Mobile Predictions for 2013

As year-end approaches, the web is awash in predictions for the upcoming year. Not to be left out, here are the 10 biggest mobile stories I see in 2013. If you don’t have time to read it all, the summary is that a lot is going to happen, and the mobile landscape at the end of 2013 will be a lot different than it is now.

  1. BlackBerry releases BB10, will anyone care?
    Unfortunately, RIM has missed the boat. In a smartphone market that it defined, if not created, the only ones who truly care about BlackBerry these days are its die hard fans. Everyone one else has left the building (a good writeup by Mark Suster details the exodus).  In fact, it’s getting so bad that even the NASDAQ has dropped RIM from its NASDAQ-100, not a positive sign of things to come.

    My prediction: RIM will spend a lot of time, effort and money trying to make BB10 relevant only to be forced to either sell the company or figure out how to migrate key BlackBerry features to Android.

  2. Microsoft attempts to buy their way to marketshare
    In a last ditch effort to become the third ecosystem, Microsoft will spend an inordinate amount of money trying to buy market share and even release its own branded mobile device. The question is, can the market support a third mobile ecosystem? I used to think so, but this article by Kevin Tofel has me questioning otherwise.

    My prediction: Despite spending a sum of money equivalent to the GDP of a sizable industrialized country, Microsoft will remain at less than 5% market share and enter crisis mode as their core product revenues begin to erode under competitive pressures from Google and Apple.

  3. Can Apple keep up with Android?
    Apple keeps producing the hits with the iPhone 5 and iPad mini, but how long will it last? Apple is one missed product cycle away from falling behind in the mobile market.

    My prediction: Apple’s desire to control the entire ecosystem will cause Apple’s market share to stagnate, effectively repeating what happened during the original Mac era. In fact, Android’s lead will grow as it is morphed and integrated into everything from appliances to automobiles throughout 2013.

  4. Can Nokia keep it together?
    Nokia’s market share in smartphones has evaporated during 2012 as they hitched their fortunes to Windows Phone. The slide has been so catastrophic that it has completely eroded the value of one of the most well know brands in the mobile world.

    My prediction: Look for Nokia to be taken over by one of the major OEMs, or sold off in pieces. There just isn’t enough time left for Nokia to pull out of its nosedive before it completely craters.

  5. The rise of Huawei
    Some may be asking who, but there is a giant lurking in China named Huawei who is positioning itself to be a major player in the smartphone market.

    My prediction: Huawei leverages its success at the lower end of the market in developing countries and begins an assault on markets in the US and Europe with both their entry level smartphone and surprisingly affordable high-end models that not only rival but threaten Samsung and Apple’s dominance.

  6. Amazon extends their mobile footprint
    After success in the tablet market with the Kindle Fire, Jeff Bezos and company attempts to extend their product line with an Amazon branded phone.

    My prediction: Amazon first attempts at a phone will fail, and possibly quite spectacularly, since a phone needs more than just good content to win users over. However, Amazon does not enter markets without a long-term plan, so expect a version 2 of their mobile phone in 2014 that will change their fortunes.

  7. Can phablets jump the shark?
    The move towards ever bigger phones appears to be gaining momentum with devices that are over 6 inches in screen size being prepped for release.

    My prediction: Phablets will be niche devices. Based on the usage habits of those around me, the 3.5 to 4.5″ screen size will remain the bulk of the market as it allows for the greatest portability, which is what a mobile phone is all about.

  8. Prepaid takes on contract mobile phone service
    Nearly everyone in the US gets their mobile device subsidized in exchange for a two year contract with their carrier. When you go prepaid, you ditch the contract, but have to pay full price for your phone. What people fail to realize is that you can save a lot of money by going prepaid, in some cases over $1,000 during the life of a two-year contract. It more than pays for the up front phone cost.

    My prediction: Prepaid, month-to-month service gains momentum as T-mobile looks to differentiate themselves and leads a charge to push people away from the subsidized model. I, for one, used to be a doubter but have been converted. I plan to switch my service to prepaid in 2013 when my current contract expires.

  9. Mobile web applications pull even with native applications
    Yes, this may be self-serving given our business, but this falls under the general category of “never bet against the web”. Due to limitations in infrastructure and standards technology, native apps jumped out to a sizable lead in mobile, but the gap is closing, especially over the last 12-18 months.

    My prediction: There are too many smart people focused on making HTML5 applications just as good, if not better, than native apps. Sure, native apps such as games and Instagram clones will have their place, but the majority of mobile development will begin transitioning away from native to the web. So while Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook may think HTML5 isn’t ready, there are others out there who would argue otherwise.

  10. The rise of adaptive design
    Responsive design (the ability to scale web pages to screen size) has become a commonly used term in web design. 2013 will introduce a new concept – adaptive design. Adaptive design is the transformation of a website to match the user’s context, whether they are on a laptop, desktop, tablet, phablet or phone.

    My prediction: Look for more and more websites to provide alternative experiences based on more than just screen size in 2013. Websites will also take into account things like location and user behavior to quickly serve context-appropriate content.

Bonus Story: Can Aumnia maintain a regular blog presence?
2012 has been a very busy year for Aumnia, and we were pretty lax when it came to our blog (and other social media sites).

My prediction: It’s going to be tough, but I’m going to start carving out more time to share our thoughts about the market, where we see things going, and what we’re up to during 2013. With any luck, I may even be able to average an article a week!


Mobile Market Wrap-up, October 4

Last week was a big week for new device releases, which seems to be happening more frequently these days.  The two most interesting cellphone releases were the T-mobile (HTC) G2 and the Nokia N8, RIM announced a tablet, and a themed Star Wars cellphone went on sale at Verizon.

The G2 is T-mobile’s follow up to the first commercial Android device, the G1. In the two years since the release of the G1, cellphones have changes radically, and the differences between the G1 and G2 are a great example of the advancements. The G2 takes advantage of T-mobile’s HSPA+ network, which allows for download speeds in excess of 20Mbps (faster than most home internet connections), and has a “stock” version of Android. A “stock” version of Android allows the Android operating system to be upgraded faster, which I have found to be a major benefit of the Nexus One that I’ve been using. I consistently get Android operating system updates 2-3 months before anyone else. The bottom line, if you’re looking for a clean Android experience and can’t get your hand on a Nexus One, the G2 is the next best thing.

Nokia also began shipping its N8 smartphone last week. While still the leader in both overall and smartphone shipments, Nokia has become all but forgotten due to all the iPhone and Android hype. It’s quite an unfortunate situation as Nokia still makes great hardware, and the N8 is no exception. However, since Nokia does not have a strong relationship with any of the major US carriers, no one has launched a major marketing initiative around the device. Unless Nokia really steps up both their marketing effort and carrier relationship status in the US, I would suspect that Nokia will continue to fade away into a niche player in the US market, which is a shame based on the quality of their hardware. If you’re seriously interested in picking up the device, your best bet is going to be to shell out the cash and buy the N8 directly from Nokia.

While I am not a huge tablet fan, BlackBerry maker RIM announced their tablet called the PlayBook last week. My first reaction was that RIM is making a huge mistake, until RIM co-CEO Mike Lazardis spoke about it. RIM is positioning the PlayBook as a companion to their smartphones targeted directly at business users. I think BlackBerry may be onto something. Businesses may be hesitant to buy employees iPads due to the level of distraction from games and apps that are available. With the PlayBook, enterprises will be given more control and the majority of applications will be business oriented. I suspect that businesses will be more receptive to buying their employees PlayBooks, which could overflow into consumer sales, much like their BlackBerry smartphone platform. In essence, I like the strategy, now it is up to RIM to execute.

In other handset news, another interesting device released last week was the R2-D2 themed Droid 2 from Motorola. Themed cellphones is an untapped market in my opinion. People are always looking for a way to stand out from the crowd, and themed cellphones are a great way to achieve it. I’m very curious to see how well these R2-D2 themed units sell. If they sell as well as I think they should, I suspect that you will see a lot more themed cellphones making their way into the market.

Finally, if you are interested in what the future holds for mobile phones, then take a look at this Mozilla video for a concept phone called “Seabird – A Community-driven Concept Phone.” Mozilla does not have any intention to build the phone, but it is clearly a sign of what is possible and what could be coming to mobile phones in the near future. I particularly like the idea of the included Bluetooth headset/mouse as well as the projectors that allow you to turn any surface into an interactive screen. I suspect that you will see phones within the next 2 or3 years with this type of technology, and I can’t wait!

Mobile Market Wrap-up, September 27

It seems like a week doesn’t go by without some kind of rumor regarding the release of the iPhone on Verizon, and last week was no exception. However, last week’s rumor was started by none other than Verizon itself. At a Goldman Sachs conference last week, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg said that they would love to carry the iPhone, but that “we have to earn it.” I don’t know what Verizon has to do to earn the iPhone, but his comments make it seem unlikely that the iPhone is coming to Verizon anytime soon. I hate to be the bearer of bad news to Verizon fans, but I stand by my contention that T-mobile has a better chance of getting the iPhone than Verizon when the exclusivity deal with AT&T finally ends.

In other comments at the conference, Verizon inidcated that tiered pricing for mobile data usage is coming within the next six months. With Sprint CEO Dan Hesse hinting at the same thing for his network, I am fearful that carrier greed could become the biggest impediment to mobile broadband adoption. I understand that the carriers need to make money, and that networks cost money to build, but if consumers start getting charged by the bit to download emails, access the web and watch streaming content, I suspect that mobile broadband adoption will slow – considerably. Lets face it, the internet as we know it today didn’t really take off until flat rate broadband pricing to the home was introduced. If the carriers begin metering users, many of the most innovative services that are being developed for mobile, like streaming content, will suffer and could die, killing innovation. In other words, the biggest impediment to carriers signing up more mobile broadband customers are most likely the carriers themselves.

Finally, I want to wrap up this week with another fun video featuring Dot, “the world’s smallest stop-motion animation character.” At first glance, this would appear off-topic on a blog focused on mobile, except for the fact that it was shot using a Nokia N8 cellphone equipped with a microscope attachment. I can still remember the days when my Dad had to carry around not only a TV studio-sized camera but also the entire VCR unit itself to shoot home movies. Now they can be shot on a device that not only produces better home movies than that old video camera but also takes pictures, plays music and lets you talk to anyone in the world at anytime. Truly amazing when you consider the progression of technology over the last 30 years!

Mobile Market Wrap-up, September 20

In last week’s mobile market wrap-up, I referenced a rumor that Windows Phone 7 is launching next month. I’ll admit I was impressed at the speed with which Microsoft completed the development of Windows Phone 7 and that they hit their end of year release target, which I thought was an impossible goal they set for themselves earlier this year. Well, last week the caveats started to emerge. Apparently, in a trade-off for schedule, Windows Phone 7 will be available on GSM phones only, which eliminates the largest carrier in the US, Verizon, from launching the device until mid-2011 at the earliest. While the engineering side of my brain understands the trade-off, the marketing side sees one word – FAIL! After seeing how the iPhone’s lock to AT&T’s network has limited its market share in the US, I am surprised that Microsoft would take this shortcut. I guess if you had to cut one of the two technologies, CDMA would be the first to go since it is not as prevalent worldwide as GSM. However, for a project of such importance to Microsoft, I would have figured supporting both technologies would have been a top priority. I have a feeling that Microsoft will regret this trade-off as it will allow Android to become even more entrenched as the smartphone OS of choice on Verizon.

In other handset news, Nokia and BlackBerry maker RIM, two manufacturers that are falling out of favor with investors, made major announcements last week. At their self-hosted Nokia World Show, Nokia touted that they are still the industry leader with 260,000 smartphone activations a day (compared to Android’s 200,000 and iOS’ 80,000). Unfortunately, perception is reality, and while Nokia still has the lead, they are suffering from a perception problem that John Biggs at MobileCrunch so eloquently describes. Along those same lines, RIM announced earnings last week. While the results blew past analyst expectations and a bright future was painted by management, the reality remains that Android continues to rapidly close the gap on RIM’s dominance in North America according to the latest ComScore stats. Both RIM and Nokia had better not be content to rest on their laurels because as they say in the mutual fund world – “past performance is not an indication of future performance.” I’m not surprised that Nokia and RIM are doing well when you look at past and current stats. When you look at trends, though, both Nokia and RIM should be concerned, and I mean very concerned.

As usual, I wanted to wrap up this week on a fun note. Motorola is launching a Star Wars themed R2-D2 Droid handset later this year on Verizon. While the hardware and wallpapers for the device look cool, they are not nearly as cool as this prototype Star Trek Communicator themed Nokia device. It’s quite a shame that only 14 were made back in 2008. I’m not even a Star Trek fan, and I found this concept prototype just too cool. Definitely worth spending the 9 minutes to watch the video.

Mobile Market Wrap-up, September13

Even though last week was a short week, there was a lot of new handset news in the mobile industry. It definitely feels like the manufacturers are gearing up for the holiday season.

Kicking things off, rumors about the iPhone becoming available outside of AT&T continue to grow, which given the results of a JD Power and Associates study highlighting AT&T’s poor network performance, can’t happen soon enough for many people. The chic rumor is that the iPhone is coming to Verizon given Apple’s orders for CDMA chipsets. While this is what most people want, another possibility raised last week is that Apple is creating a “world-phone” iPhone. In other words, one device that is compatible with mobile networks around the world. I think this a better possibility than a Verizon iPhone. A “world-phone” iPhone could also lead to the phone landing on T-mobile, which is another rumor that is gaining momentum. Of course, Apple’s lips are sealed, so I don’t suspect that we will know anything until the day after it happens, at best!

Speaking of AT&T, executives at the company have implied that the new BlackBerry Torch sales are not meeting expectations. Not a good sign for BlackBerry, who is continuing to struggle against the rising tide of Android devices. It is also rumored that many of BlackBerry’s best customers, like financial institutions, are starting to experiment with iPhone and Android devices. As I mentioned before, BlackBerry would be best served to keep their “bread-and-butter” enterprise customers happy and forget about competing in the consumer market.

In Android news, T-mobile announced the G2 device – the follow-on to the G1 who many consider “the original” Android device. The device looks great on paper, but the best part could be that it will run a stock Android build. In other words, no carrier crapware or special UI’s like Sense, TouchWiz or MotoBlur. If my NexusOne is any indication, this means that it will be one of the first devices to get new Android builds, which I’ve found to be one of the best, if not the best, feature of the NexusOne.

Another hot rumor last week is that Microsoft will launch Windows Phone 7 October 11 in a flashy New York City event. Microsoft has committed over $500MM to the launch of their latest mobile OS, so I would expect this event to be quite the party. Unfortunately, I don’t think that I’ll be on the invite list, but I’m willing to tag along as someone’s guest if you need company for the week….

Finally, Nokia is preparing to launch the Nokia N8, their latest attempt to head off the iPhone and Android juggernaut. In order to build buzz for the device, they released a rather racy, but not over the top, interactive video featuring a self-described “sizzling hot” model. Is Nokia worried that the N8 cannot stand on its own, or is this a genius move by Nokia to create buzz about the device? I’ve embedded the video below, and I’ll let you be the judge.