Wednesday, 21 January 2015

What does 2015 promise for mobile technology?

2014 has been an interesting year for the Smartphone, as despite nearly 1.94 billion devices being sold worldwide, this only represents an annual growth of 10%.  However the majority of new sales have been in emerging markets with a growth of around 30%.  Potentially, this creates a challenge for the handset manufacturers to find the “next big thing”.   So what’s in store for mobile technology in 2015?  Here’s what we think what will be hot and what will not, in 2015.

Plateauing of Smartphones
Does everyone who wants a Smartphone already have one? The projected sales figures certainly point this way, with the anticipation that smartphone sales will slow to around 10 % for 2015 in the UK. This will challenge the Smartphone manufacturers to look at other areas for growth within new technologies.

This leads nicely on to my next prediction around wearable devices.

Popularity of wearable technology
Smartwatches made the news in a big way in 2014, with most of the major mobile phone and health and fitness OEM’s announcing wearable devices. We think 2015 will see Smartwatches gaining traction not only in the consumer space but also in the business community. In Q3 2014 nearly 5 million smart and wearable bands were shipped, representing a 37% increase on the previous quarter. This is according to Canalys, with Motorola’s Moto 360 being the most successful, in Q3 accounting for 15% of the Smartwatch market.

Samsung remained the market leader in 2014 and potentially their success will continue into 2015, but they could face a challenge from Apple. We predict that this year there will be a significant growth in thin wearables of around 40%, as new and exciting devices are launched. This figure could be higher if the OEM’s follow Samsung’s lead by creating devices similar to their latest Gear S. This is the first mainstream Smartwatch with 3G connectivity, so it can be used independently of a Smartphone.

Wearables uptake in the business community
Towards the end of 2014 we noticed that the business community started to take an interest in wearables as a replacement for a Smartphone. The potential has been seen for lone worker protection, time and attendance logging, queue busting, stock checking, and more. The Smartwatch, in the right environment, is a more appropriate platform than a Smartphone or a Tablet device as it is unobtrusive and allows the user to have both hands free. We predict that in 2015, businesses around the globe will embrace wearable technology and start to deploy it in significant numbers for operational based tasks.

Emergence of soft-sim
Replacing the traditional SIM in a mobile phone with a software equivalent has been a bone of contention with the mobile networks for several years. For the consumer there are significant benefits, by simply permitting roaming from say Vodafone to O2 to solve coverage issues.
Apple, despite being the first to introduce a soft-sim derivative in their iPads, have yet to secure ubiquitous sign up from all the mobile networks. In the UK only EE have agreed to sign up; long term this makes sense, however with push back from the mobile networks concerned about revenue losses, it will be a number of years before consumer based airtime contracts will allow local roaming and change.

Nevertheless, we predict that 2015 will see the mobile networks at last collaborating to solve specific issues around M2M and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity by introducing soft-sim low usage data tariffs for connected devices.

IoT is a massive growth area and these devices require wireless connectivity, yet this can be problematical, for example installing a Smartmeter in a specific location currently may mean choosing a physical sim and installing it in the device. With a soft-sim, this process is simplified and should the local conditions change making the chosen network unusable (due to tree growth or other new obstructions blocking the signal), then the network can be changed with no manual intervention needed.

Welcome ruggedised consumer devices
Traditional rugged devices as currently used by gas meter readers and parcel delivery services, are expensive, heavy, cumbersome and with small screens. Additionally, they tend to fall behind the innovation curve. In 2014 we saw a small number of low cost innovative rugged consumer devices come to the market that were a fraction of the cost of the traditional rugged devices. To bolster diminishing growth in Smartphone sales to a saturated market, 2015 will see the introduction of a number of rugged innovative devices that will challenge the traditional “rugged” PDA OEM’s such as Symbol, Honeywell and Intermec.

With a price point circa £350 as opposed to £1,000 per unit, the cost savings are significant – especially when you consider the vastly superior performance they offer against the old rugged devices. These devices such as the Samsung Tab Active tend to have bigger screens which are readable in daylight. With a camera developed to read bar codes, ultra-fast processing and being waterproof and droppable, they withstand the toughest working environments. Add to this an intuitive interface, which is updateable and scaleable, and the case for adoption is an easy one.

2015 is going to be an exciting year for mobile technology and the above represents just a drop in the ocean.

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