When I look back at 2015 I realize that we were staring down the cavernous barrel of a banner year for mobility. From nearly every front, mobility has become one of the single largest driving forces behind technology.
A fairly bold statement...but one that should be easy to grasp. Let's consider one phenomenon that cannot be ignored. Over the last year, mobile use has increased so substantially, that a vast amount of users have abandoned traditional means of accessing the internet in favor of mobile options. That's right, the desktop and the laptop have been usurped as King and/or Queen of technology.
Consider this: in Q2 2015 iOS saw its market share for 2015Q2 decline by 22.3% QoQ with 47.5 million shipments. When you take into consideration that iOS is dominated (globally) by Android, and you consider the still stagger iOS number, the picture quickly becomes clear. As for Android, it saw over 2 billion devices shipped (globally) in 2015.
Billion. Not million...but billion.
Between Android and iOS, the standard desktop environments don't stand a chance. This has become so predominant, that I've had many a user contact me to say my web site isn't mobile friendly (I have since fixed that problem). In fact, if you dig in deep with most website frameworks (think WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla), you'll find they each have begun to adopt mobile-optimization. Why? Because mobile-dominance is no longer a trend, but a reality.
This past year also witnessed the rise, fall, rise, and (yet again) fall of giants like Samsung. The constant seesawing of dominance within the Android playground has bounced between the major players in the industry, but always seemed to fall back into Samsung's favor. Even though Samsung's shipments dipped significantly, their Q2 numbers still best all other manufacturers. In fact, Samsung's Q2 shipments over the last four years have dominated the mobile marketplace. The numbers look like:
- 2015: 21.4 %
- 2014: 24.8 %
- 2013: 31.9 %
- 2012: 32.2 %
If you look at their Q2 numbers, you see a fairly important story being told. That story is being driving by a rather telling backstory...one that will only continue to eat away at the dominance of the major players in the mobile landscape. What is that back story?
Unlocked Android devices
If there's one issue that dominated mobility over 2015 (especially on the Android front), it's that of unlocked devices. These devices, manufactured by the likes of Huawei, Xiaomi, and OnePlus smashed the barriers of entry and now offer flagship quality devices at one-third the price of the standard offerings. This phenomenon is only going to continue rising into and beyond 2016 until unlocked Android smartphones dominate the market and even best the flagship devices of the giants.
The rise of the hybrid, the fall of the tablet
Much to the chagrin of Apple and Samsung, the tablet devices have yet to really take off (to an acceptable level). However, the hybrid device has become the clear winner in that particular space. These are smaller laptops that either offer touchscreens and/or have the ability to transform from laptop to tablet mode (and back again). These devices offer a best of both world scenario. Some even include built-in 4G connectivity, so you can work anywhere, anytime. The advantage of these devices is the inclusion of a full-sized keyboard. It is my thought that the tablet form factor hasn't gained much traction because it is simply too challenging to do any amount of serious work on a virtual keyboard. And yes, you can purchase bluetooth keyboards for tablets and smartphones, but having to pack along multiple items isn't always practical. That is where the hybrid comes into play. I believe this trend will continue to gain dominance in 2016. In fact, with Apple's continued iPad sales shrinkage (iPad sales have shrunk 18% over the last few years and Samsung's tablet sales have been hit with an 12% shrinkage), it is thought that the tablet will be become irrelevant over the next few years.
The Internet of everything
The year also saw the continued rise of connected devices. Amazon's Echo, Nest, Android Auto, wearables, earables...you name it, if it's connected and smart, it will continue to rise in popularity. The people have spoken and they want the convenience of connected data and accounts to the tune of Minority Report (only not the horrible television series). This particular category has become so prominent within mobility, it cannot feasibly be labeled the Internet Of Things any longer. That is why, I believe 2015 saw the redubbing of the category to the Internet of Everything.
What was once considered the holy grail of mobility has, to this point, failed. Back in 2014 it was assumed someone would nail the convergent desktop and win the war. That didn't happen. And, if 2015 taught us anything, it probably won't happen anytime in the near future. That convergent desktop has been (rightfully so) replaced with the importance of convergent data. That's the new holy grail that users not only want...they need.
The need for higher security
The year 2015 should be thought of as the year that taught users the importance of security. Not that the lesson will sink in, but with the rise and size of attacks on user data, it has become clear that the likes of two-factor authentication should no longer be considered optional. The United States finally implemented chip and PIN debit cards, which serves to decrease the chances your card data can be stolen. A very telling sign of the times is standing in line at retail shops during the holiday season and hear the wall of complaints raining down on cashiers as consumers grouse about how much longer it takes to pay for their items. The heightened security added by those extra seconds will go a long way to protect your data. It's a necessary "evil". Get over it.
I'm excited to see where 2016 takes mobility. How will mobile devices improve? Will carriers finally abandon bloatware? Will the tablet be put to rest? What will become the dominant mobile platform? So many questions, so much time.
What was the most important mobility-centric issue you faced in 2015?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.