2013 was another big year for mobile. As computing continues its move from the desktop PC model to the mobile environment of tablets and phones, I expect that 2014 will be even bigger. However, before laying out some predictions for next year (as I did last December), let’s take a look at some of the events that transpired in 2013.
- Android and iOS continued their domination of the mobile OS market
As I predicted, BlackBerry was not able to turn the delayed BB10 into a success, unsuccessfully tried to sell itself, and ended up in full regroup mode at the end of the year. I don’t expect BlackBerry to recover.Likewise, despite spending a lot of money and effort, Microsoft has not been able to turn Windows Phone into a success. I don’t expect Microsoft to give up, but they have a long way to go as they are a distant third in smartphone market share with only about 5% of the market.
Finally, while iOS has hung with Android, they may be slowly losing the smartphone war to Android. Their insistence on not releasing a true low-end, budget phone along with a bigger screen for the iPhone is allowing Android to extend their market share lead. We’ll see what 2014 brings, but Apple needs to be careful to not let its arrogance about what they think consumers want get the best of it.
- Apple and Samsung continued their dominance of the phone market
Apple had another successful iPhone launch in the Fall with the iPhone 5s and 5c, and Samsung continued its success with the Galaxy line of smartphones. They have established a dominant position over former mobile phone stalwarts Nokia and Motorola. Unfortunately for Nokia, they weren’t able to end their swoon and sold themselves to Microsoft during the second half of 2013. Motorola continues to fight along with the help of its parent company, Google. Their release of the Moto X and Moto G, which are two outstanding mid-range phones, have at least confirmed that Motorola hasn’t forgotten how to make a good device. The question is if they can market it.As for newcomers, I really thought that Huawei, a Chinese manufacturer, and Amazon would make a lot more waves in the mobile phone market. Huawei has run into strong headwinds in the US due to security concerns, which could derail its ability to gain market share here. However, I expect Huawei to be a major force worldwide, especially in developing countries. As for Amazon, I’m not counting them out. Don’t be surprised to see them release a phone, possibly coupled with a carrier service, at some point in the near future.
- “Phablets” remained a niche, and prepaid service expanded
As I figured last year, those monstrous devices with phone capabilities that were a bit too small to be a tablet but too large to be a true mobile phone remained a niche player in the market. The bulk of the phone market stayed under 5-inches, which I suspect will continue to be the sweet spot for phones. Anything over 5-inches begins to get a bit cumbersome for a true mobile device.As for mobile phone service, no contract made huge inroads in 2013. I was just about ready to switch to prepaid service myself when T-mobile did me a favor and moved to a no contract model, eliminating carrier subsidized phones. Instead, subscribers either buy their phone outright, pay for their phone through monthly installments, or bring their own device. In exchange, T-mobile significantly reduced the monthly fees for their plans. For example, I have four lines with unlimited voice minutes, text messaging, and data for only $120 per month. T-mobile has used their “un-carrier” strategy to begin clawing back market share. It’s been so successful that AT&T released a rival plan in November, and I suspect that both Sprint and Verizon will be forced to follow suit in the upcoming year.
- Apps continue to rule the roost, but they better not look back
As much as it may pain me to say this, native apps continue to have an advantage over mobile web apps in terms of functionality. However, the gap has closed significantly, and for many types of apps, I would content that the mobile web is a better approach than native. It’s only a matter of time before the web catches up to native functionality. While I don’t think that the web will ever replace native capability for all app types, I do believe that native will become an approach reserved for a few select types of applications, such as games.So what types of mobile web design will win out? Responsive web design (RWD) is the buzzword these days and is all the rage, but it isn’t right for every site. Some people are insistent on applying RWD as a one-size-fits-all approach for mobile which is where I believe it breaks down. Context is an important factor in mobile design, and I expect that more sites will incorporate context into their mobile presence making for a more engaging consumer experience. I like to call this approach adaptive, or contextual design, and I expect to see a lot more of it in 2014.
While I didn’t bat 100% on my predictions for 2014, I did do slightly better than .500, which is pretty respectable when it comes to forecasting. I’m finalizing my predictions for 2014 and will post them prior to the arrival of the New Year. So check back in over the next week to see what mobile trends will emerge in 2014.