Top Ten mobile predicitions for 2010

Predicting the future is always tricky, especially when it comes to technology. If they had got it right in the 50s, we’d all by flying around in jet cars and holidaying on the moon. This time last year I made some (slightly less ambitious) top ten predictions for the world of mobile and mobile marketing for 2009. How did I do? Click this link to see – I have marked myself out of ten.

So now onto this year’s top ten predictions for mobile and mobile marketing. I have avoided including anything too obvious, such as the growth in SMS. It was relevant to mention it last year as many were predicting it’s imminent demise with Smartphones and ‘always on’ email. Similarly, it’s pretty safe to say that smartphone sales (whatever counts as a smartphone) will also grow in the next year. So here are a few predicitions for next year that may be less obvious:

1. 2010 will be the year of mobile advertising
It’s always hard to say when the ‘year of anything’ is or was, but I think that mobile advertising will be BIG in 2010. Until now it has grown steadily but slowly. Compared to other channels it is still tiny. So why now? There are a number of factors that will make it all fall into place: the increase of smartphones, data connections and with it mobile web, operator investment in mobile advertising channels (from Orange’s purchase of Blyk, to O2 setting up O2 Media) and most significantly, Google acquiring Admob for $750m. A study by the IAB earlier this year showed that mobile advertising in the UK had doubled year on year. There’s no reason why it won’t perform as well or even better in 2010.

2. Mobile payments will become more common place
As with mobile advertising a number of things are converging at the right time: NFC or contactless payment systems in mobile will be appearing more and more. The recent statement by the banks that cheques are dead and mobile payments are in will support this greatly. Better security for phones, especially smartphones, in app payments (see number x for more details) and the Square. Although Square is a tool for taking credit cards, it reinforces the idea of mobile as a payment system.

3. More commercial and branded apps
The in app payment move by Apple and RIM’s Blackberry app store is significant. It means that seamless payments can be made within an app, such as upgrades to full versions, or for specific services or info. Arriva’s app to pay for bus tickets is a good example (though not currently available for the iphone or Blackberry). At the same time, ad serving into apps will increase – the investment by some of the mobile networks in this area will fuel this development.

4. Behavioural targeting will be on the rise
It already exists to some extent on the web: certain conversations in Gmail will result in particular ads. The mobile networks investment in advertising is important. Revenues for the telecoms side of their business: calls, sms and data are pretty static. The market is saturated and we all have the mobile package we want. Other revenues such as cross operator or roaming have been squeezed. So an obvious opportunity for mobile networks is to offer the mobile as an advertising channel. To this end, most of them have been developing some kind of advertising media operation. Central to that is behavioural targeting: an operator knows roughly where you are and has a certain amount of data about your activities and profile. O2, for example launched O2 More, which uses this kind of targetting. The problem with behavioural targeting are how customers feel about it …

5. Privacy
Mobile is the most personal of media. We rarely share our mobiles and it’s what we text our loved ones on. As various forms of mobile marketing take off, privacy on mobile will become a major consumer issue. Already this year, there has been quite a backlash to anything that appears to compromise the our privacy: Google Latitude or T-Mobile’s loss of personal data. Take 118 800, the mobile directory enquiries. So many people tried to opt out of it their system fell over, and hasn’t returned to date. At the same time, 5 companeis in Australia were fined $15m for sending spam and a woman in the US is suing Burger King for $5m for 2 unsolicited messages. Put all of this in the general context of privacy: DNA records, ISPs monitoring users and it becomes a major public issue. It won’t sit well with behavioural targeting either.

6. Android will become a major player in mobile OS
Although Android was announced to a big fanfare last year, it lags behind Apple, RIM and Nokia. The OS is great – it has more functionality and is more reliable than the iphone – but the handsets weren’t. The new raft of Android handsets may well end all that: Motorola’s Droid (called the Milestone in Europe) and Nexus One may give the iphone a run for it’s money. Even the low end computer manufacturer Acer are in on the act, producing an Android handset. Google also has a more open approach to apps and app stores than Apple, making it potentially more attractive to developers.

7. Mobile content and social media aggregation
The problem with living in an information rich age is that there is just too much of it. On the mobile platform it’s even harder. Multi-tasking on phones is proving difficult, the small screen and keyboard leads to more ‘snacking’ behaviour in users. Keeping up with your Twitter, Facebook and Linked in accounts, not to mention SMS, email or IM is difficult on mobile. The solution comes in the form of aggregation – see what your friends are up to all from one place. Vodafone 360 and Motoblur are showing the way – there’s still quite a way to go, but the true social media mobile experience will require a simpler, aggregated approach.

8. Apps will still grow – the mobile web cannot replace them.
Google have made it clear that they see apps as a temporary solution and that the mobile web can deliver everything that apps currently do, and more. Already, Google has said it will focus on a web version of Google Voice after it was rejected form the iphone appstore. Unfortunately Google have been wrong in this respect before. Google Docs is a great idea – no worries about your software, updating it or even viruses. Just store everything in Google docs. Except that it doesn’t really work. Using Google Docs is slow and often unreliable. The same problem exists with the mobile web: it assumes that there is a good, reliable data connection on the phone. Whereas apps can run some or all elements without the data connection, even with some form of caching, it’s hard to see how that can happen on the mobile web.

9. Augmented Reality and Image Recognition will not significantly take off
In spite of the excellent Google Goggles, AR and IR will not be a broad mainstream technology. There’s a number of reasons for it: it’s fun, yes, but ultimately what is the benefit? If I’m trying to find a place, my mobile maps will offer a clear and easier functionality. In reality IR has a long way to go. Google Goggles uses the GPS and compass to overlay it’s information, and currently does not use image recognition.

10. Mobile social networks will not go it alone
Although 65 million of Facebook’s 300 million users accessed via their mobiles, mobile social networks: those specifically for the mobile user will not take off. There have been a few attempts at building a mobile specific social network, and those like Flirtomatic, which is essentially a dating site, have cornered a niche market. However, our engagement with social media will largely be a web-base one. The main reason is that it simply works well. From status updates to uploading photos and video, it works well enough on the PC. Mobile social networks do not offer a sufficient incentive to move away from that.

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