Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
December 29, 201112:56 PM

The Year Of Mobile? Sounds Like The Month Of The Smartphone

Are smartphones now mass?

By the sounds of the MediaPost article, Santa's Surprise: Smartphones Go Mass (published yesterday), it's definitely moving in that direction... rapidly. This is one of those moments when the Marketing industry must give pause. We're not going to see standard adoption here (at least, I don't think we will). It feels more like what Ray Kurzweil defines as exponential growth (more on that here: Spirit of the Time - Ray Kurzweil at Zeitgeist Americas 2011). Mobile phones may even be going away - along with desktop computers and laptops - in favor of  smartphones and tablets. Yes, I'm bullish on this platform (I have been for over a decade), and yes, these devices are not fully there yet (in terms of being ready for real prime time), but you simply can't deny what's happening here: "app analytics firm Flurry says that it saw 6.8 million new iOS and Android devices activated on Christmas Day alone. The spike in newcomers represented a 353% increase over the 1.3 million to 1.8 million daily activations tracked for the period of Dec. 1-20. Compared even to last Christmas Day, when Flurry saw 2.8 million iOS and Android activations, this past Sunday was up 140% from same day last year. This past Sunday, beginning at 8 a.m. and staying level throughout the day, people downloaded about 10 million apps an hour, Flurry estimates."

The one screen world.

To date there has been a lot of research to negate both my personal enthusiasm and the data that Flurry (and others) are enthusiastically bringing forward. One thing is for certain: the tide is beginning to shift dramatically and it won't be (too) long before mobile becomes the primary screen. There are a couple of key leading indicators that are pushing this forward:

  • Smartphones are becoming more affordable.
  • Data plans are starting to become more reasonable.
  • The price of data plans are being built into the family cost structure (according to the MediaPost article).
  • Apps are a major draw for new consumers.
  • Media (music, movies, TV, books, etc...) are also pushing this forward.
  • Smartphones are a symbol of social status.
  • People are comfortable watching their favorite TV shows, YouTube clips and movies on a 3.5 inch screen.

It's not about voice. It's about data. 

It wasn't too long ago that mobile carriers didn't care about data. Their major concern used to be voice usage and churn. According to the MediaPost article, "Cisco predicted today that mobile data use worldwide is poised to grow 21x by 2015." It would be interesting to see what the prediction is for voice. Something tells me that as we get more and more connected, not only does email, text messaging and chat start chewing into the voice usage, but I'm going to guess that FaceTime (and other soon-to-follow products) are going to make voice calls as relevant as sending a letter in the mail (with all due respect to the pains that the postal industry is currently feeling).

It's happening fast, but it's also kinda slow.

Mobile networks vs. wi-fi. Interoperable devices. Apple vs. Android vs. RIM vs. Microsoft vs. everyone else. HTML5 vs. apps. Open vs. closed. Not all devices are created equal and none of the software, apps, carriers and more play all that nicely together. It's going to require a lot of painful business decisions before everything is much easier and the friction is removed for the consumer. While we're not quite there, we see glimmers of hope and rapid change. That being said, we should all prepare ourselves for much more disruption in the mobile space in the next few years and hope for some stability in the process (historically, this has been challenging).

As always, this doesn't freak me out... it excites me. It feels like more real opportunities are ahead of us. How do you feel about it?

By Mitch Joel