Mobile Predictions 2013
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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 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
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
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
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
- 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,
- Mark Brill, Lead Partner, Brand
- Stuart Saunders, CEO, Mobile Defense
- Tony Greco, Director, ZTE
- Venu Vasudevan, Sr. Director,
- Elliott Hamilton, Sr. Director,
- 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,
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
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.
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
Google is so far ahead in this category that it routinely gets
more votes than rest of the industry combined. The company has
done a masterful job of strategy and setting up the “open vs.
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
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
What will be the most popular consumer mobile applications in
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
We will be keeping a close eye on the trends in the wireless
data sector in our blog, twitter
The next US Wireless Data Market update will be released in Feb
2013. The next Global Wireless Data Market update will be issued
in Mar 2013.
Disclaimer: Some of the companies mentioned in this survey are our