The Year of Mobile

It’s no secret, I’m a fanatic about mobile.  While I’m partial to the Android mobile operating system, I try to be fair and take in as much info about all aspects of mobile.  I subscribe to about 80 RSS feeds ranging from company press releases to analyst sites to mobile news sites to mobile job feeds.  Some are more active than others, but by the end of the day, I’ve scanned through hundreds of articles.  I’ve spotted a trend:  Change.

Last year, you may have heard me say “next year is the year for mobile”.  After seeing everything that has happened in the past two months, I stand by that statement.  There are faster mobile broadband technologies, sexier devices, and new plan options from the carriers.  This is just the start.

Speed, speed, SPEED!

Over the past couple years, carriers have been beefing up their networks and offering faster data connections.  A common term these days is “3G”.  Most users may achieve around 3 Mbits/s download speeds on 3G.  This isn’t so bad if you’re reading news or flipping through a Flickr album.  But what about streaming music? Videos? TV? YouTube? (I gotta have my YouTube).  Here’s where 4G comes into play.  There are two major technologies being worked on in the US: LTE and WiMax.  Both will offer speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s.  Though you many only see speeds up to 100 Mbits/s on mobile.  That’s still twice as fast as Comcast’s fastest data connection and five times faster than the 20 Mbits/s service I have.  In theory, one of these technologies could replace your current broadband provider.  Sprint announced that they will be bringing WiMax to Minneapolis this year.  You can bet that my next mobile device will be packing a WiMax chip.  Bring on the videos, VoIP, video conferencing, and music!

Focus on the device.

Last year, carriers tried something a little different.  Instead of just taking about their services, many of the marketing campaigns focused on the devices.  One that sticks out like a sore thumb (or a jab in the ribs) was the “Droid Does” campaign by Motorola and Verizon.  The “iDon’t” commercial openly mocks the iPhone and, what they believe to be, it’s shortcomings.  Others have taken the high road.  Sprint had a commercial that featured the HTC Hero, Blackberry Curve and Palm Pre.  It showed the variety of devices that they have.
Manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon as well.  HTC launched the “You” campaign that centered around making the phone yours.  It featured both Windows Mobile and Android phones from their lineup.  If you watched the Super Bowl, you undoubtedly saw the Motorola Devour commercial with Megan Fox.  You know what they say: “Sex sells”.
Google has even thrown their hat into the ring.  They’re selling the Nexus One on their very own site…in fact, that’s the only place you can get it.  They currently have T-Mobile and AT&T versions available, with Sprint and Verizon ones on the way.  You can buy the phone, at full price, without a contract or get it partially subsidized through T-Mobile.

There can be only one.

Well, not really.  However, I do believe that between the four major US carriers, only one or two will flourish this year.  I can’t say if it’ll be because of the devices they’ve chosen to carry or the broadband technology that they are partnering with.  What I do know is that the battles are just beginning.  Sprint took a shot at Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T by releasing their “Everything Data with Any Mobile, Anytime” plan.  T-Mobile’s “Project Dark” turned out to be their “Even More” plans, which can include unlimited talk/text/web for $79.99 with NO contract.  However, you have to pay full price for the phone or bring your own.  Verizon and AT&T have lowered plan pricing too, albeit not as aggressively as their competitors.

I’ll say it again: This is the year for mobile.  We’ll see faster data connections and a lot of new devices, some that further blur the line between phone and computer.  There will be patent battles, jabbing commercials, and price wars.  I’m perfectly content with manufacturers and carriers trying to ‘one up’ each other.  This type of competition drives innovation…better, faster, cheaper, more.  Who is the winner?  The consumer.

After the dust settles, and the battles are won and lost, 2011 will be a year of growth.  I see carriers merging, operating systems disappearing, and a dominate wireless broadband service.  We’re on our way, but we’re not there yet.

See you ’round the spectrum,

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