets and Internet access. As a general trend, consumers in emerging markets don’t mind paying for access as long as they are given payment options and pricing models suited to their needs. For example, payment models like tiered pricing have proven very effective in emerging markets. Following its launch, Apple Music adjusted its prices in global growth regions like India, Thailand and Hong Kong, so consumers paid as little as two dollars per month for the music streaming service. Apple’s acknowledgment of price differentiation and its adjustment helped the company find success with consumers in these global growth areas.
Google correctly identified Internet connectivity as a fundamental issue for emerging market consumers, which is why the Chrome for Android upgrade surpassed the offerings of companies like Facebook. By eliminating the process of image loading, the upgrade will improve Internet connection and maintain the overall integrity and quality of mobile content. Google’s understanding of access limitations in emerging markets enabled the company to develop a superior connectivity solution for emerging markets.
Where the Upgrade Can Improve
Mobile and HTML5 handset users in India and Indonesia who have struggled with mobile Internet connection will benefit from Google’s upgrade. Yet according to the GSMA, just 12 percent of India’s mobile users use mobile broadband devices. The number of consumers within the greater Indian and Indonesian population who stand to benefit or be affected by Google’s upgrade account for a small fraction of the country’s overall mobile users.
Although Google worked to provide a solution to the mobile Internet connectivity issues faced by emerging markets, it would have benefited from taking a more localized approach. Google would see a broader impact from its efforts if it had provided individualized solutions for each subset of mobile devices, and not just smartphones. If Google considered specific market needs and different technologies in its examination of Internet connectivity, and implemented a more device diagnostic approach, the company would be better equipped to address the regional connectivity issues faced by consumers in emerging markets.
It’s crucial for Google, and other companies with their sights set on connectivity solutions in high growth markets like India, Indonesia and Brazil, to make more of an effort to localize solutions for each region. Developing or modifying services for emerging market consumers based on handset and connectivity needs would allow tech brands to provide authentic value for current users and engage nearly 3 billion potential consumers.