A lot has changed in a year. Samsung sold 20 million Galaxy S III devices this summer, while Google recently announced that more than 1.3 million Android devices are activated each day — and that it would soon reach the milestone of 0.5 billion Android users. The San José court’s recent decision to fine Samsung $1 billion for copying Apple raised a number of complex questions regarding what exactly innovation means in the smartphone era. While it badly affected Samsung’s brand image, Samsung has a larger portfolio of mobile devices and has also proved it was able to innovate with the Note.
Even more so than a year ago, Apple’s product strategists face an ongoing paradox: maintaining premium leadership with an annual product renewal while tapping the rapidly “mainstreaming” global smartphone market. Consequently, expectations were extremely high — often irrationally so — that Apple would once again truly innovate with hardware design and features.
Forrester estimates that close to 100 million Near Field Communication (NFC) devices will ship in 2012. As it finally moves past the chicken-or-egg stalemate of the past five years, contactless technology is once again causing buzz in the mobile world. The 2012 London Olympics will be a showcase and marketing catalyst for NFC services. Will NFC join the cemetery of overhyped telecom acronyms, like DVB-H, or will it scale to enable new product experiences? We expect NFC usage to remain niche in 2012 and even 2013. However, moving forward, NFC will be embedded in most smartphones — and in a greater range of connected devices — enabling many more use cases than just contactless payments.
NFC Is Emerging As The Global Mobile Contactless Standard
With 100 million NFC mobile devices expected to ship globally by the end of 2012 and a growing NFC infrastructure, NFC is emerging as the standard for contactless solutions across the world. Pioneering countries include South Korea, Poland, Turkey, the UK, the US and to a lesser extent France.
Expectations For The Uptake Of Mobile Contactless Payments Are Too High
Turning adoption into mass-market usage among consumers will require not only a lot of market education but also, more importantly, the construction of a value proposition for consumers and merchants that goes well beyond convenience and speed to adding value to the entire commerce process. My colleague Denée Carrington has just published a report on this topic: “Why The Digital Wallet Wars Matter.”
NFC Will Open Up Many Other New Product And Service Experiences
Too many firms are investing in mobile technologies without a road map. Most companies are investing in a wide range of mobile technologies, but only 40% of companies that Forrester interviewed have defined a mobile road map for the next 12 months. In fact, few firms have a detailed plan on how to create mobile products and services.
Implementing a mobile road map requires an iterative approach. To add new mobile services, product strategists must evaluate consumers’ mobile behaviors and attitudes, adapt their companies’ mobile business plans, refine their overall digital road maps, and assess the maturity levels of mobile technologies.
Successful mobile road maps require investment in supporting activities. Making specific investments in mobile education and skills development, maintaining organizational flexibility to increase speed to market, and adapting to local markets are key to the success of a mobile road map.
For example, the most advanced firms have a mobile steering committee in place — usually part of a broader digital governance team — with representatives from different business units, different roles, and different geographies. The role of such a governance body is not just to set the vision but also to prioritize and select mobile projects based on a clear list of criteria. One global brand’s mobile governance body, for example, identified up to 100 planned mobile initiatives. To select the best ones and rationalize investment, it put a framework in place with four simple questions for candidates to justify the funding of their projects: What benefits will it bring to consumers; what corporate objectives will it serve; what’s the business case; and what new features will be required in the second year?
In July 2012, app stores — first popularized by Apple — will be four years old. There is still a lot of room to improve the discoverability and sharing of apps. For example, locally relevant content and monetization options are often missing. Adding social discovery, personalization, and recommendation features are key to improving the user experience.
However, app stores have already had a dramatic impact on the distribution of games and are starting to offer new forms of engagement between brands and consumers. Consumer usage of the most popular mobile apps has exploded in the past two years. A third of European online consumers ages 18+ who own a smartphone are using apps daily or more frequently. Seventeen percent are using apps several times a day. Stickiness and frequency of usage vary tremendously from one app category to the other. Among European online consumers ages 18+ with installed apps on their smartphones, 57% use social networking and 48% use news apps at least daily, while 69% use finance and banking apps at least weekly.
First-generation apps — aside from gaming apps — rarely made the most of the unique attributes of the mobile platform and were rarely integrated with back-end systems. We believe the market is poised for a second wave of consumer apps that are more personalized and contextual. Here’s what to expect:
■ “Big data” will enable more contextual experiences on mobile apps.
■ We'll see smarter, connected apps.
■ There will be a shift from native to hybrid and web apps.
After months of rumors and a good marketing orchestration, Samsung has just unveiled its new flagship device, the Samsung Galaxy S3. Samsung will first launch the HSPA+ device in Europe at the end of May to benefit from the current weaknesses of its competitors — in particular, Nokia. It will release in the US in an LTE version later this summer. The aim is clear: to take the lead from Apple’s iPhone in the high-end smartphone segment and do even better than the Galaxy S2, which sold more than 20 million units.
Samsung is positioning a wide range of products in all segments and in multiple consumer electronic categories, leveraging its scale and scope and its vertically integrated approach (screens, processors, storage components, etc.). Despite the growing dependence on the Android OS, Samsung does not have all its eggs in the same OS basket. However, it clearly needs to catch up in the software and services space. That’s the reason I continue to believe that, in the premium segment, Apple is still in the best position to offer a seamlessly integrated experience across devices. Samsung’s cloud component is still missing, and it will need to continue its efforts to close the gap with Apple.
On the contrary, Apple — still one of Samsung’s largest clients (chipsets and screens) — has few models and higher margins and is in a position to leverage a different ecosystem around its OS, apps, and iCloud models. Thanks to the phenomenal success of the iPad, the Apple brand is reinventing itself and expanding into hardware categories that represent new growth drivers from which Samsung is not yet able to benefit.
Beyond the Samsung/Apple high-end leadership war, the great news is that these new smartphones will increasingly enable consumer-facing brands to launch innovative new product experiences. Some of the new services introduced by the Galaxy S III highlight this phenomenon:
Mobile digital wallets are emerging and going beyond payment. New technologies, mixing QR codes, apps, personal financial management software, NFC, and many more, are combining to convert mobile handsets into digital wallets that combine not just payments but also receipts, vouchers, and loyalty. Beyond the convenience of using the phone for payment, consumers will benefit from post-transaction elements such as location-based coupons or enhanced product information at the point of sale (POS).
We’ve not seen a single day without a new product launch, start-up creation, or acquisition — or a new strategic alliance between banks, payment networks, Internet firms, or mobile operators.
So what’s new today? Telefonica 02 just announced the launch of O2 Wallet in the UK.
We believe that the O2 Wallet is, for now, the most comprehensive mobile payment solution in the UK – available to a majority of smartphone owners, whether they are O2 customers or not. The new product combines the following functions:
Money Message — This gives customers the ability to easily transfer money to any UK mobile phone number.
To gauge how far organizations have come with their mobile initiatives, Forrester conducted the Q4 2011 Global Mobile Maturity Online Survey among executives in charge of their companies’ mobile strategies.
Since 2010, fewer companies report not having a mobile strategy in place. Between Q3 2010 and Q4 2011, the percentage of companies we interviewed that have no mobile strategy or are at the early stage of defining one has significantly decreased, from 57% to 31%. C-level executives are increasingly in the driver’s seat, and mobile is moving away from a test-and-learn approach to fueling companies’ corporate goals. Mobile is primarily viewed as a way to improve customer engagement and satisfaction.
However, the majority of companies face organizational issues and struggle to allocate the right resources for mobile and to measure the success of their mobile consumer initiatives. The main obstacles they face are these:
■ Lack of measurable business goals clouds early success.
■ Limited investment, resources, and expertise slow progress.
■ Cross-functional and cross-geographical complexity cause inefficiency.
There are plenty of new disruptive platforms emerging from tablets, from game consoles to connected TVs, but mobile will be the primary platform for global product innovation. Only mobile phones can offer such a global reach.
To prepare for the accelerating pace of mobile disruption, product strategists should help other internal stakeholders rethink the life cycles of their mobile applications and services and drive innovation via smarter apps, richer data, and converging technologies.
I continue to believe that most consumers using an NFC device in 2012 will more likely use it for device-pairing or data-sharing purposes than for payments. Pairing NFC accessories and reading NFC smart tags will open up new opportunities. NFC will be a key technology for interacting with the world around you — and it is time to test it, as highlighted in this recent piece of research written by my colleague Anthony Mullen. There is an ongoing debate about bar codes’ potential replacement by NFC; I think both technologies serve different objectives and have different advantages but will continue to co-exist. Radio and optical technologies are converging, as highlighted by French startup Mobilead, which does a fantastic job of delivering a great branded experience mixing QR codes and NFC tags.
Once again, I've just spent a couple of days in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress (MWC). Year after year, the show is opening up to non-telecom players and going beyond mobile. Think about the rise of personal cloud-based services delivering consumer experiences across devices, Sony's marketing efforts to promote seamless entertainment across different screens, or the emergence of the "phablets" acronym (devices in between a phone and a tablet, such as Asus Padfone or LG Vu).
While it is difficult to summarize all the news and announcements, here are some thoughts on MWC 2012: