Our lives are getting increasingly mobile. We read the news, watch movies and even confess sins on the go. Each quarter devices are getting smaller and faster, the scope of services they provide, ever wider. The introduction of the iPad and the consequent boom of tablets made 2011 a year of expectations for many.
Each year the world seems to be spinning a little faster – our days feel a little shorter, the sea of information a little deeper and all matters a little more urgent. Yesterday I was looking for a Valentine’s gift. I remembered seeing something amusing a while ago in a window, on one of the narrow passages of Soho. Naturally, I didn’t know the name of the store, just a rough location. A few years ago, I would have to go back, trying to re-create the route of the night. These days I used Google’s street view, found the window, googled store’s name and ordered the item online, all within five minutes spent in a local Starbucks. The power of the masses is clearly on the side of the revolution: for the first time in history, the number of smartphones sold has surpassed the sales figures of personal computers.
The number of people accessing the internet through mobile phones is growing and will keep growing unless humanity faces a crisis of world-shattering scale. People are clearly used to the convenience and will not give it up unless they really have to. More people are getting ever more powerful devices at an ever younger age. I had my first mobile at 18, my niece got hers at 9; my children are likely to join a social network in the kindergarten. Millions of iPads sold in 2010 have opened a portal to a whole other dimension. There is little doubt mobile devices will eventually become a highly influential marketing platform.
Why is it not going to happen in 2011? First of all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The mobile world will become increasingly independent, but the current number of smartphone owners does not come anywhere near those owning computers. Besides, there are several technical reasons why mobile phones will not replace laptops. To name but a few, the global smartphone audience is still relatively small, run on far too many different platforms, and both its present size and future potential are severely restricted by usability issues. Smartphones, with their small screens, tiny buttons and non-standard user interfaces will not become core devices for quite some time.
The influence of mobile marketing market can be measured by the relevant segments of advertising budgets. For the last few years everything seemed to favour a Location-Based Advertising (LBA) boom: devices were getting ever more capable, and numbers of internet browsing smartphone users were growing, keeping app factories busy. Sadly, according to ABI Research, just 2% of location-based services revenues will be generated through LBA this year. The figure, however, is expected to grow to 15% of the multi-billion dollar market by 2016.
The trends set in 2010 are still very much in the game – the number of smartphones on the market is growing, social media platforms are putting on share price by the month and the manufacturers are fighting for the newly discovered tablet market. Mobile marketing has become an established and promising industry, and while it seems likely to hold the future of the industry, the key word in this sentence is “future”- a future that will shine on a different world: a world of different devices, network coverage, regulations, and users. The future is nigh but it doesn’t make it the present.