What happened in 2011 in the world of mobile and what it means for 2012
2011 was truly an exciting year for mobile. The industry reached so many milestones last year that would send huge ripples in other industries in the years to come. Let’s look back at them shall we?
There were more smartphones shipped in 2011 than PCs
The latest figures from Canalys Research show that smartphones out-shipped desktop computers last year with a growth of over 62% year over year. That’s not counting tablets (which Canalys categorized under the PC fold) which was 15% of the total PCs shipped.
While the numbers are for shipments and not for sales, it would be safe to assume that smartphone sales are closing-in quickly with PCs. It won’t be long before it surpasses PCs on sales as well. This wouldn’t be surprising given the fairly affordable costs, portability and the growing power of smartphones compared to PCs.
What it means for 2012
Mobile will be one-step closer in becoming the world’s primary online content consumption medium. This puts even larger stress on the importance for businesses to gear their online presence with mobile in mind. We’ll start seeing a shift in thinking; mobile phones will no longer be the “third screen”, it will be the first. Early adopters will start looking into mobile-first strategies and they will blaze the trails on rich mobile content that utilizes the best of this year’s web and mobile technologies.
2011 proved the power of mobile commerce
2011 saw mobile shopping grow as much as 30% during the holidays in the US. People are not only using their mobile phones to make purchases, they are also using it to find further information or compare product prices while they are inside physical stores. In fact, a study found that 52% of shoppers used their mobile devices inside stores last holiday season in the US for various reasons, from calling friends for advice, to comparing online prices.
Amazon caused quite a stir last December with its Price Check app which allowed customers to scan barcodes using their mobile device and find the best prices from Amazon’s store. What it did was essentially turn brick and mortar shops into Amazon’s showroom, where users can test and hold items and make purchases via their mobile.
What it means for 2012
Retailers were upset with Amazon’s app, calling it unfair that the online retail giant didn’t have to pay state taxes and could therefore offer much lower prices than actual physical stores. But this is the future folks! Mobile is here to stay and there are huge opportunities here for brick and mortar shops.
The era of setting up shop and waiting for customers to walk in is ending. That much was apparent in 2011. This year, we’ll start seeing more shops engaging their customers through the power of mobile. Shops will not only be a showroom, it will be an avenue to provide a rich shopping experience for customers. Social media will play an important role, with people sharing and receiving shop experiences via social networks through mobile. Retail stores can provide something online shops cannot offer: an experience. Mobile will play a huge role in that.
2011 laid the foundations for mobile payments
2011 saw a number of high-profile mobile payments solutions rolled-out, from Google’s tap-to-pay solution Google Wallet, to the mobile credit card processing firm Square. Banks are starting to take notice with the likes of Visa and MasterCard either partnering to other tech firms or offering their own mobile payments solution. Mobile phone manufacturers also started releasing NFC-equipped mobile devices. Telcos are starting their own alliances such as Verizon’s and T-Mobile’s Isis solution.
All of these efforts are starting to pay-off. By the end of 2011, PayPal reported processing almost US$4 billion in mobile payments. Starbucks processed 26 million mobile transactions since launching its app a year before.
What it means for 2012
2012 will be the year when these platforms will start taking off to the mainstream. Payments providers and technology firms will be pushing to polish their payments solutions, ironing out kinks that would eventually make the experience as seamless as possible.
Again, the important factor here is the experience. Convenience will be a major selling factor in getting the average consumer to embrace mobile payments. Part of the large adoption for Starbucks was how their solution made it more convenient for their customers. Their payments solution shortened lines and made payments as easy as possible.
Earning trust will be a hurdle in widespread adoption as well. Traditional financial institutions will have the edge in this regard. However, they will not necessarily have the resources to roll-out high-tech solutions on their own. Thus, we will be seeing more partnerships between banks, technology firms and telecoms in rolling out mobile wallet solutions.
This year, mobile payments is expected to grow leaps and bounds. PayPal’s parent company eBay expects its mobile payment revenues to nearly double to US$7 billion for 2012. The global increase in uptake of smartphones will create a huge opportunity in mobile payments.
Android and iOS increase their lead, but have a long way to go
The Android and iOS battle has been gaining a lot of media attention, from their endless patent litigations to the huge market share they are enjoying. At the end of 2011, Android had overtaken iOS to the top of the charts at the expense of Blackberry and Symbian. App developers have been bouncing between the two operating systems.
But the bigger picture is this, there are still way more feature phones than smartphones in the market today. The platform war is a long way from being over.
What it means for 2012
The media coins the mobile race as a two-horse battle between Apple and Google. In truth, it isn’t. There is still a huge market for smartphones waiting to be tapped. Android may be the first choice for first-time smartphone buyers by the end of 2011, but the volatile mobile platform race can make consumers swing from one way to the other.
The truth is, today’s consumers are more informed. They like choices, and they like to have the best they can afford. This year will see Microsoft’s partnership with Nokia start to pay-off (in products at least), Apple’s next iPhone will be out, RIM’s restructuring may bring better Blackberry devices and Google will respond with further improvements to Android. All of these can shift market share to any of these players, and there is still a huge global market to exploit.
This industry-wide “fragmentation” of platforms will put more importance for developers to start to consider creating apps for multiple platforms. Cross-platform development tools such as ours will flourish and HTML 5 web apps will continue to increase.