The Great Recession may have delayed the onslaught of mobile devices as a driver of our digital culture, but 2011 will be the year when many aspects of our lifestyles are impacted by mobile communications
The vast majority of Americans will have some sort of mobile communications device with them around the clock as they keep in touch with work, friends and family through iPhones, iPads and a variety of devices.
Here is my top 10 list of trends that promise to transform our mobile lifestyles in the coming year.
1. 2011 will be known as the "The Year of the Tablet": 2010 was the year the smart phone became a standard for most Americans. Tablets will become the top item this year as high-resolution screens, Internet access and computer-like operating systems make these devices a real challenger to laptops for business and pleasure. The Apple iPad created the tablet excitement last year and will still dominate the 50 million or so tablets sold in 2011, but dozens of other devices will be available.
2. iPhone comes to Verizon: Last year, it was just a rumor; now it's a certainty. A new version of the iPhone will be available from Verizon this spring. And other cell phone companies may get the iPhone as well. Should be a good year if you're in the cell phone recycling business.
3. Android smart phones begin to dominate: The Android versus Apple battle over mobile operating system supremacy is over. Android won. With hundreds of smartphones with Google's Android software being introduced in 2011, Apple, Blackberry and Microsoft will continue to lose ground. Open architecture wins.
4. There's an app for that: Seems like there's an app for nearly everything these days. Apps fit perfectly with hectic mobile lifestyles. No human memory needed. Just tap the Angry Bird and play. Brands are using apps as a way to advertise and sell products. Apps for health care and education are proving effective. Look for apps for social media sites such as Facebook to grow. Problem is with nearly one-half million apps available how do you choose? There's got to be a search app for that.
5. Location, location, location: As a marketing device, GPS-enabled smart phones work best when they work locally. Foursquare, Facebook Places and Gowalla are examples of mobile apps that let you "check in" with friends at restaurants and bars. Sounds silly to many people, but 4 million users and growing is a positive trend for location-based apps. A key to success in 2011 is attaching coupons and incentives to checking in. Free calamari appetizer, anyone?
6. Gee...is it really 4G? 3G. 4G. Oh, my. Speed has become the new marketing mantra for cell phone companies. The major companies are advertising ultra high-speed 4G. Does it matter? Eventually it will as more users view videos and use the Internet on their smart phones. But get ready to pay for it. 4G will grow as more phones are offered that can use the higher speeds.
7. E-readers go mainstream: Ever read a book on a mobile device? Chances are you might this year. The growth of top-end dedicated e-readers such as the Kindle DX and Sony Reader Touch Edition will compete with tablets and lower priced readers. What about the price of ebooks? Competition can be a beautiful thing. Look for lower ebook prices as competition heats up.
8. Ready for your wallet to go mobile? Using your smart phone as a mobile wallet will begin to become commonplace as banks, credit card companies and retailers adopt new micropayment technologies. Swipe your smart phone past a scanner and pay for groceries instantly. Payment comes right out of your bank account or goes onto your credit card. Eventually, vending machines, kiosk and parking meters will accept mobile micropayments.
9. Retailers lead the charge for mobile commerce: This holiday was a record-setter for mobile commerce. Retailers such as Best Buy and Target let consumers use smart phone apps to shop and buy. Look for mobile to become more of the in-store shopping experience. Apps will tell you where the bargains are while you're in a store and give you instant coupons. The app can also help you find your car in the shopping mall parking lot.
10. All-you-can-eat data plans are dead: Plan to pay more for your data plan if you like to watch videos or listen to the radio on your phone. Use more, pay more. Many cell phone companies have already introduced tiered-rate data plans. Verizon will in 2011.
And a prediction out of left field:
11. You'll be able to start watch free live TV on your smart phone as more TV-ready phones are introduced. Advertisers aren't really sure if there's a market there. There is.
Michael Hanley is a mobile communications researcher at Ball State University and assistant professor of journalism and director of university's Institute for Mobile Media Research. He has conducted twice-a-year surveys on the use of mobile devices by college students since 2004.