The mobile industry is at a tipping point. Much like Mobile World Congress themed its show this year as “The Next Element,” industry players are looking ahead to how mobile DNA can even more so permeate everyday life.
It’s always hard to gauge the hot trends and technologies for the year before Mobile World Congress takes place, but now that it’s past, let’s look at what the year ahead will look like in mobile.
Virtual Reality is Everywhere, but Augmented Reality is Evolving
Companies across the board, including LG and Samsung, are touting their virtual reality capabilities, both in terms of hardware and applications. The applications of virtual reality span everything from healthcare and entertainment to manufacturing and gaming, but evolving, intriguing applications of augmented reality are really how companies will differentiate themselves from one another this year.
While virtual reality experiences are largely the same across platforms and devices, creating truly unique augmented reality experiences carries a heavier burden in terms of quality and success. For example, Pokémon Go was a hugely popular augmented reality application that boomed in 2016. What made it so successful was the quality and of course the simplistic nature of the game, making it an augmented reality application with a low barrier to entry for gamers.
Because of this success, combined with the oversaturation of virtual reality, I anticipate we’ll see many organizations pivoting to put out high-quality, niche augmented reality solutions.
5G is Still on the Horizon, but IoT is Pushing it Forward
As our world becomes increasingly connected, 5G is becoming a higher priority to help power not just our mobile devices, but also improve connectivity to our cars and homes. In fact, 5G is poised to have bigger implications beyond speed or connectivity, including advancing the capabilities of life-changing innovations, like medical devices and autonomous vehicles. With the increased responsibility of these devices, enhanced networking abilities are vital in the success of these connected products becoming truly revolutionary.
While it looks like 5G networking is still about two years out from reality, technology companies are already banking on its success. Companies including Nokia, Verizon, Cisco, Samsung, and LG all have trials of products and services that will leverage 5G. Those who can properly leverage 5G upon its launch will likely emerge as leaders in the Internet of Things, with products that have the capability of bring the idea of an IoT-enabled world into reality.
Software Will Take Priority Over Hardware
Companies constantly release and demo impressive innovations to consumer hardware, like cameras, TVs, and more. Take the Nokia 3310, for example: a nostalgic-inspired device that had its heyday nearly 20 years ago. Nokia deserves major kudos for making their entrance back into the phone business such a huge success.
But we’re seeing that software is lagging behind hardware. Android 2.0 has been a complete letdown. What was promised to be Google’s response to Apple’s seamless OS on smart devices, this new iteration failed to meet the hype and was overall unsuccessful in terms of applications. One of Android’s biggest hurdles is providing an experience that end users will really care about and the unfortunate reality is that they’re still coming up short. In this next year, we will see companies focusing more on software rather than hardware in order to win over customers and beat their competition.
RCS is Making a Comeback, but Enterprise Messaging Needs to be a Focus
Messaging is still garnering a lot of attention, but two areas serve as a main focus. Throughout the year, we’re going to see companies rise to the occasion in providing improvements in two specific areas of messaging – RCS and enterprise messaging.
The GSMA and Google are working on a renewed push towards RCS, with Google inspired by providing a standardized messaging experience on Android. Unfortunately, they fell a bit short with Android Messages due to a substandard user experience and an ancient interface. Honestly, it seems that Google may be a little lost with regards to its messaging strategy or lack thereof, with Android messages, Allo, Chat, Hangouts – the confused list goes on and on. However, with Google now playing in the space, operators may start to pay attention, with many planning to deliver a user experience that will hopefully trump what Google is offering.
Secondly, the conversation around messaging has evolved to focus largely on the challenges faced by enterprises. Many companies have been late to respond in providing a high-quality enterprise messaging experience. Companies who are looking for solutions are quickly discovering that there are very few that are custom built for the enterprise, namely with security in mind. Therefore, we will quickly see platforms specifically created with the enterprise in mind will grow in popularity, while messaging apps made for consumers then the enterprise, will struggle to maintain relevancy among enterprises.
It cannot be emphasized enough that the role mobile is playing in our everyday lives is growing more prominent than ever, especially this coming year. It’s spanning industries, products, applications, and more, making the focus on connectivity a huge talking point among industry leaders. As our world becomes more mobile, operators and providers are feeling the stress of providing for more users than ever before.