This year was definitely the year of mobile, with more developments in the mobile space than ever before. The GSMA recently estimated that global mobile connections would reach six billion by the end of November. Asia will have three billion connections by the first quarter of 2012, making up about half the number of mobile connections in the world. This reflects the incredible penetration rate of mobile services in Asia, which grew from 12% in 2002 to 78% in 2011.
GSMA also projected a very healthy outlook for Asia, predicting the region will become the world’s biggest market by 2020, with over 11 billion total connected devices, of which 5.6 billion will be mobile. This will be 47% market share, by far the biggest share of the global market. By comparison, Europe will account for 19.1% and North America will have 9.4% of the market by then.
In Asia, there could be no better time to look ahead for developments in the mobile space. With such healthy growth recorded for 2011 and predicted for the next few years, 2012 looks as though it will be a very interesting period for mobile. Economic conditions have made Asia an attractive, largely untapped market, and even as investments come in from overseas, Asian entrepreneurs are racing to serve the needs of local populations.
Here are some trends that look to be developing now but will likely come to full fruition in the next year. These, in no particular order, are the top ten areas which hold promise, and which may make 2012 a very interesting year indeed.
- Real-time connectivity
The cost of being connected is already decreasing, especially as infrastructure continues to develop in response to rising demand. This will contribute to greater levels of real-time connectivity, as billions of people around the globe will be empowered by their mobile devices.
- Mobile instant messaging (MIM)
While voice communication was the core driver behind the development of the mobile phone, text-based messaging (SMS) easily rivals voice in popularity. The rising availability of WiFi and broadband over 3G or 4G networks will have a transformative effect, making MIM a low-cost (or no-cost) competitor for the voice channel. MIM will be the core of mobile communication, not just voice.
- Mobile commerce
The smartphone boom will put more computing power into consumers’ hands, which in turn will create more options. From e-commerce to mobile transactions, the nature of business is shifting and will become more mobile.
- Social user experience
Companies are now taking on the challenge of creating processes, tools, programs or apps designed to enrich social user experience, which is human-to-human communication in multi-modal forms. This interaction may start from one channel and may continue seamlessly on another, allowing users to create experiences from the tools that they use. Technologies coupled with people-engagement formula will be developed because when technology is used among each other (and not just on their own), the results become more meaningful as they create personalized experiences.
- Social sharing
Social sharing is not a fad but a sociological phenomenon. Consumers will continue to share content and companies will embrace and enable social sharing. Everyone is going mobile and social – from shopping, banking to health care, education, tourism and more.
- Mobile search
The increasing functionality of mobile will extend to search as well. As more consumers search for information on goods and services when they are out and about, mobile search will extend to allow consumers to interact with results, for example, placing an order directly from the mobile phone, booking a ticket or making a hotel reservation.
- Context-aware services
Next year will also see the growth of context-aware services. Also known as location-based services, these take into account the consumer’s geographical position, adding value on the fly by offering information on nearby businesses of interest, or on timely special offers that are customized according to customer profiles and demographics.
- Augmented reality
Another way to enrich consumer experience is through the use of augmented reality, which super-imposes data graphically on what the consumer sees, usually by interpolating the output of the mobile device’s camera. This will let consumers point their mobile phones, say, at a product, and instantly see information about that product (price, origin, care instructions).
The rise of “SoLoMo” or social-local-mobile convergence signals a growing understanding of what human beings find important. Mobile devices will focus more clearly on enabling connection, creating social experiences with other local users through the mobile channel.
“Gamification” is the new gratification. This is the ultimate way to engage a new generation of audiences. Converting everyday experiences into game-like pursuits - including allowing sharing of accomplishments on leader boards, plus some measure of competitive comparison with friends and family - is the next big trend, and mobile devices are the perfect platform. Using game design techniques to attract and engage audiences is not only entertaining but it’s also rewarding, adding an element of fun to something that might otherwise be mundane.
The potential of the mobile market remains untapped, and it appears that 2012 may be the time when a great many trends gain momentum and make their presence felt.
Dr. Michael Yin is chief executive officer of Mozat Pte Ltd