Inevitably, I met a booth babe with a t-shirt that read, “Call Me Maybe.”
I’m at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona - home of fine food, football and phones with the biggest mobile industry gathering of the year.
Why am I here? Our world is changing fast. We are at a critical inflection point as desktop computing shifts to mobile, and smart mobile devices become more and more ubiquitous. We are ushering in a new digital era where everyone will be on the move and always connected.
The change is happening so fast, blink and you may miss it. It’s already challenging the authority of established computing giants like Microsoft and pre-smartphone era stalwarts like Nokia.
Chinese tech firms Huawei and ZTE are chipping away at the authority of BlackBerry. Open-source operating systems are emerging as players in the race for mobile OS supremacy. Messaging apps like WhatsApp are stealing revenues away from network providers.
So I’m here to determine what’s happening and try to anticipate what’s next before reality slams me in the face.
So, here goes. These are the three top emerging mobile trends I’ve picked up here in Barcelona:
Nokia is making a big push into the developing market with its Asha line of affordable smartphones as well as its batch of plain and simple mobiles, including a $20 handset with 35 hours of standby power. Microsoft is working on a fully functional Windows Phone 8 for Africa. And Mozilla, the driving force behind Firefox, is introducing the Firefox OS which, according to Chairwoman Mitchell Baker, will introduce a sophisticated and “delightful” smart experience to the developing world. These affordable smartphones will make a huge social impact, and empower new entrepreneurs in the developing world to design relevant apps for their home markets.
Smart devices will continue to be rectangular slabs with touchscreens. But they are officially in three different sizes this year - phone, tablet, and the (unfortunately named hybrid) “phablet.” Samsung is billed with creating the original phablet with its Galaxy Note series, and now Huawei has unleashed a 6.1 inch version with its Ascend Mate. But Asus takes the cake with the Fonepad, a 7-inch tablet that can make calls. It’s interesting to see phones getting bigger when for so long the trend was for ever smaller and thinner mobile devices. I personally don’t get the “phablet” form factor for my own personal use - they feel clunky and cumbersome. As I’m prone to dropping my mobile devices, here’s hoping they’ll at least get more durable in the years ahead.
PayPal, Visa, Mastercard. They're all in Barcelona in their bid to rule the mobile payments market. Sharp-eyed viewers of News Stream live from the conference site will have noted the NFC booth behind me and its attendants evangelizing the promise of paying by smartphone. Here in Barcelona, Visa and Samsung announced that Visa's NFC payment system will be built into future Samsung smartphones.The idea is slowly starting to catch on with mainstream consumers. Just as more of our devices are going mobile, we are expecting our service providers to go mobile as well. It’s about time for retail to get digitized, and for smartphone to be more than a communications device, camera or social media hub. It's about time to break out the mobile when we want to break the bank.