11 key elements for the future of mobile

December 13th, 2010 by Chris Hogg Leave a reply »

Photo by Ed Yourdon

Polar Mobile, a company that makes mobile applications for more than 150 customers including Time, BusinessWeek, and Sports Illustrated, to name a few, will release a paper today that will identify the top trends in mobile for 2011.

I obtained a copy of the report ahead of its release.

Among the 11 major trends to watch out for in 2011: Security threats, major fragmentation across various platforms and devices, and massive growth for the tablet market. According to the report, social media will play an increasingly important role in mobile and marketers and businesses will need to start focusing on engagement rather than number of downloads.

“Mobile will start to become part of every business’ marketing and distribution strategy in 2011,” Kunal Gupta, CEO of Polar Mobile, said in an email statement. “That’s where we all spend our time and brands, marketers and publishers will want to capture that opportunity.”

Going into 2011, Polar Mobile says the following areas are key to the growth of mobile over the next year:

Mobile strategies will extend beyond iPhone and iPad. Polar Mobile says simply having an iPhone app is not a true mobile strategy.

Research firm Gartner forecasts mobile App downloads will top four billion this year and grow to 21 billion by 2013.

Furthermore, more than 1 billion smartphones are expected to ship by 2013, with players other than just Apple (Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Symbian, Samsung and more)

For developers working with Android, fragmentation will become a challenge because Google has released seven versions of its Android OS (1.1, 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 2.01, 2.1, 2.2) in less than two years.

Polar Mobile says older Android devices will suffer from performance lags.

Furthermore, OEMs such as HTC, Samsung, LG and Motorola each customize their version of Android to distinguish their phones on the market. This will compound the Android fragmentation problems.

Tablets are going to be a major part of the growth of the mobile industry. Polar Mobile believes tablets will become as commonplace as computers, appearing in every home.

Going into 2011, Samsung, RIM, HTC, LG, Acer, Cisco, Dell, Motorola, OpenPeak, Viewsonic, Apple and others will all have their own tablets.

Customers will be drawn to new distribution channels and have more options when purchasing tablets, from OEMs, carriers and retailers.

Apple is expected to sell more than 10 million iPads and Samsung is expected to hit 1 million units sold this year. Gartner believes more than 55 million tablets will be sold in 2011.

Right now advertisers, marketers and businesses typically focus on number of downloads rather than number of active users. In 2011, that will change.

Polar Mobile says most businesses have no clue what happens inside their apps, which is why most only report on the number of downloads. In 2011, improved analytics and tracking capabilities will allow companies to build products that promote user engagement, and enable them to tweak based on real-world feedback.

Companies will shift priorities to focus more on continued usage than number of downloads.

Like the Web, social will play a huge part in the future of mobile.

Polar Mobile notes that 35 percent of Twitter’s active members use the service on their mobile device.

[url=http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics t=_blank]According to Facebook[/url], there are more than 200 million active users who access the site via their mobile device and those users are twice as active as non-mobile users.

Polar Mobile says mobile consumption habits are different than online user experiences and social will play a role in making mobile unique.

With the rise of usage on mobile platforms, the world will see more mobile-exclusive brands and content emerge.

Polar Mobile says new, mobile-only brands will be launched by traditional publishers and niche and focused content will be used to create “greater user stickiness.”

Companies that expand on mobile will also be able to leverage new distribution channels to acquire new users.

Paywalls are going to suffer on mobile. Outside of iTunes, Polar Mobile says it’s very difficult to buy physical or virtual goods on your phone, and limited infrastructure will be the stumbling block for paid content.

Polar Mobile says the industry needs major infrastructure updates and billing improvements before paid content and micro-transaction businesses will see mass adoption.

Applications and mobile websites will be more intertwined, offering a better user experience. Polar Mobile says apps will leverage the mobile Web to scale utility and add custom features across multiple devices.

As the app and mobile web markets mature, average users eventually won’t be able to tell the difference between a mobile website and an app.

Apps will begin using near-field-communication (NFC) technology to enable them to become mobile commerce tools. For example, retailers will be able to use NFC to increase in-store purchases by pushing notifications to shoppers about deals or specials.

Polar Mobile says Android Gingerbread, the recent release of the OS, also supports an API for NFC, giving developers the tools they need to build functionality into apps.

In addition to NFC, RFID chips implanted in smartphones will turn them into payment tools.

Companies and individuals will need to pay more attention to App security and threats, as mobile adoption grows into 2011.

Polar Mobile says smartphones often store far more personal information than desktops that is easily accessible by mobile apps, and App distribution channels do not currently mandate security testing.

The company warns that nefarious developers could use techniques such as spoofing, tampering, repudiation, information disclosure, denial of service, and elevation of privilege to get personal information.

Finally, Polar Mobile says fragmentation across operating systems and devices will grow exponentially. Going into 2011, there will be a huge number of mobile platforms, including Apple iOS, Google Android, RIM BlackBerry, Windows Phone, HP Palm, Samsung Bada, Nokia Symbian and Intel MeeGo.

The device market will also expand, including smartphones, feature phones, tablets, smart TVs, automobiles, netbooks and browsers.

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