What will the next year hold for mobile tech?
As developers march toward a 5G moment — analysts suggest the next-level network milestone will arrive as soon as 2018–2020 — the size, shape, and functionality of our now ever-present portable devices are evolving in numerous and different directions.
Here’s some of what we know: the number of mobile devices has now “surpassed the global human population,” according to Steve French, global vice president at Amdocs’OpenMarket, “with nearly 90% of consumers owning a mobile phone and 30% a tablet.”
Proliferation isn’t the only factor in play, however, when it comes to mobile in 2015 (and beyond). Demographics are influencing the space as well.
“Millennials are changing the mobile landscape,” French said. “The group is projected to have a purchasing power of $2.45 trillion by 2015 and prefers mobile as their number-one way to be reached and interact.”
Only time will tell what comes next, for certain, but we can still venture some plausible yea-end predictions about what happens over the next 12 months. For additional insight, we’ll turn to some of the experts in the mobile and technology field.
Here are our 15 trends that will shape mobile in 2015.
1. THE BATTLE FOR THE WEARABLES MARKET IS ABOUT TO BEGIN.
Make no mistake, mobile tech is about to enter a brand new phase when it comes to wearables. Google Glass may have found more of a home in the business than the consumer sector — but nothing is set in stone, yet. And with the Apple Watch ready for tech-store shelves, prepare to see a push to win territory from all players. “I’m eager to see Apple Watch, how it works, how it looks,” said Andrew Whiting, vice president of marketing at Solstice Mobile (he said his company was an early adopter of Google Glass as well). “I believe that having that push from Apple is going to make all the difference.” In other words, Android Wear developers, start your engines.
2. BRANDS WILL PUSH TO ENGAGE MANY TIMES VIA MOBILE (RATHER THAN SELL JUST ONCE).
What if your relationship with many of the brands you already use became more like a subscription for services? What if your bank, for example, interacted with you more like a Fitbit experience — your device telling you how much free cash you have at the start of each day, or helping you identify an opportunity to spend your credit card’s loyalty points in the moment at a store, airport, or event? That’s one idea on which Heather Cox, chief client experience officer at Citi, is training her eye for the next 12 months (and more). “The days of companies selling products to consumers is coming to an end,” Cox said. “The whole element of moving the position from sell to buy is something we’re going to be working on over the course of 2015 and beyond: how to engage customers with products and services very differently … the notion of the marketing funnel marketing fundamentally changes. It becomes much more about a lifecycle, that circular notion of over time — how do we catch people, using data, and actually help them in the moment?”
3. MOBILE PAYMENTS WILL GROW AS A LOCAL PHENOMENON.
Only a few weeks after its launch, Apple Pay supports cards that represent 90 % of the credit card purchase volume in the U.S. and can be used at 220,000 outlets – from national retail chains to your neighborhood store. With Starbucks’ mobile payments success as validation,” said Pascal Caillon, general manager of Proxama’s North American operations, “consumers will soon be more inclined to use their phone to purchase low-value, daily items as a starting point. Merchants in these sectors will set the industry standard and will be the ones to watch.”
4. THE MOBILE-PAYMENT RACE WILL ENTER ITS GLOBAL STRETCH.
“Move over mobile payments — it’s all about global mobile payments now,” said Nataly Kelly, vice president of marketing for Smartling. “With a surge in global tourism fueled by the emerging middle-class in markets such as Asia, combined with the fact that more apps than ever are being localized into 10 or more languages, now app developers and mobile marketers will be challenged to support international currencies for people who might be traveling abroad.” Or, for that matter, to support travelers and residents who are downloading the app in another country. Point is, mobile payments will move toward an international level of functionality.
5. COMPETITION FOR THE CONNECTED HOME WILL INTENSIFY.
With Apple’s HomeKit already out there, and the Thread Group’s wireless networking protocol poised to capture a similar audience, the charge is on for a slice of the smart-home sector. “In the coming year, expect these two camps to furiously court developers into their ecosystems,” said Coby Sella, chief executive officer at Sansa Security. “Early rumblings suggest that Apple’s HomeKit will be a closed ecosystem, akin to the company’s App Store, while Thread Group will be more open, much like Google Play. No matter which protocol becomes the de facto standard, telcos and service providers such as Comcast and ATT, and alarm-systems companies such as ADT, will have to make sure everything they deploy works with both.”
6. VEHICLES WILL EDGE TOWARD NEXT-GEN MOBILE INTEGRATION.
Disruptive trends in 2015 will not be limited to portable and body-worn devices. They’ll also continue to find their way into our vehicles. “Today’s traffic-aware GPS will evolve to providing in-vehicle Wi Fi and enhanced location-aware, pushed information services downloaded to the vehicle,” said Stu Lipoff, IEEE Fellow and engineering consultant. “Heads-up display should roll out on some premium vehicles to display status, guidance, and augmented virtual overlays on the windshield.”
7. THE INTERNET OF THINGS WILL EXPAND ITS FOOTPRINT (BUT HOLD ON A MINUTE).
Keeping in mind the probability that wearables will make some kind of significant mark in 2015, the advent of these Internet of Things accessories may well amount to part of what is more a reset than a revolution, in the coming year. “The technology is there, but consumer awareness is not,” said Matthew Davis, vice president of product marketing at StepLeader. “Companies and marketers haven’t convinced the U.S. public that wearables, smart homes, and connected cars are must haves. They are still nice to haves.”
8. PREPARE FOR A DATA-REQUEST PUSHBACK.
Developers will increasingly feel pressure to cut back on building mobile apps with data collection that’s unnecessary for core functionality. “Examples such as a flashlight app that taps a user’s geolocation and accesses user’s cameras and their calendars are raising some red flags,” said Domingo Guerra, president and co-founder of Appthority. “The argument by developers, that they need to monetize, will increasingly hold less water as enterprises and users recognize the true cost of ‘free’ apps and require more transparency and stronger reasoning from developers … Developers that recognize this trend will be able to differentiate their app in a sea of competition by offering better security and privacy than their competitors.”
9. 2015 WILL BE THE YEAR WHEN MOBILE BECOMES A TARGET.
Attendant to the rise of our increasingly mobile-savvy ranks and widespread mobile penetration, someone somewhere is going to attempt a bad thing. “At least one corporate data breach will be traced back to a compromised mobile device which was used to access corporate networks after the compromised device is brought into the enterprise and connects to a trusted enterprise wireless network,” said Dwayne Melancon, chief technology officer at Tripwire. “iOS will continue to see a gradual increase of malware that’s targeting both jail-broken and non jail-broken devices.” Companies and security systems and consumers themselves will need to be vigilant and enable two-factor authentication and other security measures to protect their data.
10. THE SCREEN-AGNOSTIC EXPERIENCE WILL GROW, ALONG WITH BROADER PLATFORM INTEGRATION.
“Seamless context transfer across devices will be the new big app feature,” said Sravish Sridhar, founder and CEO of Kinvey. “Apps are increasingly becoming experiences that live across multiple endpoints — from wearables to phones, tablets, and web applications.” As this trend proceeds in 2015, offerings that can seamlessly transfer between these states as you move from one device to the next will have a huge advantage.
11. BRANDS AND RETAILERS WILL PAY ADDITIONAL ATTENTION TO M-COMMERCE OPPORTUNITIES.
Retailers’ native apps will further leverage the barcodes that shoppers often scan with their mobile devices. That can mean stores and brands that are better equipped to keep customers engaged, drive sales, and increase customer loyalty and retention. “Retailers now recognize the power of barcode scanning in the context of high performance and reliable native mobile applications,” said Samuel Mueller, chief executive officer at Scandit. “We expect the trend of mobile-enabled commerce to continue throughout the 2014 holiday shopping season and into 2015 and beyond.”
12. TRAVELERS WILL INCREASINGLY SWITCH TO BRANDS’ APPS FOR BOOKINGS.
“Companies such as TripAdvisor, Hipmunk, Skyscanner, trivago and Dohop are going to make it increasingly easier next year to book flights and hotels right within their apps instead of sending consumers off to airline, hotel, or online travel-agency websites to complete their bookings,” said Dennis Schaal, news editor at Skift (full disclosure, James O’Brien provides independent analysis to the company). “Another thing is that Expedia, Hipmunk, and others are increasingly making it easier to start your trip research on a smartphone, continue it on a laptop, and then pick it right up again on a tablet or smartphone — right where you left off.”
13. HEALTH AND NUTRITION MONITORING WILL EXPAND.
“In 2015, health and nutrition monitoring will achieve previously unthinkable breadth and depth,” said Rameet Chawla, founder of Fueled. That means that your mobile and wearable devices will generate real-time data regarding your individual body — tracking blood glucose levels following meals, sleep quality as indicated by REM cycles, carbon dioxide levels in your muscles, and the like. Not to mention smart armbands for workout-related notifications, and smart shirts that can notify you about stress levels or an elevated heart rate.
14. BYOD POLICIES WILL SHIFT WITHIN COMPANIES.
“In the face of distributed workforces and project-based working groups that include third-party contractors, apps need to be shared across borders without the limitation of BYOD policies to secure devices,” said Art Landro, chief executive officer at Sencha. “Instead of practicing intrusive control over internal and external devices, enterprises will be turning to web-based tools that efficiently silo private and corporate data on the same device,” he said. That means allowing IT departments to secure corporate information without mucking about with this one smartphone or that one employee’s tablet. Prepare for more across-the-board solutions.
15. BUSINESS WILL DIVE DEEPER INTO INTERNAL MOBILE-FIRST DEPLOYMENT (AND DESKTOPS WILL FOLLOW THE FORMAT).
“For years the value proposition has been utterly obvious,” said Matt Calkins, chairman and CEO at Appian, “and yet business have held back from mobile-first behaviors.” In the coming months, companies that aren’t already mobile-centric will start to cross the divide to increasingly screen-agnostic mobile platforms — allowing employees to keep working, no matter what devices they’re using. Furthermore, Calkins predicts, desktop iterations of software will start to emulate those of the relative mobile interface. “The result of the battle between mobile and desktop apps will be as follows,” he said. “Mobile wins, the device wins, the format wins on the desktop environment.”
LOOKING FOR A BOTTOM LINE?
Consider the following takeaway, as given by Tolga Onuk, CEO of Thunderbolt Studios: “2015 is, more than anything else, the year the smartphones and mobile tablets will be used more than all other devices in the market,” Onuk said.
And the way we will use them? It will lead us to expect more, to get what we expect from our mobile devices sooner, and to have access to options wherever we happen to be located at the given time.
“Large on-demand applications such as Uber, Lyft, Amazon Fresh, InstaCart, Curbstand, and Postmates are also going to grow,” said Onuk. “And they will help determine and inspire new on-demand platforms that will be built in 2015.”