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Right now, there are more than two-billion smartphone subscribers in the world, making up an increasingly large chunk of its near 5-billion mobile subscribers. And in the past 20 years we’ve gone from brick phones barely capable of sending and receiving text messages to carrying around what effectively amount to pocket computers so essential to our daily lives that we treat them more like prosthetic limbs than gadgets.
The rate of that change is only accelerating too. Wearables for instance have gone from clunky prototypes to fully functional devices and smartphones could soon be able to play the kind of games once reserved for high-end desktops.
But what about the immediate future? What big mobile trends can we look forward to in 2015? Well, if MEF, the global community for mobile content and commerce is to be believed then we can look forward to some fairly substantial changes in 10 key areas of mobile.
1. Vertical market ecosystems will drive the adoption of wearable technology
While wearables showed more evolution than ever through 2014, they were still far from ubiquitous by the end of the year.
However, moving beyond glasses and experimentation, 2015 will see wearable sensor technology support the entry of major vertical sectors such as mHealth and personal safety. The single killer app that breaks wearables out of the companion category will remain elusive with niche sector growth coming from the volume of devices and services rather than one single device or service dominating.
2. NFC will finally take off
After years of false starts, NFC will make progress in different markets driven by both new applications for example use in transit systems as well as changes to regulatory infrastructure in the US. Other countries will follow.
3. Direct Carrier Billing will continue to grow outside of the US
Continued technology advancements and improving commercial and regulatory conditions will see carrier direct billing in all markets outside of North America used to purchase more digital goods such as apps, streaming content and software as well as make advances in the area of physical retail in particular vending items and transport tickets. In Latin America carrier billing will gain momentum to address the high number of unbanked (60% of the population) on the basis of its cashless convenience and accessibility.
4. Mobile 3.0 continues to take hold as consumers interact with fewer apps for much longer periods of time
In 2014 mobile media users became more selective about the number of apps they engage with. According to MEF’s Global Consumer Survey 57 per cent of respondents in the US and 53 per cent in the UK only have a few favourite apps they use each day. This trend will continue in 2015 as the market continues to shift toward Mobile 3.0. with streaming services replacing millions of discrete downloads and transactions with one recurring tariff.
5. New business models will erode net-neutrality
There will be visible growth in the use of non net-neutral services from mobile network operators by Content Providers including a higher quality of service and zero-rated data to consumers. This trend will be particularly prevalent in growth markets such as Africa.
6. Mobile services in growth markets will drive social inclusion and fuel a wave of infrastructure and economic transformation
The increasing availability of smartphones in growth economies such as Nigeria and India will drive ‘mobile-first’ markets, accelerated by initiatives such as Wikimedia zero and mobile wallets for the unbanked. 2015 will see the rise of innovative companies disrupting traditional verticals to solve real world problems around health, transport and agriculture.
7. Consumer trust as a key differentiator in 2015
At 34% a lack of consumer trust remains the biggest barrier to purchase anything via the mobile device dwarfing factors such as network speeds (11%). Mobile businesses that put consumer trust at the heart of the user experience will mark themselves out against their competitors. Areas such as tokenization in transactions, transparency and consent, parental controls and plain English privacy policies will all be under the spotlight in 2015 and have a strong impact on how companies build consumer interfaces.
8. Europe will take the lead in mobile security and privacy and will see a wave of new applications exploiting mobile-enabled functions such as authentication
The new European Data Protection Regulation will have a direct impact on all companies that depend on data in and beyond the mobile ecosystem. Trusted identity will become a new service enabled by mobile devices, contributing to consumer security and confidence and will see a wave of new applications exploiting mobile’s native functions such as authentication. Europe will take a leadership position in mobile security, driven by new regulations from the European Central Bank, Governments and data privacy regulators.
9. Automotive will become the latest vertical sector to lock in to the mobile ecosystem
2015 will see car manufacturers increasingly incorporate 4G connectivity as an option on new models, driving partnerships with mobile content companies and opening up the sector to a wave of in-car mobile content and commerce.
10. Latin America will have to navigate shifting market dynamics
Smartphone penetration in the region will continue to be driven by Brazil, Mexico and Peru, but notably for the first time Chile and Colombia will have more Smartphone users than feature phone users. In 2015, expect to see MNO consolidation and the formation of new strategic partnerships particularly around niche verticals in the ecosystem as well as innovation and revenue streams opening up from mobile money, new content business models and mobile ad revenues.
According to Andrew Bud, MEF’s Global Chair, “2014 saw mobile 3.0 gather momentum as the primary digital channel to perform the widest range of everyday tasks”. This evolution, he adds, was driven by the widespread adoption of smartphones, consumer desire and business innovation.
As Bud points out, this isn’t just happening in developed markets: “Growth markets such as Africa, India, Mexico and Brazil have positioned themselves as major contributors to the global mobile economy both in terms of the innovations they create and the demand from their consumers. They are rich in the smaller companies whose creativity is a motor for mobile development worldwide”.
“In 2015 the dynamic mobile ecosystem will see vertical sectors like health, automotive and home automation fully embrace mobile innovation, whilst the growth economies will provide an increasing share of innovation and opportunity and new, agile companies will be seen as the drivers of change.”