Twelve Mobile Predictions for 2012

In case you hadn’t noticed, 2011 was the long-awaited “year of mobile.” It was the year that consumers made the mobile internet mainstream and marketers finally made mobile a priority (at least in terms of their rhetoric). In 2012 most of the trends and developments that we saw this year will only accelerate.

Those who didn’t fully pay attention this year will begin to realize in 2012 that mobile is not merely a small-screen extension of the PC web, but a parallel universe that increasingly operates as an alternative to the “fixed internet” for many people.

So without further ado here are my 12 mobile predictions for 2012. See whether and where you agree.

  1. Smartphone share sails past 60 percent: By the end of 2011, 65 percent of US mobile subscribers will have smartphones and 35 percent will own feature phones. That would mean more than 150 million smartphones in the US market.
  2. Android continues ascent: In a kind of cosmic convergence moment, Android’s smartphone share in the US will be almost identical to Google’s search share on the PC by Q3 or Q4 next year. Globally, Android’s market share will also exceed 50 percent. This creates additional anti-trust headaches for Google at home and internationally.
  3. Siri evolves; Google debuts its version: Apple’s Siri gets access to more APIs and begins tying in to more third party apps and services, enabling more voice-driven “transactions.” Google introduces its version of an “intelligent assistant” which tries not to appear as a direct copy of the Apple product. Microsoft beefs up voice services on Windows Phones. Voice becomes a highly mainstream and in many cases a primary navigational and search tool on smartphones.
  4. Apple Maps appear: Apple releases its long-awaited mapping replacement for Google on iOS. This might coincide with the release of iPhone 5 in Q3 of next year.
  5. Inevitable arrival of iPhone 5: Speaking of which, the iPhone 5 will likely be announced in late Q2 or early Q3. It will have a larger screen, LTE support and support for near field communications (NFC).
  6. RIM’s co-CEOs get the boot: RIM’s co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis are both replaced before the end of 1H 2012. RIM tests a BlackBerry using the Android OS by the end of 2012. Many people believe that RIM will be acquired in 2012. I think there’s a 50/50 chance. Potential acquirers include Microsoft, Amazon and private equity.
  7. Windows Phones see only modest success: Microsoft and Nokia have some success with Windows Phones in Europe and Asia; however the phones fail to generate enthusiasm in the US. Nokia tests prototype Android devices by the end of 2012.
  8. Major smartphone security (hacking/virus) event: 2012 will see the first major smartphone security calamity involving a hacking incident or major virus. The Android OS will become the repeated target of viruses and hacking attempts because of its Microsoft-like smartphone market share.
  9. NFC and mobile payments: Mobile payments see continued growth but 2012 isn’t the “breakthrough” year in North America. Marketers start to test NFC as a marketing tool and alternative to QR codes.
  10. Apps & HTML5 live side-by-side: Most firms build HTML5 web apps as their primary mobile strategy but native apps continue to flourish. Consumers expect specialized mobile experiences and publishers without mobile-optimized sites suffer in mobile search rankings and generally through consumer rejection.
  11. Tablets established as PC alternative: In 2012 the PC (including most laptops) loses whatever “sex appeal” it had left and becomes a utilitarian box in the consumer’s mind. Tablets (and smartphones) are preferred for a wide range of leisure, shopping and entertainment activities. By the end of 2012 there will be a cumulative 100 million tablets in market globally. The iPad will own about 65 percent of the market and Android about 35 percent. Android tablet sales will be dominated by Amazon, followed by Samsung. Google’s branded “Chrome” or “Nexus” tablet is a wildcard. The Android tablet universe will be highly fragmented (by screen size and OS version).
  12. Google announces mobile ads “run rate” of $4 billion: At some point in late Q3 or Q4 Google will tell the world it now sees an annualized “run rate” of roughly $4 billion in mobile ad revenues (globally).

Here are a few bonus predictions:

  • Augmented reality best practices emerge: Finally moving beyond novelty, concrete and more definitive marketing use cases for augmented reality appear in 2012.
  • Big (mobile) data makes big impact: In-store visits, coupons and check-ins on smartphones generate huge amounts of data that connect digital marketing initiatives with in-store events. Mobile also connects real-world ads (print, TV, outdoor) with digital. The data from consumer response provides a much clearer picture of marketing and channel effectiveness than was previously available.
  • Facebook mobile ads: Facebook introduces mobile advertising in 1H 2012, which becomes a major new source of mobile ad impressions.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile Marketing | Mobile Marketing | Mobile Marketing Column


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Kieran Hawe

    Very light on the mobile predictions as most of what you list is almost guaranteed to happen or are completely obvious. Take a chance – like QR Codes will finally stop getting so much marketing buzz as companies finally realize that the amount of people who take the time to download a reader and scan a code is so small it isn’t worth the investment.

  • Todd Klein

    Interesting article! My prediction is that I think mobile payments will really take off. I have been using CSI globalVCard for all of my mobile payments and I love it. It’s really so much safer than my plastic! 

  • Alireza Sefati

    I am tired of Google and MS copying Apple. I already went away from MS products and soon I will go away from Android and rest of Google products (except their search which I need to use until apple comes up with one)

  • Quentin Aisbett

    I’m looking forward to what extent mobile payments and augmented reality kicks off in 2012. Also, if Facebook does in fact get mobile advertising running it’s going to be huge and may just be the catalyst for a significant rise in mobile’s share of annual advertising….

  • Guinn Allen

    I think they should start using the scanners on smart phones with coupons to generate sales…This could be a trend for M-Commerce.


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