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Facebook thinks that mobile phones are changing the world, and sees a future where everything starts with our mobile-connected lives. What follows from that, if done right, can be happy users and profitable businesses.
This week, thousands of mobile company executives and others are gathered in Barcelona, Spain for Mobile World Congress. Yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg keynoted there, explaining that Internet.org, the company’s nonprofit effort to bring connectivity to new users in developing countries, is helping carriers win new customers.
Today, Facebook is sharing its thoughts on the trends in a mobile-first future. In a blog post, Jane Schachtel, the company’s global head of technology and mobile strategy, explained her vision for that future.
“Mobile phones have existed in one form or another for more than 30 years now, and every day they’re becoming more entwined in people’s lives,” Facebook wrote in its post. “But we are only in the early days of living in a mobile world. Today, a person’s mobile experience depends largely on where they live.”
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In the developed world, countless people are using high-end Android phones and iPhones, and connecting via fast mobile networks, while in developing nations, networks are slower, and more people use basic phones. “For many people in these countries mobile phones are also a first point of entry to the Internet.”
With that in mind, here’s Schachtel’s look at the five trends she sees for the future.
- More affordable smartphones. Schachtel noted that she foresees significant innovation in the proliferation of low-cost smartphones “that offer better performance and better features for less money.” The benefits, she said, are that more people will get connected, and manufacturers will find new customers by targeting their devices at specific demographics, like millennials, “hoping they’ll become future long-term customers.”
- New focus on mobile commerce. As more and more people are conducting transactions via their mobile devices. But there’s still huge untapped opportunity there, Schachtel noted. “More technology and telecom businesses need to adapt their business models to mobile, and I expect to see new solutions from operators that make it easier for people to buy and sell things through their phones.”
- Differentiation. In many developed countries, Schachtel said, it’s hard for device makers to stand out as almost everyone already has a phone, many of which look the same and offer more or less the same features. Without standing out, manufacturers struggle to build brand loyalty, and in the process deal with increased customer churn. But by finding ways to make their devices more personal to users — “focusing, for instance, on the emotional role they play in our lives rather than the latest technical specs” — manufacturers could reverse that trend. That would be aided by getting users to buy more products from the device makers, Schachtel said. “Device manufacturers are now introducing gadgets like watches and selfie-cams to pair with phones and tablets,” a dynamic known as “device families.”
- Better network capabilities. In the first world, users are consuming huge amounts of video content, Schachtel said, and that trend will only increase. As a result, carriers have little choice but to boost their networks’ capabilities and reliability. “I expect to see lots about 5G networks, as well as ways of delivering video to more people on slower networks. … It’s become essential to understand creative best practices for mobile experiences, and the changing ways in which people consume video.”
- Making the Internet of Things important. Schachtel said she expects the near future to be filled with talk about the Internet of Things — connected devices like the Nest smart thermostat or the August smart lock — and what she called “machine to machine” connections. Too, she said, Apple’s watch will likely spawn large numbers of second-gen smart watches. “With the Internet of Things, the big challenge remains showing people how connected devices can be meaningful additions to their lives, rather than just being cool pieces of tech.”
In the end, Schachtel concluded, mobile means great opportunities and exciting times for users and businesses. “As more people come online and new technologies become more widely available,” she wrote, “we’ll continue to see more sophisticated solutions for connecting the world. And that’s good for people, and good for businesses.”
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