Disclaimer: This is a guest post by João Daniel Araújo. The opinions reflected on this blog post are my own and not of my employer, Google. I’d love to hear your thoughts about it – reach out via  Email or Twitter.

2012 was a great year for mobile. People started to see smartphones and tablets as  devices that everyone can have. Companies started to ask HOW to do mobile, not WHY do mobile. In every single perspective, mobile evolved considerably, and 2013 will be even more impressive. What makes it unique is that it is a technology that is improving the lives of millions of people, and has many areas to develop still. I’ve grouped 5 of the key areas that shaped mobile in 2012 – People / Demographics, Content / Apps, Operating Systems, Devices, Carriers / Networks and Advertising – and what I think will determine the trends for this year.

1 – People / Demographics

Key Stat: More than half of the population in the US own a smartphone

Having a smartphone or a tablet is not considered a luxury anymore. From 100$ smartphones to a 20$ tablet (even Apple slashed its profit margins on the new iPhone 5 and the iPad Mini), there are plenty of options that will fit any wallet. Not only the spectrum of prices has widened considerably, but also the use people have for their mobile devices has changed.

Apart from the initial email checking, news reading and (surprisingly) contacting people, smartphones are now used to measure many body signals, or control your home. This year, however, might be the year of the biggest money-making activity of all – corporate use of smartphones.

 

2 – Operating Systems

Key Stat: Android has 72% market share, iOS has 75% dev revenue share

Although the battle between the Android and iOS keeps raising the bar each launch, I think that the biggest innovations in smartphones might come from the new and ambitious operating systems that were launched in 2012, Firefox OS and Ubuntu for Android. I don’t think that they’ll be competing with the two behemoths, but they might find a decent niche to play and innovate.

A quick word for Windows Mobile - disappointing. Microsoft might have been the only one that could challenge Apple and Google (plus having a brand like Nokia taking care of the hardware), but the lack of game-changing features failed to impress the public. So much so that Nokia’s own Asha phones are outselling Windows’ Lumia devices more than 2 to 1.

Blackberry had a slow year. 2013 might mark their comeback with Blackberry 10 aimed for 30th of January for the corporate world. This is an area that nobody is owning at present, and Blackberry was no.1 before – do you think they can make it?

 

3 – Content / Apps

Key Stat: iOS has 700,000 apps to download. Android? Another 700,000.

With all this proliferation of devices, it’s no wonder that the content available for smartphones as multiplied massively and is getting better and smarter (specially for Android devices, they’re also getting prettier!).

New applications are trying to take full advantage of the new capabilities of the smartphones – and this is not only for games. Mobile devices have a plethora of sensors that are being smartly used by many app developers, like… Nike.

I would highlight one specific example that I think has loads of potential - Project Niantic. Niantic is a game developed by Google that uses augmented reality, check ins, and puts half of the world fighting against each other. This is the first mobile-only game that forces you to interact with the places around you at a massive scale. Let’s see other great examples in 2013 of what mobile is capable of!

 

4 – Devices

Key Stat: “Phablets” and stylus pens. Once an insult, now selling millions.

We seem to hear about new mobile devices coming out everyday (specially if you count rumors as well!). The truth is, as we’ve discussed previously, there are more and more people using smartphones with different needs and requesting different devices. Android alone is seeing 1.3 million activations a day.

The smartphone’s screen is getting bigger (even Apple’s iPhone 5), and tablets are getting smaller. Right at the end of the year, we’ve seen the launch of many Windows’ based devices that are a fully fledged laptop and a tablet as well. Ubuntu OS will allow you to dock your phone and have a complete Desktop OS running from your phone. The barriers between what is a desktop, a laptop, a smartphone and a tablet are disappearing, and the only way to distinguish among them in the future might be if they have a SIM card or not.

 

5 – Mobile Advertising

Key Stat: Mobile Ad spend doubled in the US to $6.4 billion

At last, my home turf! Mobile advertising not only had an incredible year in 2012, it also has an outstanding potential going forward. The bad news is that we are still developing the tools to manage such a different medium and learning about the cross-shopping activities that happen on a mobile device. The good news is it really, really works.

It works because mobile offers the opportunity to reach consumers at the moments that matter, as they are always connected. If brands are clever enough to tell a compelling story at the right time, it can be very effective. This is important not only when you’re search for restaurants in your city, but also for longer buying processes like buying a car. With 55% of smartphone owners now doing price comparisons in store and 96% of  people saying they encountered sites that were clearly not designed for mobile, how can companies adapt to this new world?

The way you can interact with brands on a phone is phenomenal. When you’re on your desktop device, you probably have 10 tabs opened with sound and video playing. On your mobile, you’re 100% focused on one single activity – if that activity is interacting with a brand.. that’s invaluable.


Nobody predicted that mobile would grow so fast since it’s inception, arguably with the first iPhone. Today, it’s difficult to imagine our lives without them as they improve it by letting us work, communicate, learn and be entertained everywhere, at every time.

And you, what surprised you the most in 2012 on mobile?

João Daniel Araújo

João Daniel Araújo is an Industry Analyst at Google UK, where he focuses on studying the digital trends affecting the Automotive industry on desktop, mobile, social and video advertising. You can find more details about him on his Linkedin profile.