In less than 12 months from now, the world will have more mobile subscriptions in use, than humans alive. That is an unprecedented milestone for any technology but it is also widely expected and is not news to the readers of this blog. (The world had 7 Billion people and 5.9 Billion mobile phone subscriptions in use by the end of 2011, today we are past 6.2 Billion mobile subscriptions already). Yes, on this blog and in my books I have chronicled the rapid rise of mobile. But what else can we expect in mobile milestones over the next few years? As I have just released my Mobile Forecast 2012-2015, there are several interesting items in it that may be useful for our readers. Lets take the ten most amazing moments coming in mobile soon.
BY 2013 - VOICE CALLS DROP BELOW CAMERA USE
Last year 2011 was the first year ever, that voice calls were no longer the primary use of our mobile 'phones'. SMS text messaging, when measured by total number of users, has passed voice calls globally in mobile. Now, next year 2013, we will see the second use passing voice calls - it will be our cameraphone use. Lets learn not to call it a 'mobile phone' or a 'cellphone'. It is a mobile, a mobile device, but not a mobile phone. Voice calls will fall to third most used ability of our mobile gadget by next year. So yes, messaging is the primary use, and very shortly camera is the second use, voice calls fall to third.
BY 2013 - SMARTPHONES SELL 1B UNITS
Last year smartphones sold 486 million units globally. That was up massively in just one year, growing over 60% from year 2010 when the world saw 298 million smartphones sold. The growth curve continues. This year we will see the world buy more than 700 million smartphones. Next year, 2013, will be the first year that smartphone sales will pass 1 Billion units per year. That is a number only exceeded by the level of sales of basic mobile phones. No other consumer electronics has ever sold 1 Billion units per year, not TVs, not DVD players, not Walkman-style portable music players, not stand-alone digital cameras, not PCs, not tablets, nothing. In fact, none of those technlogoies ever sold even half a billion unit per year. Only mobile phones, and now from next year, 2013, also smartphones will sell over 1 Billion units per year. Wow.
BY 2013 - ONE THIRD OF PHONES HAVE WIFI
Another huge milestone, with massive impacts to the global mobile industry, is WiFi. The first WiFi enabled mobile phones came from Japan a decade ago, on NTT DoCoMo's network. Outside of Japan, Nokia was the first major handset maker to introduce WiFi on smartphones for the Western World in 2004 with the 9500 Communicator. Gradually WiFi connectivity was spreading, and when the iPhone offered WiFi, it was a big boost to this technology. But when will the world have a significant proportion with WiFi ability? That happens next year, 2013 becomes the first year when a third of all mobile phones in use worldwide will have WiFi connectivity. This will further threaten the traditional business models of carriers/operators with OTT (Over The Top) providers like Whatsapp, Skype, Blackberry Messenger, iMessage and Facebook taking voice and messaging traffic and shifting much of that to WiFi networks (and obviously cutting the revenue opportunity from cellular telecoms).
BY 2013 - MORE VOTE VIA SMS ON TV SHOWS, THAN TOTAL TV SETS IN USE
Another astonishing number we will see next year, is an amazing milestone related to television. TV voting such as American Idol, Eurovision etc, will keep on growing, that is not surprising. What is, is that we are now nearing the point where more people have voted on TV shows, than the total number of television sets in use globally. How is that possible? The voters are individual family members, each with his or her own phones. So a family with one or two TV sets may have four or five individuals voting on different TV shows from that family. At the end of this year the two numbers will be running neck to neck, but by 2013, more people will have voted on TV shows, than the total number of TV sets in use on the planet. What a big moment - and no doubt why the television industry is now so interested in mobile.
BY 2014 - TOTAL MOBILE HANDSET SALES PASS 2 BILLION PER YEAR
And then another monster milestone comes in year 2014. The only gadget ever to sell 1 Billion units is mobile. Now we have one variant of mobile phones, the smartphone also selling at that level from year 2013. But no other electronic gadget has even sold half that level! TV sets don't sell 500 million per year, neither do PCs, neither do DVD players or videogaming consoles or stand-alone digital cameras. But mobile phone handsets sell 1 Billion new units every year. From year 2014, they pass a new enormous level - two billion new handsets sold per year. Massive.
BY 2014 MORE ACTIVE USERS OF SMS THAN HUMANS ALIVE
The SMS growth is not ending. The world had 5 Billion active users of SMS text messaging by last year (more than total users of voice calls on mobile phones). Yes, heavy users are shifting their heavy use to OTT providers like iMessage, Blackberry Messenger, Whatsapp and Skype, but even most of the mobile users with OTT services, still use SMS some of the time. And the non-user base of SMS keeps growing. And those with two or three or more subscriptions, will also tend to use SMS on most of their subscriptions. So yes, from 2013 we will have more active mobile phone subscriptions on the planet than human beings of any age. And a year later, by 2014, there will be more global users of SMS text messaging than humans alive. That means, mostly, that it will be users with two or more accounts, often with two phones as well. Nonetheless, it is the first time ever, that any electronic or digital service has counted more users than total humans on the planet. Quite a milestone! Even more so when we consider 860 million people (12% of the planet) are too young to have gone to school to learn to read and write, and 800 million people (11% of the planet) are of reading age, but never went to school and are illiterate. Yes, SMS cannot continue to grow forever, and yes, it will be replaced by more user-friendly and less costly OTT services, but still, for the next few years, we will see enormous growth in SMS. And by 2014, there will be more active, paying users of SMS text messaging, than total humans alive on the planet.
BY 2014 - HALF OF INTERNET USERS NEVER USE PC BASED INTERNET
43 years ago the first four computers were connected to what was then called the ARPAnet what later became the internet. They were of course mainframe computers, intially connecting some university and research computers in California, in 1969. By 1988 the Internet had spread beyond the USA to seven other countries, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Soon it would also reach the UK, Hong Kong and Australia. But this was still a government and education focused internet, run on mainframe computers. It was possible to dial up to a mainframe computer with a personal computer at this time, using a modem and some emulator software, but most PCs that existed at this time did not find any use to connect to university mainframe computers, unless you were a college student or professor, obviously.
In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee invents the Worldwide Web and the internet was able to come to personal computers via our web browsers. We saw Mosaic and Netscape, give way to Internet Exploder, which now has been replaced as the most used web browser just last month, by Google's Chrome. The PC based internet rapidly took over and exceeded in users and traffic, the old legacy mainframe based internet. And yes, the Worldwide Web is only 23 years old. What happened next? While I was employed over at Nokia, I wrote the first White Paper on how to do the internet on mobile. And the first company to do that, commercially, was NTT DoCoMo in 1999. So the mobile internet is only 13 years old. How long did it take for Japan's mobile internet to pass the PC based legacy fixed internet? Not long. Just five years later, by year 2004, the total number of internet users in Japan who accessed the internet via mobile had exceeded the number of PC based internet users.
Since then we've seen internet use globally explode. In many cases the initial 'mobile internet' use for many of us was on a simplified version of HTML, called WAP. Many said WAP is crap, the pricing was nasty, the speeds low, the pages often very poorly designed and the experience on WAP was often far inferior to that on the traditional PC based legacy internet. Still, the mobile internet use kept growing. By 2006 we heard from global internet leaders like Google and Yahoo! that the future of the internet was mobile. There were from early on 'real internet' enabled premium smartphones like the Nokia Communciator series which did in addition to supporting WAP, also offering full HTML based 'real internet' functionality. Then when the iPhone came along in 2007, we saw the real breakthrough and the pocket internet really exploded. By 2008 40% of all internet users came from mobile, as reported by Adobe and IDC. By the end of 2009 we heard that the 50% level was passed, as reported by Nokia and IBM. So yes, today more than half of all people who access the internet, do so via mobile phones. Most of the popular internet services like Facebook and Twitter say so of their use. More significantly, of the biggest internet countries by users, the big Emerging World countries like China, India, Russia etc have the majority of their internet users accessing from mobile handsets, rather than traditional PCs.
But most who access the internet today, do so on both types of devices. Both on PCs and on mobiles. So we may briefly go to Google on our smartphone while at the store, to check on something, but then at home we can spend plenty of time on Facebook etc. Here is where we will see a monster milestone coming in year 2014. Yes, in about two years from now, most who access the internet, will never use a PC at all! So pure PC users, and those who use both PC and mobile, will be less than those who never use a PC, and only access the internet on a mobile. That moment is a massive change to the internet. No wonder Google says 'Mobile First'. Any internet website should be formated primarily for mobile access - by default - and the PC large-screen access as the secondary option (as it is for example in Japan today).
By 2014 - HALF OF NEW PHONES SOLD WILL HAVE TOUCH SCREENS
And another huge change in our computer inputs. The Macintosh changed the whole PC world in 1984 when it introduced the mouse as an input device, and suddenly even our moms and dads, even our grandparents could use a PC without going to computer classes. The Windows PC world of the past two decades has been built on that mouse-based control of our PC experiences.
The mobile phone, its internet and other functions, were attempting to mimick the PC world. The keypad was tiny, often only the 12 keys of the T9 keypad. Even with a QWERTY keyboard like on a Blackberry, the keys were tiny and squished. And then what of the mouse? Some handsets tried to do it with a stylus and an early touch screen. Others tried to do it with a tiny mouse on the smartphone like the Blackberry Bold. And others tried to control the movements on the screen via only four directions of movement ie [UP], [DOWN], [LEFT] and [RIGHT], like recent Nokia Communicators.
These were all suboptimal. The early touch screens were not a solution either. And it would need, as so often is the case, the brilliance of Apple to resolve this for us. Apple's iPhone touch screen innovations were two, to make the experience superior for common users. First, they used a capacitive screen rather than resistive screen, which allowed a more fluid, more 'human' type of effortless experience. And then there was the innovation of multitouch. Now we could do much more realistic movements on the screen. And today, just like the Macintosh changed all PCs two and a half decades ago, Apple again changed all mobile phones and increasingly new phones look like iPhone clones, with the large touch screens as their only input methods.
So when will half of all new phones sold be using touch screens? That moment is coming soon. A little over two years from now, the year 2014 will be the moment when more than half of all new phones sold will have either a pure touch screen, or a hybrid input with touch screen and some kind of keyboard as well, such as a slider or folder QWERTY input. Thank you Apple once again, for making our lives easier and simpler.
BY 2015 - HALF OF MOBILE SERVICE REVENUES COME FROM DATA
And we are witnessing the transformation of the mobile telecoms industry. In 1979 when NTT DoCoMo launched the world's first commercial cellular service in Tokyo Japan (four years before the famous Motorola handset was sold in Chicago where many still mistakenly think this industry was launched) the only service we had on mobile was voice calls. Even when 2G launched in Finland by my former employer, Elisa Corporation (and its mobile unit, Radiolinja), the only service offered on GSM was voice calls. But it was Finland in 1993 that launched the first commercial non-voice service as a data service - the humble SMS text message (incidentially, invented by Matti Makkonen of Telecom Finland, and one time mentor to me and Nokia consulting department that I later headed).
SMS text messaging as a mass market commercial service is only 19 years of age. Mobile data services are barely over half the age of voice calls on mobile, which are 33 years of age now. And we are approaching a big transition-point. In year 2015 we will see the point where more than half of mobile industry service revenues will no longer come from voice calls. SMS and MMS messaging will be a significant part of the data services, yes, but so too are all sorts of newer mobile data services from TV voting to mobile advertising to ringing tones to search, to various subscription services, smartphone apps etc.
BY 2015 - SMARTPHONES WILL ACCOUNT FOR 75% OF NEW PHONES SOLD
And the last big milestone I want to mention from the next few years, is year 2015, when smartphones will account for 3 out of every 4 handsets sold. Last year 2011, it was barely more than 1 out of 4 handsets sold. But the shift to smartphones is an inevitable trend and by 2015, yes three out of every four handsets sold will be a smartphone. In most of the Industrialized World countries we will not see 'dumbphones' for sale anymore, they will all be smartphones.
That is a little bit of a preview into this next few years in mobile. The growth opportunity in mobile is the biggest economic opportunity of our lifetimes. No wonder Apple Computer changed its name to Apple, calls itself a mobile company and now is the most profitable company on the planet. No wonder Google says 'put your best people on mobile'. No wonder Ford says that mobile will be part of every advertising campaign they do on any media platforms. No wonder the BBC says that all broadcast content, TV and radio, will be available on mobile. No wonder Visa says the future of money, the future of payments is mobile. No wonder Carlos Slim replaced Bill Gates as the wealthiest person on the planet. Bill Gates built his empire on the profitable PC software industry. Carlos Slim out of Mexico now runs his empire on the most profitable part of the tech industry, mobile telecoms with his America Movil empire stretching from Argentina across all of the Americas to the USA and now even across the Atlantic to the Netherlands. No matter what your career is involved in, this decade you will be doing more mobile than anything else.
DO YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE?
This is the freebie version of selected highlight data points to celebrate my new report, the TomiAhonen Mobile Forecast 2012-2015 that I have just released. This blog had 10 data points. That forecast has 110 data points across 4 years, so it has in total 440 data points. If you are involved in strategic planning in mobile, if this blog was useful for you, that Forecast is probably a 'must-read' document. Obviously most of them are not as dramatic 'milestones' as these ten items in this blog, but consider the type of information it includes:
SIZE OF THE INDUSTRY
- Mobile subscriptions, unique subscribers, second and third subscriptions
- Handsets ('terminals') in use actual
- Mobile industry revenues including voice, messaging and VAS/non-messaging data
- Penetration rate per capita, as unique users, and among humans alive over age 10
- Regional subscribers (for each, Total, Unique and Multiple subs) for 8 regions - North America, West Europe, East Europe, Asia-Pacific Advanced, Asia Developing, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America
- Active base users: Clock and Alarm, Camera, SMS, Advertising, Voice calls, Web Surfing, Music, MMS, TV voting, News & Alerts, Search, Downloading
- New handset sales in units, smartphones in units, migration rate
- Smartphones in use & migration rate
- Installed base of handsets by ability: MMS capability, Bluetooth, Media player, Camera, Memory card slot, HTML browser, 3G, Java/Brew, WiFi, used handsets (second hand handsets), touch screen
- Average camera resulution
- Input method Touch Screen, QWERTY, hybrid and basic
HANDSET MARKET SHARES
- Market shares of new sales: All handsets, dumbphones, smartphones
- Smartphone OS Forecast Base Case and 5 scenarios (Samsung, Apple, Blackberry, Microsoft, and Nokia cases)
- Regional OS market shares for 8 regions - North America, West Europe, East Europe, Asia-Pacific Advanced, Asia Developing, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America
MOBILE DATA SERVICES
- SMS users, traffic, revenues
- OTT Cannibalization of messaging
- MMS users, revenues
- Mobile VAS (non-messaging premium data) users, revenues
- Mobile users of internet, PC users of internet, Mobile-only users, PC-only users, Both Mobile & PC users of internet
- Mobile service revenues for TV & video, mobile social networking, news & alerts, music, advertising
- Consumer app revenues, business app revenues
- Consumer & enterprise/business subscriptions
- Consumer & enterprise/business smartphones
- Prepaid vs Postpaid customers
This is the best one-source resource for you as a guide into the future. It only costs 99.00 Euros and is available immediately as an ebook download. It is formated for the small screen, so you can carry the TomiAhonen Mobile Forecast 2012-2015 in your pocket, on your iPhone or Blackberry or Android device. It is in basic PDF format so you can also read it on your other digital devices like your PC, laptop and iPad.
If you are involved in any way in the planning and future of mobile, you need this Forecast. Note it costs a tiny fraction of most other forecasts that often sell for thousands of dollars. But you can trust this, as I have been called the most accurate forecaster of the mobile industry, and I am the father of more theories about this industry than any other expert. My 12 published books are already referenced in more than 120 books by my peers, and Forbes just measured me as the most influential expert in mobile. My forecasts are regularly quoted in various global media like the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Business Week, the Economist etc, as well as over 300 press mentions in two dozen languages, and I am often seen on TV talking about mobile industry numbers.
To see more including full table of contents, please see TomiAhonen Mobile Forecast 2012-2015.