10 Mobile Technology Insights for 2011 from Forrester Research

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10 Mobile Technology Insights for 2011 from Forrester Research

by Clint Boulton

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Democratizing Smartphone Use

More smartphones will become more affordable to consumers as carriers seek to subsidize devices from hardware makers to get people consuming more data. These newcomers will use fewer applications, but chomp more data, presumably through YouTube and other media Websites. We wonder what this means for Apple's App Store and the Android Market, which boast more than 400,000 apps combined.

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Mobile OS Fragmentation

Fragmentation, a buzzword we often hear ascribed to Google's Android operating system, will continue to be pervasive. While Apple's iPhone and Android remain popular in the United States, Symbian devices will remain vital in Europe and Africa. Companies planning to reach mass-market audiences by developing mobile apps will not find relief from fragmentation in 2011. Why? "The multiple versions of the same OS, different screen sizes and high number of devices mean that the costs of porting, maintaining and promoting apps will remain high," Forrester promised. Ouch, but such is the price of giving consumers choices.

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Apps vs. Mobile Internet

Are you accessing more apps native to your particular phone, or via the Web? If you're in midflight, you can still play Angry Birds on your iPhone or Droid. But you can't check live scores on ESPN.com. Forrester suggests mobile pros frustrated by the high costs of native app development and maintenance and dissatisfied with the limited reach of the Apple and Android platforms among the overall mobile population should rely more on the Web, especially as HTML5 begins to rev.

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Et Tu, Tablet?

Forrester officially expands the mobile term to tablet computers, such as Apple's iPad and the forthcoming Motorola Xoom. E-readers such as the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook and netbooks also get a vote to fall under the mobile umbrella.

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Mobile Marketing Boom

Mobile marketing will boom in 2011, crossing the $1 billion threshold for mobile display ads and search, as consumers search for goods, buy Groupon deals and make travel arrangements. That's good news for Google, which not only has the Android platform, but pairs it with the dominant search and ad platforms on handsets and tablets. AdMob is a big driver of mobile ads for Google.

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Foursquare is in serious trouble, according to Forrester, which believes stand-alone location-based social networks such as the popular check-in service will have a hard time remaining viable versus Facebook Places. Places leverages a network of 600 million-plus users, 100 times that of Foursquare's current user base.

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Near Field Communications

Near field communications (NFC), which can enable mobile payments between smartphones and contact terminals, will move away from the trial stage in regions where NFC infrastructure is in place. Meanwhile, QR bar codes and mobile augmented reality (AR) apps will see more traction on smartphones. Google is already leveraging NFC in Android 2.3 and QR codes for scanning apps downloads, and is reportedly building AR apps. However, the services will remain niche this year.

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Casual Gaming Stays Hot

Forrester says casual gaming, including such games as Rovio Mobile's popular Angry Birds, will pace the market for content companies in 2011. Subscriptions, micro transactions and in-app billing will expand from gaming to music and news.

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Rise of 4G (or Lack Thereof)

While Verizon Wireless spent much of the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show touting it 4G LTE network, Forrester believes hype will outpace the delivery. The truth is "4G will have as little impact as 3G had when it launched in Europe and the U.S. in 2003," according to the Forrester report. Specifically, despite the claims of the Samsung Galaxy S 4G from T-Mobile, the Motorola Atrix 4G from AT&T and the Motorola Droid Bionic on Verizon, few LTE devices will be available for consumers before the end of the year.

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Mobile Investments

Forrester believes companies will invest in services for customers, particularly in the travel industry. "The more direct financial returns realized through revenue gains and costs reduced or avoided will elude companies until consumers substantially adopt and use mobile services." Forrester argues that companies must integrate mobile as part of their overall corporate strategy.

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