Carriers and OEMs: Jump on the Discovery Jet and Be a Leader

By Richard Knight, Vice President of Business Development EMEA at Digital Turbine

Carriers and OEMs have spent decades investing in innovations that delight consumers and enhance the ways we use our phones, discover new things, make decisions and purchases. While they certainly have reaped the rewards in some areas, the advertising benefits of their innovations – where heaps of money are spent – go to other media giants. However, carriers and OEMs have an inside advantage in how they can help consumers do things like discover new apps and content. By jumping on the discovery jet, carriers and OEMs can and should lead the market in important ways, and recapture lost revenue that perhaps they never needed to lose in the first place.

What do I mean by that? Prior to the explosion of the app market, carriers and OEMs reaped a lot of benefits from value-added services. Remember when ringtones were all the rage? People who would snap up their favorite tunes to add to their phones and carriers would rake in substantial monthly revenue. But the emergence of apps and, specifically, dominance by apps like Google and Facebook changed the direction of that revenue flow.

Now, while we still rely on our carrier network and OEM device to sign on to Facebook or search Google, they are the ones who roll in all the advertising revenue from big brands. But now there is a way for carriers and OEMs to get it back – and it is a multi-billion dollar opportunity.

Friction-Free Discovery

There are many ways that carriers and device makers can help us discover new apps, content and products — tactics that happen to offer advertising opportunities at scale. Take Apple News, which in and of itself is a type of built-in discovery mechanism. Consumers discover news, sports, new apps and advertising within the News Service and Apple keeps the revenue.

Going further, the tight integration of the news service with the device itself means that Apple can push smarter notifications to users, and even integrate with Siri, enabling users to access a great deal of friction-free discovery by simply swiping right. And now, with iOS 14, Apple also is helping people discover apps already on their device with an organized app library complete with user suggestions when they swipe to the left.

Google is also contributing to the cause of frictionless discovery with the rollout of Google Play Instant, which allows Android users to preview an app within the Playstore or via widget prior to installation. Users are increasingly reluctant to install new apps, and those who do often are easily distracted (mobile abandonment rates can top 80%). At least with Google Play Instant, a user can play with an app and, if sufficiently delighted, will be more likely to convert it.

Even Amazon’s Alexa has jumped on the discovery jet through Alexa Hunches, which enables the personal assistant to anticipate a user’s request based on past behavior. If night after night I tell Alexa to shut off the kitchen speaker followed by the light when I’m done cooking, Alexa will soon know to kill the lights as soon as I tell her to turn off NPR. While this example may not apply exactly to advertising, it does reveal the extent to which OEMs can influence the experience of using a device, even predicting what a user will do next.

This ability to control how users interact with their devices is enormous advantage carriers and OEMs have over the giant social media companies and category-killing apps. And it’s that control itself — the push notifications, preloaded apps, native natural-language programming — that move the discovery needle. If AT&T Wireless preloads the Instacart app on my Samsung, and I go on to discover and activate it at a later time, it’s AT&T, not Facebook or Twitter, who earns the commission from the activation.

In this scenario, I get access to Instacart without the bother and friction of going to the app store, finding a suitable grocery app and installing it on my device. Instacart is happy because it added a new customer than it might have otherwise not found. That’s a win-win for everybody.

Reach & Frequency that Rival Mobile Giants

Another way for carriers and OEMs to maximize their revenue opportunities is by realizing and embracing the power they actually have. Yes, national and multinational advertisers want to reach millions of users at scale, and who better to do that than the companies that control what users see on their mobiles?

Nearly every sentient adult from a developed country carries a mobile device with him or her at all times, putting the breadth and scale of carrier media into Google and Facebook’s league. Whenever I pick up my phone I interact with AT&T Wireless, and that means the carriers have more opportunities for interactions and potential monetization events than the giants.

It’s also worth noting that, unlike the household name social media companies, 100% of carrier media impressions appear in completely brand-safe environments, as carriers, ever eager to protect the user experience of their monthly customers, are intolerant of any content that doesn’t meet their exacting standards.

All this to say that there is, quite literally, a multi-billion dollar opportunity for carriers and OEMs to help users discover new content and apps, whether that’s through innovative device features, preloads, or media services. The money is there for the taking, especially as no one entity or technology “owns” discovery. Any company that makes it easier for a user to access what they desire via a single click or tap can look forward to some serious windfalls.


With over 15 years of experience in the Tech industry launching the latest in technologies, applications and services, Richard is an expert at driving revenue generations and efficiencies for carrier clients spanning the EMEA region. Whilst leading the European Product Management & Technology function at Samsung, he has successfully led the launch of every Galaxy device ever made with partners such as Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica and 3 (CKH). With each new device Richard has led the rollout of key new network technologies (3g/4g/5g & IMS services), the standardisation of messaging services on RCS, the evolution of eSIM as well as the dawn of AI and IOT services. All whilst driving carrier ARPU and OEM cost efficiencies. Richard now advises his carrier and OEM clients on how to take back revenues in the App Media and Content space.

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