Forrester has issued its annual report outlining top mobile trends for the upcoming year. The research firm gave itself a "B+" for its 2010 predictions, but said it expected mobile strategy professionals would spend more last year. Among other things, it says it correctly predicted Android would emerge as a rival to other platforms, social and mobile would expand their "love affair," and app stores would flourish but not replicate Apple's success. (I didn't come across "Angry Birds" on that list.)
So what's the outlook for 2011? Here are some of Forrester's key trends for this year:
The mobile-social-local category will explode but generate little revenue. Social location services will attract growing audiences but face continuing privacy issues because of the difficulty engaging with customers in contexts that are innately personal and intimate. Many geo-targeted mobile campaigns will launch that won't lead to meaningful revenue in 2011.
2011 will be the year of the "dumb" smartphone. Lower prices will drive mainstream adoption of smartphones -- but new users are likely to be less engaged and active than iPhone or Android early adopters. But even the newer crop of smartphone users will consume more mobile media than ever before and show incremental usage of mobile data.
Mobile marketing spend will top $1 billion. Advertisers will finally earmark dedicated resources to mobile and find quantifiable ROI through a medium that can generate real leads, drive foot traffic, and sell products and services. Smartphone adoption will drive more activity usually associated with the PC, such as hotel booking, product research, trading stocks and finding nearby restaurants.
Mobile will connect consumers with the physical world. 2011 is finally the year that NFC (Near Field Communication) begins to matter, as the market shifts from the trial stage where NFC technology is in place. Other technologies like QR codes and augmented reality (AR) apps will prompt users to hold their smartphones up to products and other objects around them. These features will remain niche but provide a springboard for brands willing to experiment.
4G will remain mostly hype. 4G technology will have little impact in 2011, with few LTE devices available before year end. It's taken almost seven years for half of mobile users in the U.S. and Europe to get on 3G networks, according to Forrester.
Casual gaming will lead content charge. Here's where "Angry Birds" comes in. The casual games market will continue to boom in 2011 and Forrester expects new business models based on subscriptions, micro-payments, and in-app billing to expand from gaming to categories including news and music.
Forrester closes its report by advising companies to "ignore the technology hype" because technologies like LTE, NFC and mobile AR are disruptive but will take years to emerge. It further points out that many companies embraced apps without considering that consumers will quickly toss them aside if they don't provide any real value.
But isn't that true of any relatively inexpensive product? And why is Forrester highlighting new technology acronyms like NFC and AR for 2011 -- while at the same time telling businesses to ignore them? It seems like they're trying to play it both ways.