American Marketer


11 trends for mobile apps in 2011

December 15, 2010


kunal-guptaBy Kunal Gupta

What are the key trends with mobile applications and what will Apple, Google, Microsoft, Research In Motion and others do that will affect brands in their marketing and commerce?

Here are the 11 trends that are likely to shape marketers' strategies including applications.

Your mobile strategy will go beyond the iPhone and iPad

• In 2011, businesses will recognize that having an iPhone application does not constitute a real mobile strategy to achieve their goal of increasing reach

• With more than 1 billion smartphones expected by 2013, this is a growing market with room for many other players such as Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Symbian, HTC and Samsung

• Gartner has predicted that mobile application downloads will surpass 4 billion in 2010 and grow to 21 billion by 2013

Android fragmentation will be a major challenge for all

• Google has issued seven releases of the Android OS (1.1, 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 2.01, 2.1, 2.2) in less than two years

• Older and lower-performance Android devices experience performance issues

• Original equipment manufacturers such as Motorola, Samsung, LG, HTC, Huawei and Sony Ericsson customize their version of Android for differentiation

Tablets will appear in every home and will need tablet applications

• OEMs such as Apple, Research In Motion, Samsung, LG, HTC, Acer, Cisco, Dell, Motorola, OpenPeak and Viewsonic will all have their own tablets in 2011

• Distribution channels of tablets will diverse – OEMs, wireless carriers, retailers – and many from which consumers can choose

• In 2010, Apple will sell more than 10 million tablets and Samsung 1 million-plus, while Gartner predicts more than 55 million tablets will sell in 2011

The number of active users will be more important than the number of downloads

• Most businesses today do not know what is happening inside their applications, hence only report on the number of downloads

• Improved analytics will enable businesses to optimize applications and the user experience

• Strategies to drive continued usage – which leads to revenue – will become more important than strategies to drive downloads

Social will differentiate the mobile application experience

• Thirty-five percent of Twitter’s active users access the service through their mobile device

• Two million Web sites online – not mobile yet – have adopted the Facebook “Like” button

• Mobile consumption habits are different than online and social will play a role in providing a unique mobile experience

Mobile-exclusive brands and content will have success

• Traditional publishers will launch new, mobile-only brands

• Vertical-focused content will be used to create greater user stickiness

• Mobile applications leverage new distribution channels and, as a result, new discovery options

Paid content will have limited success due to infrastructure

• Outside of iTunes, it is not easy to buy physical or virtual goods on your smartphone today

• Major infrastructure and billing improvements are required for mass adoption of paid content and micro-transactions on mobile

• Billing fees of around 30 percent are not going to work for major retailers and publishers who want to build a premium revenue stream from mobile consumption

Mobile applications and the mobile Web will get hitched and play nice together

• Operating systems creators are making it easier to launch applications leveraging Web technologies and skills

• Applications will heavily leverage mobile Web in applications as a means to scale utility and custom features cross-device

• The average user will not be able to tell the difference between a mobile Web site and mobile application eventually

Applications leverage near-field communications to become mobile commerce tools

• Android Gingerbread, which is the recent release of the operating system, supports an NFC API, generating a lot of interest

• Retailers will leverage NFC in applications to increase in-store purchase volume on a per-customer basis

• RFID chips embedded in smartphones will enable devices to become payment tools in both the physical and virtual worlds

Application security and threats will become important

• Unlike desktops, smartphones often store more personal information that is easily accessible by applications

• Application distribution channels currently do not require security testing, which will be an issue as the number of applications

available reaches 1 million

• Developers will need to use techniques such as spoofing, tampering, repudiation, information disclosure, denial of service and elevation of privilege

Fragmentation across operating systems and device will grow exponentially

• Operating systems: Apple iOS, Google Android, Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Hewlett-Packard’s Palm, Samsung Bada, Nokia Symbian and Intel MeeGo

• Device: smartphone, feature phone, tablet, smart televisions, automobiles, netbooks, laptops and browsers

• All large players who are not going anyway anytime soon and will all have their own play to attract applications to drive differentiation

Kunal Gupta is CEO of Polar Mobile, a Toronto-based platform provider for applications across devices. Reach him at