But what does the future hold?
Even with that growth, and even though my own research at TUNE indicates that smartphone owners are still installing plenty of mobile apps, thank you very much, we’re clearly in a maturing mobile marketplace in the western world.
And the question is: As mobile matures, how will it change? I surveyed almost 100 influencers and experts like Bryan Kramer, Joel Comm, and Tamara McCleary, plus analysts from Forrester and other major market research firms, to find out.
Add up all their input, and mobile will evolve in these nine areas:
- Ubiquity: expanding influence
- Creativity: live video
- Sensor-ization: mobile in command
- Alternate realities: VR, AR, MR
- Money: m-commerce & m-payments
- Devices with benefits: everything gets better
- Real-time: everything on-demand
- Intelligence: more digital assistance
- Innovation convergences
To find these nine areas, I asked influencers and experts for their predictions.
Only 76 of their predictions made it into my Mobile Predictions 2017 slideshare, but even 76 predictions is a lot to read. To highlight common themes and extract the top insights, I took all 5,000-plus words the influencers wrote and ran them through text processing software. More precisely, four text processors: Words and Phrases, the imaginatively-named Text Analyzer, the slightly more creatively named Textalyzer, and WriteWords.
Here’s what came out.
1) Ubiquity: Mobile expands its influence
It may not seem possible, but mobile is going to be even more influential this year. So much so, it might just disappear.
Many of the influencers say mobile will continue to infiltrate our worlds and our lives, using words like “everywhere” and “all the time.” One, Chetan Sharma, a strategy consultant, says that “mobile is everywhere and in everything to a point we will stop using the word mobile.”
Another, Stewart Rogers, says that his latest research indicates “an ever-increasing dependence on smartphones for everything – messaging, entertainment, content, sharing, networking, payments, purchases, research, work, play, and more.”
2) Creativity: live video reigns
Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and messaging apps are influencing mobile’s focus in 2017. Experts use words like “creation” and “selfies” and “video” to describe where we’re going with mobile.
Others talk about “content” and “experiences.
“Creation and consumption of live video content will hit new highs,” says author and futurist Joel Comm, while entrepreneur and developer Albert Renshaw sees a future in both “content creation apps and content curation apps.” And while selfies are still big, mobile analyst Tomi T Ahonen says “the rich world is shifting from pictures (selfies) to video.”
Tech PR queen Ayelet Noff of Blonde 2.0 agrees, saying that “folks will be uploading more short videos rather than photos in 2017 – Instagram’s ‘Your Story’ will be one of the igniters of that.”
3) Sensorization: mobile in command
IoT continues to grow, and mobile’s generally the command center.
Mobile phones already have a significant number of sensors, including location, motion, light, and in some cases atmospheric sensors. But we’re going to be tying them into an ecosystem of devices and data that surface even more sensor-driven data, experts say.
That includes payments and purchasing.
“Peoples’ phones will be used as part of a larger intelligent ecosystem,” says IHS Markit research director Sarah Wallace. ”For example, for Amazon’s Go shops (where consumers buy groceries without lines or cashiers) a user’s smartphone will be used to trigger machine learning, sensors, and video monitoring to track purchases.”
Adding sensors will also aid our fallible memories in finding lost objects.
“Smartphones will actually get smarter, helping you in chores, errands, understanding your habits and helping you monitoring objects around you,” says Daniel Japiassu, CEO of YDreams Global.
4) Multiple realities: VR, AR, MR
Virtual reality is expensive and requires a lot of hardware — unless it’s powered by a mobile phone, as in Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s DayDream. Half the planet will have a smartphone in 2017, and that means that alternate realities will be within reach.
Multiple experts see VR and AR (augmented reality) really coming of age when it is better supported on mobile, with higher-resolution displays and more powerful CPUs. Author Jesse Stay predicts that “Apple will enter the VR race through mobile, and VR/mixed reality will become a mainstream tool.” Robert Scoble agrees, and also predicts a major new product from Apple.
“A major new iPhone is coming in 2017 that does mixed reality,” he says.
Mixed reality is similar to augmented reality in that it overlays virtual objects on to the real world, but differs in that in mixed reality, the objects should be manipulable and respect real-world physics.
That will have implications for how we use our devices.
Hashtag inventor Chris Messina says that we’ll more spend time in between devices than on a particular device. That means “we’re going to move between interface modalities as well: chat, voice, screen, touch, augmented reality, VR,” he said.
Interestingly, entrepreneur Colin Crook sees room to expand in hearables, providing augmented reality for the ear to enable to tune in or out of conversations and sounds (noises?) as desired.
5) Money: m-commerce & m-payments
We’re going to spend more money on mobile in the coming year, says Joel Comm. Aaron Weiche, CMO of GetFiveStars, says mobile payments will be normal.
“We’ll move closer to the mobile-only world, it’s our go-to for news, friends, commerce, answers and more,” Weiche says. “We’ll continue to remove friction from mobile utility to make actions even easier with mobile.”
That’s not just mobile wallets; it’s also the big existing payment providers, says consultant Jed Schneiderman.
“I think we may see commerce pick up on mobile – within social (Facebook) and also with large payment processors – VISA, Mastercard, Amex, Paypal,” he said.
6) Devices with benefits: everything gets better
Experts and influencers also think that Google, Apple, and any other companies investing in mobile platforms and apps will be making things better for us. More “speed,” “convenience,” and “efficient” are common words they used.
That will have some consequences.
“Mobile will evolve, continually making life more efficient,” says Martha M, a marketing consultant. “It will blur the lines between life offline and online.”
7) Real-time: everything on-demand
Those user benefits extend to speed, and that means real-time services.
“Google Maps and real-time traffic is a great example,” says mobile marketer Peter Fodor. “A timely notification with actual traffic conditions on my way to the office is a perfect assistance making my life easier.”
Everything is accelerating, experts say, and that includes the change that mobile is bringing.
“Adoption of mobile search and payment will accelerate, but some things will be transformed forever—including social, where mobile will be the primary interface for most people,” says author and creative director Rick Mathieson.
That speed just increases as intelligence broadens out beyond our phones to every thing on the planet, literally.
“Through the Internet of Things mobile will deliver information to retailers and others that require our information to process transactions, eliminating wait lines, and physical barriers to transactions,” says CEO and IoT expert Tamara McCleary.
8) Intelligence: more digital assistance
Everyone is more than ready to get their own personal assistant, and companies are lining up to provide digital versions: Alexa, Cortana, Siri, Google Assistant, Viv, and more. In fact, one company, Snips.ai, provides a prebuilt assistant in various business verticals for mobile developers.
“Personal AI agents, bots and assistants will enable mobile apps to give users more tools and control of their world,” says mobile developer and blogger Dulce Baerga. And we “will deal with issues like support and various client touch points via bots whether or not [we] realize it,” says designer and CEO Pek Pongpaet.
Our phones will be smarter and more able to help us, says VP of Product for HYP3R, Esteban Contreras.
“A continuous focus on machine learning and AI will make our mobile operating systems better interconnected and at the ready to give us answers and propose solutions when we need them,” he says.
This can get very, very personal.
“In 2017, we can anticipate that mobile will not only be used to satisfy the day-to-day needs of people as a personal assistant, but become the single confidante that holds an individual’s life story,” says Manish Patel, the founder and CEO of Brandify.
9) Innovation converges
“Everything that can be invented has been invented,” goes the famous quote from the weary Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the US Patent Office in 1899.
And sometimes we feel the same way about mobile, with many smartphone manufacturers competing to make their devices look more and more like the iPhone, a form factor that hasn’t changed much in two to three years.
We’re going to see more convergence, more consolidation of mobile devices and apps. And that means mobile will soon replace our desktops and our laptops, while keeping larger screens and keyboards to use as needed.
“Our devices will move from pocket to desktop as we interact with them more from our primary display,” says CEO and speaker Douglas Karr. “The future is closer – when we will only have mobile devices and parked or shared displays to use them with.”
And computing devices are continuing to proliferate, says Messina. Some are moving to our faces and our wrists. Some are embedded in our clothing or shoes. All of them are communicating with our phones.
There’s a sense in which innovation in mobile has slowed. But there’s also a reality in which we’re starting to apply the innovations in mobile to the wider world of digital devices around us.
For more detail on the future on mobile, see 76 of the influencers and experts’ opinion here.