Invented in 1973 by Motorola, the mobile phone is one of the most successful electronic products in history and today has reached over 90% global penetration. The early market was effectively led by Motorola, Nokia and BlackBerry, which brought cool industrial hardware designs and operating systems together for effective, reliable and fun communication on the go.
By 2007 Steve Jobs had reimagined these, upgrading the devices when he invented the iPhone. This brought everything invented before it to the next level by creating a beautifully simple, keyboard-less slab of glass that, with one fell swoop, replaced our cameras, music players, books, wallets and gaming systems. It put the power of web browsing – with a touchscreen, laptop-like experience – into the palms of our hands. The transfer of market power that came with the invention of iPhone is staggering, mostly pulling away from legacy players and toward Apple.
Jobs in effect brought us the most important playbook for platform economics (the App Store). Then Android came along and showed the world the powerful ecosystem effect of an open-source operating system. It’s hard to overstate how impactful and transformative these inventions have been. Whether or not you are an iOS or Android fan, you probably have the same answer to this question: If you could only have one personal electronic device, what would it be? There’s no contest – it’s a smartphone.
Global business has shifted to mobile-first
Many of us use smartphones more frequently than our laptops and PCs for work tasks. The popularity has led to over 90% penetration in developed markets like the United States. According to 451 Research’s Voice of the Connected User Landscape (VoCUL): Consumer Smartphone Trends survey, 93% of respondents currently own a smartphone.
Like it or not, the amount of time people spend on their mobile devices is rising. In the United States a typical smartphone user is engaged with the device for more than 3.5 hours per day. The concept of “screen time” has entered the mainstream as we take steps to manage it downward for our children or arrest it for ourselves in an attempt to stay “present” in our real-world relationships or just save the strain on our eyes. The widespread and unrelenting popularity of smartphones has made Apple and Google the most valuable brands in the world. 5G is coming to our smartphones soon, which will only make the devices more attractive. The strategic importance of the smartphone is not lost on business leaders either.
Businesses of all types have adopted a “mobile-first” mantra for digital engagement. Retail companies in particular are leading the charge to deliver optimized mobile experiences for consumers. Target is utilizing beacon technology to track customers’ in-store location and send out personalized recommendations and deal alerts to their smartphones. Starbucks developed a mobile app that allows customers to pre-order ahead of time and earn/redeem loyalty points through a digital loyalty system built into the app. While critics will argue that mobile device usage has become excessive and is leading to counterproductive behavior, there is no denying the fact that smartphones bring incredible benefits in terms of convenience, mobility and security, and today are the equivalent of powerful computers that sit in our pockets.
Android vs. iOS – the only games in town
Within the mobile device OS realm, there is ongoing dialogue about whether Android or iOS is the better experience, business model, etc. Android provides a more customizable user interface, while the control Apple asserts on iOS developers creates better experiences and the business model equates to less bloatware (unwanted software programs or apps). The reality is that they are both staggeringly successful and effective and create significant loyalty once a user is hooked. Together Android and iOS control a staggering 98% of the global OS market share, according to GlobalStats.
Android leads the global market share of smartphone OS at about ~70%. The APAC region is the most tilted toward Android, with 82% of the market using Android OS devices produced by companies including Huawei and Samsung. In North America, iOS is the most popular choice. According to 451 Research’s North-America-centric VoCUL: Consumer Smartphone Trends, December 2019 survey, 58% of respondents currently use iOS while 41% of respondents are using a version of Android.
Mobile innovation: What’s next?
Looking toward the future, there is an ample pipeline of smartphone innovations.
On the content side, we expect augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to take the next leap forward. While AR adds relevant digital content to an existing physical environment, VR immerses users in a digitally fabricated environment. According to 451 Research’s VoCUL: Endpoints & IoT, Consumer Pop Rep 1H 2020 survey, the penetration of both technologies is still very low, as only 9% use VR on a frequent basis and 7% use AR on a very frequent basis. We do expect the COVID-19 pandemic will drive an increase in virtual experiences, while 5G will significantly enhance user experience on smart devices.
Innovations coming to the device itself include foldable screen devices, ultra-high-definition resolution and AI-enhanced personal assistants.
Foldable screens already seem to be a hit with users who appreciate the literal flexibility they offer in areas such as multi-tasking and video consumption. Ultra-high-definition 4K and 8K screen resolution is another nice-to-have technology for smartphones, although skeptics have questioned how innovative it really is and often cite hindrances such as the need for faster internet processing speeds in order to run properly.
Lastly, we expect personal assistants to get smarter and more integrated into daily life. AI-enhanced personal assistants use machine learning technology to help individuals perform and manage tedious tasks. They anticipate actions based on past patterns and environmental cues, while remove friction from basic tasks, conduct scheduling and access valuable information from online sources. In the business environment these assistants promise to enhance personal productivity, assuming security and privacy can be assured.
S&P Global Market Intelligence mobile strategy
We at S&P Global Market Intelligence are working hard to make the best decisions possible during the pandemic to offer solutions to our clients. We have heard from multiple clients that a mobile app has “saved me in a pinch.” Just a few years ago it would have been inconceivable to think just how much of our daily work can be accomplished on a smartphone. Our clients expect a superior experience via mobile channels, especially when they are away from their laptops.
After the successful commercial release of our iOS app in 2019, clients have been asking for the Android app – especially in APAC and EMEA. The launch of the Android app in May 2020 vastly expands our mobile reach, covering most current devices in use. Clients can find the app in the respective app stores by searching “S&P Global Market Intelligence” and log in with the same credentials used for desktop.
After the Android release, we will continuously update and improve app features based on feedback from users. We proactively listen to our clients, align our development plans to meet their needs, and deliver enhancements on a monthly release cadence. Our roadmap includes an optimized iPad experience later this year. Please reach out to MI-Mobile@spglobal.com if you have any feedback.