2013 Mobile Industry Predictions Survey

2013 Mobile Industry Predictions Survey

First things first. From all of us at Chetan Sharma Consulting, we wish you and yours a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2013. My thanks to all who participated in our 2013 Mobile Predictions Annual Survey. It gives our community an insider’s view of the trends and predictions for the New Year.

2012 was a terrific year for the mobile industry. Mobile data continued to drive most of the mobile growth around the world. Mobile also started impacting every major vertical industry around the globe. In fact, mobile has become so ingrained in the fabric of business productivity and social interaction that it is not longer the new growth engine, it has become the engine.

The competitive dynamics stayed quite vibrant in 2012. We saw epic battles in the markets as well as in the courts. 2012 also saw the PC value chain struggling for relevance while the smartphones and tablets unit sales captured all the attention and headlines.

As we peer into 2013, we will see the total number of cellular subscriptions eclipsing humans on the planet. The connected device made steady progress. Anything that should be connected is being connected – creating a web of new opportunities and challenges.

LTE has become the fastest deployed cellular technology in the approximately 35 year history of the industry. Broadband combined with connected devices and applications are changing the way we live, we interact with others, do business, and consume information.

The European economic crisis impacted many players especially the large telcos, making the transition to digital ever more urgent. As voice and messaging revenue curves decline and access revenue approaches its high mark in the next few years, investment in the fourth curve becomes critical for all players.

Our annual survey is a way for us to engage our community on the trends for the next year. We put some of the pressing questions to our colleagues and industry leaders. We are able to glean some valuable insights from their choices and comments, some tangible shifts, and get a sense of what’s to come. Executives, developers, and insiders (n=200) from leading mobile companies and startups from across the value chain and from around the world participated to help see what 2013 might bring to keep us on our toes. What makes this survey unique is that it draws upon the collective wisdom of folks who are at the center of the mobile evolution. The survey provides a view of how they see the upcoming year for mobile.

30 names were randomly drawn for the limited edition of the Mobile Future Forward 2012 book. The winners are:

  • Ryan Carney, UX, Gfk
  • Wes Biggs, CTO, Adfonic
  • Volker Hirsch, Head of BD, RIM
  • Bobby Morrison, President, Verizon Wireless
  • Chris Walls, Strategy, Huawei
  • Von Cameron, EVP, Smith Micro
  • Sami Makelainen, Manager, Telstra
  • Martin Fichter, VP, HTC
  • Jeff Hasen, CMO, Hipcricket
  • Paul Brody, VP, IBM
  • Michael Mullany, CEO, Sencha
  • Mick Welch, Manager, Nokia
  • Jana Messerschmidt, VP, Twitter
  • Akio Orii, SVP, Toyota
  • Gina Bovara, Software Services, Intel
  • Mark Brill, Lead Partner, Brand Emotivity
  • Stuart Saunders, CEO, Mobile Defense
  • Tony Greco, Director, ZTE
  • Venu Vasudevan, Sr. Director, Motorola
  • Elliott Hamilton, Sr. Director, TeleCommunication Systems
  • Biljana Jovicic, VAS, Digitel
  • Robin Jewsbury, Cofounder, Promoht
  • Julie Dey, VP, Rootmetrics
  • Pat Nunally, VP, Upaid
  • Paul Upham, Director, Welldoc
  • Sagar Tamang, Director, Nielsen
  • Andrew Meadors, Engineer, Cisco
  • Nikao Yang, SVP, Adcolony
  • Pelle Larsen, Director, SingTel
  • Kelly Amsbry, Sr. Planner, Microsoft
  • Elisabeth Rainge, Head – Strategy, NSN

Thanks again to everyone who contributed. We will be calling on you again next year.

Be well, do good work, stay in touch, and stay away from Triskaidekaphobiacs.

Thanks and with warm wishes,



What was most newsworthy in Mobile 2012?

2012 was a spectacular year for smartphones. Smartphones in most western nations are now over 80% of the devices sold every quarter. China will soon become the biggest market by unit volume and the rest of the world is catching up fast as we see sub-$50 Android devices flood the market. Apple vs. Samsung has become akin to Lakers vs. Celtics of the eighties or the India vs. Pakistan rivalry in cricket. The passion and intense competition between the two super powers was clearly the headline of the year. That pushed the Android vs. iOS tussles as the subheading for 2012. As we enter into 2013, the legacy computing aka PC players will need to reinvent themselves or expect substantial decline in their fortunes.


  1. What will be the biggest mobile stories of 2013?


The role of mobile data in industry’s growth has been cemented by the insatiable appetite for higher speeds, more apps, and social interaction and is expected to continue at a feverish pace as LTE roles out around the world and the developing world catches up. We are likely to see the Apple and Google rivalry intensify. One is a master of hardware and the other of software. Both have their Achilles heel and much is at stake in the coming year. Many expect Microsoft’s Windows to make progress to lay claim to become a viable 3rd ecosystem. 2013 will try to answer that question.

Who will be the most open player in the mobile ecosystem in 2013?


Who are the top 4 important players in the mobile ecosystem?


Many in the industry talk about Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon as the most important platform players in the business today. However, when it comes to mobile, in addition to the defacto top-two, our survey picks Samsung as number three by a good margin. Samsung has become a strong player in the digital ecosystem that commands attention and respect. The top 10-15 global operators play a strong role in the mobile ecosystem and collectively edged out Amazon and others for the number four spot. Facebook and Microsoft while strong in the desktop world have a lot to prove to be considered a top tier player in mobile.

What will be the breakthrough categories in mobile in 2013?


Our industry seems fascinated with the potential of mobile payments and voted it to be the top mobile applications and services category for 2013. Given the importance of Cloud in all apps/services, it is no surprise that it is part of the top 2. Mobile Commerce, Big data, and connected devices rounded up the top 5.

What will be the most popular consumer mobile applications in 2013?


There are regional variations when it comes to the popularity and revenue potential of mobile applications. Messaging, mobile commerce, and social dominate the developing world while location based services replaces messaging in the developed world as the key mobile application. Mobile health and gaming made a strong show in both regions.

Which will be the most dominant tablet platform in 2 years?


So far, iOS has dominated the tablet landscape. With iPad, Apple has effectively carved out the mid-high tier of the tablet space. Android players are losing or barely making any revenue from this device category. Windows tablets are priced so high that it is trying to compete with laptops rather than the tablets. Our panel expects Android to catch-up in unit sales and iOS to dominate the revenues by good margins. Windows is likely to stay a marginal player.

Who will make the biggest mobile acquisition in 2013?


Microsoft and Google both have big cash balanced to make some sizable acquisitions in 2013. Microsoft lacks traction and attention and will try to make a move but which player can give them an edge? Apple also needs to beef up its software operations significantly but doesn’t have the history of big acquisitions. Operators are also looking to become OTT players themselves and might make moves to shore up their strategic interests. Many participants think that Nokia and RIM have seen their final year as an independent entity.

How will the "Apps vs. Mobile Web" debate shape up in 2013?


In 2012, many expected the resurgence of “mobile web” but it hasn’t panned out that way. Google has doubled up on apps, Facebook realized HTML5 isn’t going to cut it, and the expectations pendulum swung back to the apps and might stay there for 2013.

Who will dominate the mobile payment/commerce space?


Three years ago, mobile payments/commerce seemed to be the “blue ocean” opportunity but financial guys have firmly protected their turf, at least for now. Hopes were high for operator led initiatives but the enthusiasm has tapered off. Startups like Square are doing more to disrupt the payments space than some of the established players. The only exception is PayPal, which has so far been able to create good distance with the competitors. Microsoft has surprisingly been absent in a critical space.

Which solutions will gain the most traction for managing mobile data broadband consumption?


4G, mobile offload, and tiered pricing have been most effective in managing the costs of mobile data consumption though spectrum has garnered more of the noise share.

Which category will generate the most mobile data revenue in 2013?


Access dominates the developed world while messaging has the lion share in the developing world. We will see access becoming the dominant category in the emerging markets fairly soon.

Which European operator is likely to emerge stronger from the current economic climate?


European operators have been battered by struggling economy and regulatory changes. Many are rethinking their strategy, shedding off assets, and just trying to keep their head above water. The leaner operations and refocused strategic direction might help them recover better when the economy improves. While our global panel picked Vodafone to have the strongest recovery, our European panel picked Telefonica to emerge stronger.

When will mobile commerce be greater than ecommerce?


A majority of the panel thinks that mobile commerce will eclipse ecommerce in revenues generated by 2015 in North America and Asia and by 2020 for the rest of the world. There are already strong signs that commerce is shifting from online to mobile.

The company bringing the most successful mobile gadget of the year – 2012 and 2013?


Apple continues to produce the most desirable devices. iPhone and iPad dwarf everything else and easily was the company with the most successful gadget in 2012. However, the panel expects Samsung to best its rival in 2013. Google and Amazon might mount a credible challenge but their chances of producing something truly dominating remain low.

Which platform has a credible shot at becoming a viable and durable 3rd ecosystem in mobile?


Windows 8 phones finally launched in 2012. The design is solid, the OEM support is growing, the number of apps are rising and while it is still a long ways to becoming a credible 3rd ecosystem, it has the best shot at becoming one. The only rival seems the HTML5-based OS initiatives. The application developer community actually voted for HTML5 over Windows as the 3rd ecosystem that has some chance of competing with iOS and Android which completely dominate in revenues and unit sales respectively.

Mobile company of the year – 2012 and 2013?


Samsung eclipsed Nokia and Apple to become the most dominating device player in unit volume in almost all major markets. The speed with which it is churning out devices has pretty much crushed the rest of the Android ecosystem and is going head-to-head with Apple. For this performance, the panel voted Samsung to be the mobile company of the year for both 2012 and 2013 with Apple and Google close behind.

Which of the following are likely to happen in 2013?


The rumor chamber is ablaze with the possibilities of Apple TV, smartphones from Amazon and Microsoft, and data-only plans to make their appearance in 2013. Square and Twitter could be the hot acquisitions of the year though Twitter is likely to chose IPO glory. Will Samsung fork Android? Will Sprint and T-Mobile merge? Will European operators get acquired? These are some of the questions that are likely to keep the media on their toes this year.

Which operator is best positioned for the digital world?


As we outlined in our research paper “Operator’s Dilemma: The Fourth Wave,” the business of being a mobile operator is at a critical juncture and operators are investing heavily into creating the digital business. AT&T, Verizon, NTT DoCoMo, Softbank, and Telefonica are already generating billions of dollars from these initiatives and lead the operator contingent in the digital world.

Who was and will be the mobile person of the year?


In the past, Steve Jobs was consistently the person of the year in mobile. In 2012, Tim Cook effectively managed to produce record profits for the investors and navigated Apple to keep its “most valuable enterprise” title intact for the year. Apple is still the company on top of the hill. JK Shin of Samsung was voted number two for 2012. For 2013, the landscape changed. Our panel overwhelmingly voted Jeff Bezos to impress us the most in 2013. Amazon has done a good job disrupting the device model and with its strong commerce expertise, it is looking to take on both Google and Apple at the same time. Andy Rubin of Google with the 1 billion Android units milestone coming up this year will be a good contender for the title as well.

There were several other leaders who impressed in 2012 e.g. Paul Jacobs (eclipsing Intel in market cap), Jack Dorsey (disrupting the mobile payments market with Square), Masayoshi Son (for Sprint acquisition and global ambitions), Dan Hesse (for navigating Sprint through rough waters), Glenn Lurie and Matthew Key (for leading the digital transformation of the two giants – AT&T and Telefonica respectively), Rhen Zhengfei (for making Huawei into a dominating infrastructure provider), Lowell McAdam (for making Verizon the number 1 mobile data operator in the world) and Ralph de la Vega (for making AT&T the number 2 ahead of NTT DoCoMo).

All in all, a great collection of thoughts and comments. Thanks again to everyone who participated. Have a great 2013.