Vodafone Romania has launched three automotive-related apps that are available for download by subscribers and will soon be pre-installed on smartphones sold by the operator. Star Taxi is a virtual dispatcher that lets users in Bucharest order taxi service from their phones without placing a call; Auto.ro enables users to find automotive repair services via a map interface; and SMS Parking Romania gives information about parking locations that accept payment via SMS. Meanwhile, Deutsche Telekom recently introduced an app called Entertain Remote Control, which permits subscribers who also subscribe to the provider’s Entertain media service to use their iPhones to control their media receivers.
We’ve been advising mobile operators to increase their value to consumers by offering their own apps, and these are two companies that have done just that. They deserve congratulations. While the apps in question are hardly unique in what they do – nor are they indispensable – they are still important examples of what a forward-looking provider can do to protect its installed base and acquire new subscribers. Who wouldn’t want to download a free app that provides some utility as well as the comfortable feeling of being taken care of by the service provider? And for potential new subscribers, such apps are likely to be a sweetener. Both Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone Romania have reported downloads numbering in the tens of thousands, indicating that the apps, most of which are available for iOS and Android, are proving quite popular.
Clearly, with these initiatives these operators are doing something constructive to target and benefit their core market. This is the kind of innovative, service-intensive approach that all operators should take. They should develop and bundle similar “local market” apps, and make sure the apps come pre-installed on all smartphones, as well as make them available at both the Android Play Store and the Apple App Store. We believe these initiatives do not necessarily have to be home grown, and that operators can benefit by partnering with outside development teams to have attractive apps created. Whether done in-house or outsourced, creating innovative and truly useful apps remains a relatively easy, yet excellent way for mobile operators to stay relevant and attractive to customers in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace.