2011 Predictions: What’s Ahead for the Mobile Web and SmartPhone Platforms

Photo: waltercolor – cc some rights reserved

2011 should be another great year for mobile browsing and mobile web apps.  Here are my predictions of what the new year will bring for mobile web sites, web apps, browsers, and OS platforms.

1) Significant advances in browser technology.  There will be new browsers from  Nokia for both Symbian and MeeGo.  And Google, Opera, Mozilla, RIM and HP/Palm will continue make incremental improvements in their browsers’ JavaScript performance and HTML5 support. Mobile Flash will slowly get better, with most smartphone platforms other than iOS finally being able to handle full-web Flash videos reasonably well.

2) The rise of the mobile web framework. On the web development side, there’s a lot of work being done to create cross platform HTML5/JavaScript frameworks and toolsets that help web developers to build rich mobile web apps. Sencha Touch, jQuery Mobile, jQTouch and jo are a few mobile frameworks that are already available and there will be others. Ideally we will end up with tools that will make it possible to create a rich web app that will work consistently across the iPhone, Android, Symbian, MeeGo, BlackBerry, WebOS, bada, Opera and Firefox browsers.

3) 2011 will NOT be “The year of the mobile web app”.  Browser improvements and toolkits will give us some powerful browser based apps from both small publishers and web giants like Google and Facebook. But OS vendors and operators will continue to drag their feet in giving browser apps access to key hardware features like the camera, messaging, phone book, calendar and voice.Some day  most mobile apps will be browser based just as they are on the PC. But that day is a year or two away. This year downloadable mobile apps will still get most of the buzz.

4) Mobile page views will more than double, just as they did last year and the year before. Growth will be global but the greatest growth will come from the developing world as millions  in Asia, Africa and Latin America experience the web for the first time through their phone’s browser.

5) Mobile ad inventory will rise significantly, but not fast enough to offset the rise in the number of mobile page views. As a result, mobile web publishers will continue to see flat or slightly declining CPM and CPC

6) On the platform side, Android will become the largest smartphone platform, It will take market share from everyone and overtake Symbian in annual unit sales. Much of Android’s growth will come from LG, Samsung and Sony Ericsson ramping up their Android device portfolios and production at all price points. Another factor will be the availability of low cost Android System-On-a-Chip (SOC) components from MicroMax, Broadcom and Ingenic.  Expect to see basic Android smartphones selling for less then $150 unsubsidized retail by year end. The same turn-key SOCs will make it easier for regional manufacturers like India’s Micromax and China’s TCL and even the grass-roots shops in Shenzhen that build fake iPhones to create creditable Android smartphones at very low price points.

7) Tablet sales will be good but not great. The form factor appeals to a lot of people, both for its novelty and as a lighter, more portable device than a netbook for browsing, watching videos and reading eBooks. But other than the iPad, sales of high priced tablets will not live up to expectations. Decent WiFi-only Android tablets selling at $200 or less (those cheap SOCs again) will undercut sales of premium products like the Samsung Tab.

8) The BlackBerry Playbook will flounder. Ship date will be late, (probably sometime in June) and the price (est. $400-$600) will be relatively high for a WiFi only tablet. The biggest impediment to sales will be the apparent requirement of tethering with the increasingly unfashionable (in the US and Western Europe) Blackberry phone to be able to use the full Playbook feature set.

9) Nokia, RIM and iOS will all experience sales growth but market share decline. The incremental improvements to Symbian will not be enough to counter the flood of under $200 Android devices. MeeGo will be lauded for it’s fresh UI and the browsing experience but the first MeeGo handset will be too late, too expensive and in too short a supply to make a significant impact on Nokia’s market share this year. But Nokia will have a profitable year and retain its position as the number one smartphone brand in terms of dollar and unit sales.

iPhone sales will nearly double in 2010 but market share will drop. The Verizon iPhone will help. But more significantly the deal with Verizon is not exclusive so Apple can offer the iPhone to other CDMA operators like Sprint and US Cellular. With some minor tweaking (the frequencies are different) the iPhone could also be made available through other large CDMA operators like China Telecom and Japan’s KDDI. But in spite of the expected unit sales increase, Apple will continue to lose market share to the all conquering Android.

In spite of disappointing Playbook sales, RIM will do OK. Overall sales will grow, especially in developing markets where the combination of QWERTY and BlackBerry Messenger have huge appeal with the connected generation. As with every other smartphone platform except Android, the unit sales growth will not enough to avoid a decline in BlackBerry’s world wide market share.

10. Windows Phone and WebOS will struggle. With Phone 7,  Microsoft has abandoned two of its loyalest user bases, the enterprise and the Windows Mobile hacking community. The innovative Windows Phone 7 UI is undermined by a small app catalog, inferior browser, closed market and lack of esential features like multi-tasking.  Microsoft has the resources to turn Windows Phone into something great but that will take time.

It’s not clear what HP has planned for Palm webOS.  The platform features one the nicest smartphone user experiences tied to cheap feeling, dated hardware. HP has promised an exciting webOS announcement Feb 9th. It’s rumored to be a new tablet and one or two new handsets. I really hope the new products are as exciting and innovative as webOS itself. The platform is too good to be relegated to being an embedded OS for printers and copiers.

There you have it. My predictions are perhaps a bit tame but they represent what I honestly believe will happen in the mobile world during 2011. Whether you agree or disagree comments are welcome.

6 thoughts on “2011 Predictions: What’s Ahead for the Mobile Web and SmartPhone Platforms

  1. Nokia really has to fix the geolocation api in the symbian browser if they want stay in the competition…

    I mean come on! you can get the coordinates for user’s location in an HTML5 web app in two decimal precision..That’s accurate only accurate enough to decipher the city where the user is located.

    • I’m not sure what you mean. As far as I know Nokia doesn’t support geolocation in a browser based web app at all. They definitely need to and it should be at the highest precision that the hardware supports.

    • >I mean come on! you can get the coordinates for user’s location
      >in an
      are you sure about HTML5 in Nokia’s? Yes, I can get location in widgets, but I have not seen HTML5 browser with geolocation support (as per W3C) yet. The words from developer’s events – “later, could not provide a date”

    • The Windows Phone 7 browser is based on IE7. It’s not terrible but has no HTML5 or location support and is a bit slow compared with iPhone Safari or Android browsers.

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