5 Predictions for Mobile in 2011
Mobile really exploded in 2010, thanks to a surge in smartphone sales, the rise of the iPad, and of course the iPhone. Mobile devices are getting more powerful, data connections are getting faster and developers are really pushing the boundaries of how we define a “mobile app.”
It’s always tough to make predictions about technology because of the speed of innovation. This is especially true for mobile technology, where the landscape can change in a period of six months, let alone in a year.
These are five of my predictions for what we will see happen in mobile in 2011.
1. Tablet Mania Hits a Fever Pitch
Mark Zuckerberg might not think that the iPad is mobile, but I respectfully disagree. I define mobility more in terms of being portable, not pocketable.
Many people predicted that 2010 would be the year of the tablet, but in actuality, it was the year of one tablet, the iPad. I fully expect the iPad to continue to succeed but in 2011, it will finally get some competition.
The most important lesson that tablet makers can take away from the iPad is that user experience matters. We’re already seeing that in the early demos of the BlackBerry PlayBook and in teasers from Motorola.
We might also see HP use its purchase of Palm to bring some webOS tablets to the market.
2. Photo Sharing Will Expand to Video
The mobile photo sharing boom, led by apps like Instagram and PicPlz was a nice surprise in 2010. Fusing the improvements in camera phones with the ability to seamlessly share photos across social networks is something that just really clicks with users all over the world.
Smartphones have had the capability to record video for a very long time — and the hottest phones on the market all include the ability to record and upload HD footage. Still, we haven’t seen mobile video take off quite the same way as photographs.
This is in part because, though improving, the quality of a smartphone video camera isn’t a “real” replacement for a camcorder, and more importantly, the bandwidth needed to upload video just isn’t widely available.
As the major wireless providers across the world prepare or continue their 4G rollouts, the bandwidth issue has the potential to get a lot better.
Moreover, compression technologies with video make it possible to send video from a device more quickly, without sacrificing tons of quality. The companies that make the image sensors in smartphones are also introducing models that support 1080p video, which means full HD on a mobile phone is on the horizon.
We might not see the ease of sharing movies as we do with photos, but I expect mobile video to get bigger and better in 2011.
3. HTML5 App Explosion
Native apps can take advantage of more hardware capabilities of a device and have tighter integration with some of the key components of a mobile OS, but web apps can be more easily ported to other types of devices and can really be beneficial in areas like iterative updates and user testing.
With HTML5 however, many of the system-level and device specific features can still be harnessed by a web app. Moreover, developers can build a base application in HTML5, yet still put it in a native wrapper so that it can take advantage of some native device capabilities.
When comparing some of the Chrome web apps with their iPad counterparts, it was easy to see how a base HTML5 implementation could be ported to a straight web app.
This has been the idea behind development toolkits like Appcelerator’s Titanium, and with more and more devices of varying screen size and processor speed hitting the market, targeting the browser and then making modifications for the specific device will become more and more popular.
4. Flash Still Won’t Matter on Mobile Devices
It’s been an interesting year for Adobe Flash. The technology has withstood criticisms from Steve Jobs, has been heralded by RIM and is now available on Android handsets.
Adobe is doing a lot of work to help make Flash more suitable for mobile platforms; the problem is for Flash to really work well on these devices, existing Flash content needs to be reoptimized. For many developers or companies, if a site has to be retooled anyway, it is simply more pragmatic to adopt a solution like HTML5 that will work on a wider variety of mobile platforms.
Flash 10.1 was a big improvement, and I expect that Flash 10.2 will be even better, but I still don’t think Flash is going to become a massively adopted mobile technology.
5. We Will See a Verizon iPhone
Even though Apple’s exclusivity agreement with AT&T for the iPhone is supposed to extend until 2012, I’ll go on record as saying I’m convinced we’ll see a Verizon iPhone in 2011. If I’m wrong, I’ll gladly take my lumps, but the signs and the rumors are just too great to ignore.
First, Verizon is rolling out its LTE network. That removes one of the technical barriers of a Verizon iPhone, the CDMA factor.
Finally, Verizon has made it very clear that it wants the iPhone, and AT&T has made it clear it knows its days of exclusivity are waning. With AT&T being a major factor with consumers who decide not to buy an iPhone, Apple has to want to break off that exclusivity agreement too.