Mobile Predictions 2014

Mobile Predictions 2014

Mobile Predictions 2014

First things first. From all of us at Chetan Sharma Consulting, we wish you and yours a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2014. My thanks to all who participated in our 2014 Mobile Predictions Annual Survey. It gives our community an insider’s view of the trends and predictions for the New Year.

2013 was a terrific year for the mobile industry. Mobile data continued to drive most of the mobile growth around the world. Whether it was LTE-minted markets like the US or the emerging economies like Indonesia, whether it was giants like China or the upcomers like Vietnam, mobile data growth was central to the economic activity in the ecosystem. Mobile is also transforming every major vertical industry around the globe. 2013 proved that connectivity has become the core of our fabric and we are entering the “connected intelligence era” that will enable the Golden Age of Mobile.

The competitive dynamics stayed quite vibrant in 2013. We saw epic battles in the field as well as in the courts. Many players struggled for relevance while some fresh blood was infused with startups around the world.

As we peer into 2014, we will see the total number of cellular subscriptions eclipsing humans on the planet for the first time. As the number of connected devices continue their march towards a multi-billion unit market, expectations of what’s possible are changing. Without a doubt, 2014 will be better than 2013 as new technologies, players, and business models shape the ever changing mobile landscape.

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=150) from leading mobile companies and startups from across the value chain and from around the world participated to help see what 2014 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 around the world. The survey provides a view of how they collectively see the upcoming year for mobile.

1. What was most newsworthy in Mobile 2013?


Smartphones and tablets established themselves as the most dominating computing platforms. If there was any doubts that the post-PC world is here, they were over as smartphones in most western countries are now over 90% of the devices sold every quarter. Once Nokia announced its shift to Windows, Microsoft’s acquisition was only a matter of time and with the acquisition (and a new CEO), Microsoft looks to a new beginning in 2014. Apple and Samsung continued to duel it out in the courts and the markets. The security breaches and the privacy revelations were a big deal in 2014. Facebook got its mobile mojo and many other consumer brands start to perform well on the mobile 4th wave.

2. What will be the biggest mobile stories of 2014?


Mobile continues to transform industries and nations. The continued growth of mobile data around the globe was voted the top story third year in a row closely followed by the expectations of new experiences that go beyond the smartphones. The connected devices segment will keep wanting for more and the big M&As are not going anywhere. Given that cross-domain acquisitions have become the norm, expect some blockbuster deals in 2014. Privacy has also surged in priority for folks in the industry.

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

In mobile, Google, Apple, Samsung and the mobile Operators continued to be the most influential players in the ecosystem. Amazon, Qualcomm, Facebook, Microsoft, and Ericsson also hold significant sway as to which direction we will go in the New Year. The top 10 operators play a major role in terms of technology and business models evolution in the marketplace.

4. What will be the breakthrough categories in mobile in 2014?

It was no surprise that connected devices and wearable computing was voted as the breakthrough categories for 2014. We are in the early stages of understanding what’s possible and the entrepreneurs buoyed by the new business models are pushing the boundaries. Some of the early models lack the smarts but we will learn a lot this year about the new business models and technology boundaries to push with sensor-enabled societies.

5. What will be the most popular consumer mobile applications in 2014?

There is still quite a bit of disparity as to which apps dominate in the developed world vs. the emerging countries. The differences are due to the varying smartphone penetration, cost of data, regional requirements and interests. However, the gaps are closing every year.

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

The industry expects iOS to continue to dominate the revenue pie and Android the unit share. While Windows made a bold entry with Surface, the lack of coherent strategy and execution has left the platform way behind in numbers and while we might see some incremental performance, iOS and Android will continue to dominate the tablet landscape for the next couple of years.

7. Who will make the biggest mobile acquisition in 2014?

Softbank made the biggest blockbuster deal in mobile last year with a $22B acquisition of Sprint/Clearwire. It is likely that Softbank will make a bid for T-Mobile in a deal of similar size in early 2014 and again lead the industry in M&As. A number of operators are also eyeing operators in Europe and so we might be in for a surprise. In a non-operator merger, our panel correctly predicted Microsoft to make the biggest acquisition (Nokia). This year, they pick Google ahead of Microsoft.

8. Who will dominate the mobile payment/commerce space?

Due to fragmentation, no challenger has emerged who can put up a fight against the might of the financial companies like Visa and Mastercard. As such, the industry expects them to stay in the driver’s seat for some time.

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

LTE has been the fastest cellular technology being deployed in the history of the industry. 4G continues to be the focus for the operators with other solutions chipping in to help manage the insatiable appetite of consumers for more data. There are hopes that some alternate business models to fund mobile data broadband will emerge in 2014.

10. Which category will generate the most mobile data revenue in 2014?

Access has become the most dominant category for generating mobile data revenues worldwide. There are some regional differences for e.g. in North America, messaging’s contribution is tiny while in Asia and Africa, it is a dominant category. OTT services are also starting to make a dent in the overall revenue mix.

11. Which European operator is likely to emerge stronger from the weak economic climate?

Vodafone sold of its previous Verizon possession. Will it help in making the company stronger? Our panel thinks so. Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica make up the top three.

12. When will mobile commerce be greater than ecommerce?

As the holiday commerce data showed, mobile was already 50% of the digital traffic in 2013. The panel expects that within 2-3 years, each region is likely to see the tipping point.

13. The company bringing the most successful mobile gadget of the year – 2013 and 2014?

Apple continues to set the pace of the industry, however, Samsung has gone toe-to-toe with its rival and won many battles. Samsung understood the potential of bigger screens better than most and capitalized on it with blockbuster sales around the globe. If you go to Asia, you will see ease with which consumers interact with larger screen devices. Now, this phenomenon is taking over the western markets as well. As is always the case, folks expect Apple to surprise us with iPhone 6. There are expectations that Google (Motorola) and Amazon might spring in a surprise or two.

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

In 2013, Windows established itself as the only viable third mobile ecosystem. The gap is likely to increase in 2014 though HTML5 and forked Android based OS might pose a challenge.

15. Mobile company of the year – 2013 and 2014?

Samsung’s performance in 2013 was outstanding. With a massive global footprint, its ambition knew no bounds. It performed exceptionally well generating multi-billion quarters and just dominating the Android landscape. In 2012, Samsung displaced the 14 year reigning champion Nokia from the top spot. In 2013, the company solidified its position and was voted the Mobile Company of the year. However, in 2014, the panel expects Apple and Google to duke it out for the top spot.

16. Which of the following are likely to happen in 2014?

Amazon smartphone is like water on Mars. It is much talked about but hasn’t been spotted yet. Will 2014 be any different? For the first time, expectations improved to 50%+. Microsoft might launch Surface smartphone instead of pushing Windows smartphones. 40% of the panel thought that Softbank will acquire T-Mobile and it will go through. Will Samsung fork Android? The question has been of much speculation in 2013 and will continue to see interest in the New Year as well.

17. Which operator is best positioned for the digital world?

As we outlined in our 4th wave series of papers, mobile operators are at a critical juncture of their evolution. The ones that embrace the digital world will live to see another decade of growth and prosperity while others will perish or be relegated to lesser roles. As we have worked with leading operators around the globe on this transition, I have become more convinced that the digital transformation will redefine the segment. AT&T, Verizon, Softbank, DoCoMo, Telefonica continue to lead. There are many sceptics as well. 2014 will be a year of change and progress.

18. What category will be impacted the most by mobile in the next 5 years?

As I have said before, we are entering the golden age of mobile and every vertical, every industry is going to be transformed by mobile. Which categories are ripe for disruption? Our panel voted for health and monitoring, home automation, wellness/fitness, entertainment, and auto as the top categories. We already saw great progress in 2013 and will see many more companies enter these spaces in 2014. Exciting times ahead.

19. Which segments are likely to get disintermediated the most by algorithms in the next 5 years?

The inefficiencies of a middlemen can be overcome by algorithms. The concept is not new but society expects more each year to narrow the gap between the thought and task execution. Advertising agencies, retail, real estate, transportation, and education seem to be on top of everyone’s mind as the areas that need some algorithmic infusion.

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

Samsung’s JK Shin was number two behind Tim Cook in last year’s vote. His ascendency to the number one spot for 2013 reflects the success Samsung has had this last year. He was closely followed by Masayoshi Son whose global ambitions put the mobile world on notice in 2013 and John Legere who brought back T-Mobile as a strong contender in the US market. Last year, the expectations were high for Jeff Bezos and they are high again for 2014. Will it be drones or space exploration or just a simple much awaited smartphone? There is a lot to look forward to in the New Year. There were several other leaders who are working on transforming the mobile industry like Sundar Pichai, Jack Dorsey, Tim Cook, Jony Ive, Mark Zuckerberg, Dick Costolo, Neelie Kroes, Lowell McAdam, Ralph de la Vega, Hans Vestberg, John Chambers, Dan Hesse, Tom Wheeler, Matthew Key, Glenn Lurie, Brian Krzanich, and many more.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed. Warm wishes for a terrific 2014.

Your feedback is always welcome.

Chetan Sharma

We will be keeping a close eye on the trends in the wireless data sector in our blog, twitter feeds, future research reports, articles, and our annual thought-leadership summit – Mobile Future Forward. The next US Wireless Data Market update will be released in March 2014. The next Global Wireless Data Market update will be issued in February 2014.

Disclaimer: Some of the companies mentioned in this paper are our clients.