Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress is an industry phenomenon—a global marketplace that draws nearly 90,000 people from far-flung places around the globe for just a few days of intense focus on the mobile industry.
It’s a great place to geek out, showcasing innovation in every aspect of the mobile world. That includes mobile apps, which are an especially hot topic for keynote and other presenters on various stages at the event. A key theme is how development of new apps for mobile devices is creating new economies by leveraging creative business models to connect more and more people.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took the stage on Monday to share his vision to get even more people online. He noted claims that more than 90% of the world’s population already lives within range of some type of Internet signal, but only a third of people use it because the Internet doesn’t provided enough value for their day-to-day lives.
Facebook is working to expand the number of mobile service carriers to offer levels of free Internet service through his Internet.org initiative, which features a Facebook app with extra features like local news and weather. The initiative suggests carriers offer some services for free to give customers a taste of the Internet’s benefit, which might make them more inclined to pay for mobile data. A mobile operator from Tanzania said on stage that the company saw a 10% increase in smartphone sales after Internet.org was launched there.
Of course, not everyone is thrilled to see their own business disrupted when new apps open the doors of change, and not all carrier representatives on stage were as enthusiastic.
Perhaps if the Internet.org initiative was coupled with one or more of the innovative mobile payment solutions also being discussed at Mobile World Congress (here’s how TechCrunch described Android Pay, which Google announced at MWC earlier this week), m-commerce could be one more compelling service encouraging people to adopt mobile connectivity in hard-to-reach places.
On Wednesday, business journalist David Kirkpatrick interviewed Niklas Adalberth, co-founder and deputy CEO of Klarna in a keynote session called Digital Transactions and Social Interactions. The Swedish company has created new ways to ease making purchases on mobile devices. Adalberth noted that more than 50% of Internet traffic is now generated from mobile devices, but the purchase conversion rate is only about 10% compared to those who use laptops. The deals are being killed, he said, by poor user experience—the sheer frustration of trying to input long credit card numbers and payment forms on a mobile device.
Klarna’s service is designed to simplify the process by separating the buying versus the paying. Rather than a “wallet” system or app that requires buyers to register in advance, Klarna assesses the individual’s financial risk level in real time. Its “army” of business analysts developed algorithms to evaluate first-time Klarna users using just a few simple data points: email address, zip code, date of birth, and phone number. Returning Klarna users can be automatically recognized by fingerprint recognition so they can complete their purchase in just one click. Klarna pays the retailer immediately and the buyer has 14 days to pay Klarna. The company has been privately held for a decade and claims 200,000 transactions per day with 25 million users and 45,000 retailers. According to Adalberth, it is working on entering the U.S. market this year.
Mobile World Congress is a hotbed of new concepts, ideas, and services intended to solve the problem of connecting people to other people. One effect of that effort will be to increase the reach of mobile and Web apps ever deeper into the far corners of the world—creating even more opportunity for app makers.