Smartphone usage continues to be on a steep upward trajectory in Western Europe and across North America, but nothing holds a backlight to new figures coming out of the Asia-Pacific region, where nearly 2.5 billion of the world’s 4.3 billion mobile phone users reside.
According to eMarketer’s Global Media Intelligence Report, Asia-Pacific will boast 738.2 million total smartphone users by the end of this year. That’s more than four times as many smartphone users as the next largest region, which is Western Europe, and it’s a huge leap from Asia-Pacific’s 86.2 million smartphone users in 2009.
Currently, Asia is also the world leader in the mobile learning market, accounting for nearly half of the mobile learning revenues in the world – and revenues are expected to reach a staggering US$6.8 billion by 2017.
So it’s only fitting that companies like San Francisco-based Fingerprint Digital, a kid-focused digital learning and entertainment company backed by Corus Entertainment and K2MediaLabs, are making strategic moves in the region.
The company has teamed with Malaysia’s Astro Digital 5 to create a customized mobile learning app network that will be accessible to 3.6 million Astro customers in the country when it launches later this year. The network, powered by the Fingerprint platform, will bring Astro-branded games, apps, eBooks directly to kids living in the fastest-growing mobile learning market in Asia.
“There’s an explosion in tablet computing taking place all over the world, and particularly in this region,” says Fingerprint CEO Nancy MacIntyre. “Throughout Southeast Asia, the focus on education is very significant, and with a growing kids entertainment market comes more spending on toys and games. And as the focus on mobile education increases, it’s like a perfect storm driving the learning market there.”
The service, available on iOS and Android, will be a featured bundle as part of Astro Digital 5, which provides mobile content, IPTV and interactive television services. Mobile content on the platform will be localized in Mandarin, Malay, Tamil and English. Astro will manage all distribution and customer-facing services, while Fingerprint will develop and manage the back-end technology and partnerships with third party content providers and game developers from around the world. Apps that have already proven to be successful on Fingerprint’s US network, such as Kids Learn Mandarin and Big Kid Life Firefighter, will be accessible along with adaptations of Astro’s TV properties like Happy Dragon and Oh My English!
“It’s a little like Netflix, because content will be offered on a subscription basis. It’s all curated and has to have educational value,” she says.
Fingerprint Play is already known in the US to more than 1.5 million families, and MacIntyre says adoption rates have tripled since the beginning of this year. Fingerprint launched its latest iteration of mobile gaming features stateside earlier this year. Of course, her focus straddles both domestic and global ambitions.
“Malaysia is like a stepping stone as we plan to extend our network across Southeast Asia and do these type of geographical partnerships,” says MacIntyre. “New research shows that Malaysia in particular is expected to have the highest growth level in mobile education. And nearby markets, including Singapore, Philippines and Indonesia, are being impacted by rapid spending in education and tablets. It’s all driving business.”