Why there will never be a ‘Year of Mobile’

Since I got into the mobile marketing space nearly ten years ago, people have constantly asked the question, ‘when is the year of mobile’? It’s essentially a short hand of saying ‘at what point will mobile marketing become a main-stream activity which both consumers and brands accept’. And therein lies the problem. We have seen a steady rise in the role of mobile, and defining any point at which it has reached mass adoption is difficult.

2012 was significant in respect of the fact that time spent in mobile media overtook time spent in traditional media (according to Mary Meeker in the US). However, the fact is that mobile has been a popular consumer device for at least 15 years in Europe and the US. Since the millennium, brands have been involved in all kinds of mobile-based engagement. Initially it was text messaging, there were some experiments with WAP sites, proximity (such as Bluetooth) and apps (and that was before Apple’s App Store). With the advent of feature phones over ten years ago, a significant content market of ring tones, wallpapers and Java-based games and utilities was created. In emerging economies, mobile payments and money transfers have been commonplace for over a decade. Whichever way you look at it mobile has been a key device in our lives for many years.

No one can actually agree when or what the ‘year of mobile’ actually is. A quick search throws up a number of commentators who have declared this event for the last three or four years. Part of the problem is finding a measure for when mobile has ‘made it’. Is it consumer adoption? Brand engagement? Mobile advertising? mCommerce? No one seems to know.

It was only this week that is heard the latest ‘year of mobile’ declaration, which came from Dave Coplin of Microsoft. He said: ‘It seems that every year is declared the ‘The year of mobile’ but I really do think it is the year of mobile’. Well he would say that, wouldn’t he. After all, Microsoft has failed to get any real foothold in the mobile OS market with their Nokia partnership. According to Tomi Ahohen it is only reached 3%. It would appear that the declaration is therefore more of a marketing exercise than a true analytical assessment of the mobile landscape.

If you consider the development of mobile devices, it has been an incremental adoption over nearly two decades. And that trend will continue for some time to come. Certainly we have arrived at a point where smartphones are at the centre of our digital lives, but there are many more developments to happen. Mobile payments and mCommerce have yet to establish themselves as the first place for transactions. And what about mobile connecting us to the other devices in our lives – cars, our household devices or health applications? We are a long way from reaching that point.

In the end calling something ‘year of mobile’, is an utterly pointless declaration. Mobile has been an important part of our lives for many years and will continue to do so for some considerable time to come.

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