1. Surging mobile data traffic will continue to test 3G network capacity
As we predicted at the end of last year, 2010 was the year in which the surge in mobile data traffic, driven by the consumer smartphone boom, began to place the 3G networks under severe strain. A number of network operators have responded by introducing tiered data pricing – a trend which will undoubtedly increase – but as smartphone adoption continues apace, network capacity will be sorely tested in 2011. Tiered pricing (and the use of WiFi as capacity relief) may serve to alleviate the problem to a certain extent, but until we see mass deployments of LTE networks (and, equally important, devices that are LTE-capable), then operators face a nervous period while attempting to manage the transition.
2. Augmented reality to enhance mobile games and retail
Augmented Reality, or AR, has largely been used in local search and reference applications thus far, but is now attracting the attention of the retail industry. Given its potential to geotag products or locations with brand/campaign-specific information, as we near the end of 2010 a raft of major retailers and brands are releasing apps with an AR element. Brands on the bandwagon include eBay, H&M and Carlsberg. With Apple opening its accelerometer and gyroscope APIs to mobile Safari developers, there is also an opportunity for AR-enabled web-based apps. Also expect to see an increasing number of AR-based games – THQ Wireless’ forthcoming Star Wars Arcade: Falcon Gunner likely to be the first of many such titles.
3. Cloud-based operating systems will launch
So far mobile operating systems have followed their PC-based cousins, the structure for which was formulated when the web was in its infancy. Consequently, with the web having taken-off, for some time now industry figures have been talking about the potential for applications to run from a “cloud”. Google announced the start of new project, the Chrome cloud OS in 2009; and the latest is that it will be launched in early 2011. With network reach and reliability reaching a point where cloud-based solutions can be considered viable, and remote servers already being used to allow the mobile internet and email, we believe 2011 will see the launch of the first cloud OS for mobile.
4. Mobile banking will become a “must-have” when opening a new account
Banks in developed countries will harness the power of the app and the smartphone to provide their customers with a much improved and personalized service experience. The sign-up process will be a simple box to tick in account opening processes from banks that are keen to make life easier for customers by proving the ability to manage their money on the move in what might otherwise be dead time.
5. Mobile devices begin to replace credit cards
In some countries at least, using your phone as a credit card for lower value purchases will in 2011 become a reality. Google recently announced that NFC (Near Field Communication) technology will be supported in the next release of Android – 2.3 or “Gingerbread”; a natural step, given it already offers several mobile commerce apps and services including shopping, coupons and products search. Also, Nokia’s C7 handset has an NFC chip included, which will be activated in 2011, and rumors of Apple’s next iPhone including NFC refuse to die down. A word of caution: it won’t all happen at once. Stores need to deploy contactless readers, and more problematically, it is dependent on user preference. However, as with Bluetooth and cameras, we will see NFC in new devices whether we want it or not.
6. Mobile handsets become even more sensitive
Locational and sensory features on smartphones - such as accelerometers, gyroscopes and GPS - have been key drivers in application development. Handset manufacturers will be keen to add more “killer” features to their devices to give them that edge. With the aforementioned features becoming standard, vendors are already looking to incorporate others, such as, proximity, temperature, biometrics, 3D displays, and projectors, into their handsets.