After our recent post on the benefits of a mobile app for your event (inspired by the success of the Sturgis Falls apps we developed), it seems like a perfect opportunity to discuss the mobile world a bit more broadly. Lists of trends as well as “do’s” and “don’ts” abound. The one thing that seems certain is those who choose to ignore the rise of mobile technology are likely to be left behind.
Upcoming posts will delve into the nitty-gritty decisions you’ll need to make for your own business. But, before we get ahead of ourselves, we’ll let you in on what we see as today’s most relevant mobile trends.
1. Monster leaps in the number of smart phone owners, but the newest users are (initially) less engaged than early adopters. Falling smart phone prices have led to a surge in the percentage of consumers who own them. The Mobile Marketing Association says that this year, 85% of all handsets shipped globally will include a browser. Research firm Forrester points out an interesting trend along with this surge–the rise of the “dumb” user in 2011. Before you jump to the conclusion that we’re calling grandma and her new smartphone stupid, we should mention Forrester is referring to late-adopters who are upgrading from “dumb phones” but not immediately upgrading their usage behavior. Rather than finding this discouraging, we see it as an opportunity. (But you’ll have to wait for a future post to hear more about that.)
2. A lot of buzz about 4G technology, but little impact in the short-term. For heavy mobile users, it’s all about convenience with the understanding that less functionality is often the tradeoff. There’s a lot of talk right now about 4G from mobile providers but, in reality, it’s more of a long-term game-changer. Keep an eye out and know that once 4G is truly in play, mobile functionality can begin to rival that of the PC.
3. Android’s on top. If you pay attention at all to the world of technology, you know that Android is gaining ground, both in smartphones and tablets. In smartphone U.S. market share, Android took the lead this year and continues its upward hike. Figures from ComScore for the three-month period ending May 2011 indicate Android has grown to hold 38% of the smartphone market, with Gartner, Inc. predicting that Android will power 49% of the world’s smartphones in 2012. At the end of May, iPhone’s market share was up slightly to 26.6% with RIM/Blackberry dropping to 24.7%. Windows Phone 7 (WP7) is off to a slow start–5.8% of market share, down from February. There’s a lot of disagreement on where WP7 is headed, but some predict it may gain ground due to a new partnership with Nokia. Looking beyond smartphones, some analysts predict the sales of Android tablets will match the iPad by the end of 2011. We’ll see if that pans out but, regardless, Android is definitely a strong player here as well.
4. Tablets count, too. There’s a lot of focus on smartphones, for obvious reasons. But it’s important to pay attention to the rise of the iPad over the past year and the flood of new tablets hitting the market with the Android OS. Tablets are quickly taking the place of netbooks and laptops for many individuals and businesses. Along with this change in hardware comes the need for apps that accommodate these users–streamlined, focused apps versus monstrous software suites.
5. Increase in location-aware apps. Combining social media behavior with check-in stats can provide businesses an unprecedented depth of customer data. A business’s ability to serve up on-the-spot, personalized marketing messages is increasing thanks to location-aware technology. One interesting prediction we came across in a David Sims post on Mashable involves some consumers making a complete turnaround. Where once they were “creeped-out” by an online service knowing too much about them, they’re now likely to express disappointment when this same, all-knowing technology doesn’t serve up a personalized experience.
6. Growth of mobile commerce. Shoppers on the go can now use phone apps to scan a product barcode and search the web for the best price, enabling them to buy a product online for a more competitive price before they’ve even left the store. Convenient, mobile payment opportunities are also on the rise. (Check out the app we recently developed for Iowa-based, mobile payment startup, Dwolla.) While most consumers have yet to make major purchases via mobile technology, the way they shop and make decisions is changing.
Understanding where mobile is headed will help you prioritize and develop a smart and focused strategy. Stay tuned to future posts where we’ll help you weigh whether a mobile app is right for your own business, discuss platform options and, finally, let you in on some of the mobile apps the Far Reach crew can’t live without.
In the meantime, we’d love to hear how you’re already using mobile technology in your day-to-day work and personal lives.