Global Mobile Trends and Enablers: Current State and Future Outlook

Global Mobile Trends

The year 2011 was marked with more innovations and developments in the mobile space than ever before. With healthy growth rates recorded in 2011 and optimistic predictions for the next few years, 2012 looks like the year of even more interesting mobile developments.

A wide array of factors contributed to the global growth of mobile applications (apps) adoption in 2011. Among them are the advancement of network technologies, reduced mobile data usage costs, increased usage of smartphones, restructuring of the revenue-sharing patterns, and a significantly increased full or partial subsidy of apps via mobile advertising options.


According to the Mobile Stats and Facts 2011, of the world’s 4 billion mobile phones in use, around 1.1 billion were smartphones. In Q1 2011, the global mobile phone market ballooned with a 19.8% growth rate year-over-year due to a significant rise in smartphone shipments. As estimated by IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors shipped 371.8 million units in Q1 2011 compared to 310.5 million units in Q1 2010. In North America, the mobile phone market was kept front and center by Apple’s iPhone and HTC Thunderbolt, while in Western Europe, it was ruled mainly by new devices from HTC, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson.

On the global scale, Nokia took the leading position in shipment volumes and market share (although the latter dropped from 34.7% to 29.2 % year-over-year), followed by Samsung. Apple maintained its spot #4 on IDC’s list of Top 5 Mobile Vendors.

The breaking news of 2011 was the launch of the partnership between Nokia and Microsoft to regain ground lost to the iPhone and Android-based devices. The new strategy, Symbian and MeeGo, will gradually be sidelined by Nokia’s existing smartphone operating systems. Symbian is currently transformed into a “franchise platform,” while “MeeGo will emphasize longer-term market exploration of next-generation devices,” according to the company statement. However, Nokia still expects to sell approximately 150 million more Symbian devices in the future.

Regarding the overall mobile usage patterns of 2011, 61% of people reported using their mobile devices to play games, 50% – to do a web search, 49% – to access social media, 36% – to read the news, and 33% – for general entertainment purposes.

In 2011, over one-third of Facebook’s 600 million user base used Facebook mobile apps, 50% of Twitter’s 165 million user base used Twitter Mobile, and over 200 million YouTube views occurred on mobile devices every day. Overall, 30% of all smartphone owners accessed their social media accounts via mobile browsers in 2011.

In 2011, many large brands started blending mobile technologies with their business goals to increase their presence in at least one of the top app stores. This has opened up new horizons for already booming mobile apps markets and creating new venues for further market development. On the other hand, most of these brands did not aim to monetize their apps and only used them to add-up to their brand equity. Last year, the Apple App Store remained the overall leader and the “store of choice” for both brands and users. On the other hand, Android Market has gained substantial ground, with 50% of the global brands preferring to publish their apps in it during 2011. The newly introduced Amazon App Store has gained 14% of the brand mobile apps’ publications in only three months.

According to Markets & Markets, the world mobile app market was estimated at $6.8 billion in 2011, according to Markets & Markets, a US-based research firm. It is expected to grow steadily to reach $25 billion over the next four years, with the Apple App Store accounting for 20.5% of the total revenues.

According to iSuppli, an IHS-owned market research firm, the collective revenues from Apple, Google, Nokia, and Blackberry app stores grew around 78% in 2011 from 2009 and are anticipated to reach $8.3 billion in 2014.

In 2011, Apple held the major mobile apps market share in terms of the revenue generated.

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However, in terms of mobile app downloads, Android outpaced Apple, according to the data from ABI research.

Eight Trends That Ruled The Global Mobile Market In 2011

1. Near Field Communications (NFC) Technology

In 2011 Sprint Nextel joined forces with various handset makers and technology companies to implement NFC payment systems. Google used VeriFone Systems and ViVOtech software to run the test service in five US cities. The Google NFC-enabled services allowed consumers with specially equipped phones running on Google’s Android OS to pay for goods and redeem coupons with their handsets at NFC-equipped cash registers.


2. iPhone 4S

Many expected Apple to introduce its next-generation iPhone 5 in the 2011 “Let’s Talk iPhone” event. Instead, Apple unveiled its iPhone 4S, the “smartest” smartphone ever. Equipped with an 8-megapixel camera, iCloud capabilities, and Sprint network access, it comes with powerful voice recognition software and other innovative features. Apple reported having sold over 4 million iPhone 4S devices in just three days after the official launch.

3. QR Codes

2011 was the massive use of two-dimensional quick response (QR) codes in digital and print marketing campaigns. When a mobile device or a tablet captures a code image, the user gets immediate access to an abundance of brand’s / product’s information. With QR codes, companies have a much better chance of reaching their target audience and stakeholders much easier.

4. Increased mobile gaming

Games were the most popular type of apps among smartphone users in 2011. According to the latest report by Nielsen, last year, many smartphone owners were ready to actually pay for mobile games – more than they would for any other app category

5. The Cloud

In 2011, Apple introduced its highly-anticipated iCloud service, which allows storing music, photos, apps, and more and pushing them automatically to all of the user’s devices via wireless technology. Google launched a similar music Cloud service allowing users to upload their music libraries and stream them from mobile devices and PCs.

With these and other Cloud services available more mobile apps are expected to move to the Cloud in the near future and will be accessed and executed directly from the Cloud through a mobile web browser interface. To facilitate this change, several technologies are already used. For instance, HTML5 is used to enable caching on the handset and avoid fluctuations in-network service delivery.

Additionally, in 2011 some providers of mobile solutions offered integrated mobile browsers to allow direct access to apps from the publisher’s website and elimination visiting app stores. It means that both app developers and publishers can now interact directly without the involvement of / sharing profits with any third-party app stores.

6. 4G Technologies

In 2011, every mobile carrier announced its plans to update its networks to one of several faster cellular data technologies such as HSDPA, HSPA+, and 3GPP LTE. The carriers’ investment in higher speeds and better bandwidth will help the industry to keep up with the exploding demand for mobile Internet during 2012. A vast majority of mobile devices already shipped in 2012 are 4G-enabled, even though they still actually connect to 3G and EDGE networks.

7. Augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) refers to the addition of a computer-assisted contextual layer of information over the real world, creating a reality that is enhanced or augmented. Although different forms of AR, such as head-mounted displays, have been around for over 30 years, in 2010 and 2011, AR evolved from being a cool gadget on the periphery of visualization and graphics technologies to a central player in the technology landscape due to the increased bandwidth and adoption of smartphones.

AR proliferates rapidly into various domains from education to tourism / traveling to video production etc. Many AR apps such as Layar use GPS positioning and geo-tagging to annotate existing spaces with an overlay of information and 3D images and characters.

8. Mobile advertising

According to Stephanie Baghdassarian, Research Director at Gartner, “mobile advertising is now recognized as an opportunity for brands, advertisers, and publishers to engage consumers in a targeted and contextual manner, improving returns.” In 2011, mobile advertising budgets were set to increase tremendously across the various categories and regions. The global mobile ads market generated around $3.3 billion in 2011, more than double the $1.6 billion generated in 2010.


Mobile Market Expectations For 2012

In 2012 we will most likely see:

– Increased investments in NFC technology across handset makers and carriers

Improved in-app billing security

– More location-based mobile commerce solutions allowing users to check into a store to alert a retailer of their presence or to add items to a shopping cart simply by taking their photo or their bar codes photo in the physical store

– LTE 4G as a mainstream technology in North America and Western Europe

– iPads and tablets continuing to replace PCs as a business tool of choice

– Apple iPad 3 and long-awaited iPhone 5 with enhanced functionalities accommodating the high-speed LTE network and NFC technology

– Enhanced social sharing as a result of the smartphones’ boom

– Extended mobile search to allow consumers to interact with results such as placing an order directly from the mobile phone, booking a ticket, or making a hotel reservation

– Gamification is the ultimate way of engaging a new generation of users focused on converting their everyday experiences into game-like pursuits

– More object recognition (OR) apps allowing users to track their surroundings for specific objects of interest

– More unified communication (UC) clients for mobile instant messaging provided by over-the-top service providers such as Skype

– More powerful mobile email solutions through a series of technology enhancements enabling low-cost mobile extensions to exist e-mail services (Gartner expects mobile e-mail users to account for 10.6% of the global mobile user base by 2014).