• Thu. May 23rd, 2024

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What will 2022 hold for the mobile industry?

By Dario Betti, CEO of the Mobile Ecosystem Forum

The first few weeks of a new year give an opportunity to look ahead and consider what the following months might bring to the mobile ecosystem. Over the years, at MEF, we have been very good (or lucky, or both) in providing accurate predictions. So, what do the experts think is in store in 2022?

Digital transformation – from fast to deep

We have seen the impact of the pandemic: it has energized the move towards mobile and personal solutions. However, the transformation is not yet finished.

Some enterprises have pivoted to digital transformation as an emergency mobilisation of their services: i.e., by making them remote. In the coming months we will see a more profound review of what mobility, and digital services can do, not just to customer experience, but to business models for many companies in 2022.  Moving to a digital mindset is much more than making your employees and customers access services via the web or the mobile. The winning companies from this period will be able to re-think how they create and distribute value.

Cyber Attacks – The emerging threat is now taking centre stage

The other side of digital transformation is now not just a novel type of fraud, but the main type of fraud. By 2025 cyber fraud is expected to be worth USD 10.5 trillion. This threat has been largely underplayed by many in the industry. The consumer is concerned, and the industry needs to coalesce in its efforts to fight and reduce this threat considerably. 2022 will be (has to be) the year the industry ups its game on preventing and detecting fraud.

New Media have become ‘old’

New now becomes old quite quickly. And it’s important to take a look in the mirror to check your reality. Are you still new? Or have you been superseded?  In 2022 “new media” needs to have a moment of reflection: websites, email and even social media are finding signs of early aging. Young users do not do websites or email and have engaged with ‘different’ social media platforms. The Facebook user profile is aging quickly, with youths preferring services such as TikTok (a mixture of YouTube and short messaging I’m told by the youth). As TV and radio can show, there is still a successful role to play for old media – but it’s important to realise what your role is.

Game – platforms vs. developers

In 2021, Epic Games sued Apple for anti-trust violation. Epic largely lost, but it gained approval for developers to find alternative payment mechanisms outside of the smartphone platforms (such as Apple and Google). We are going to see more attempts to price and sell games outside of the app stores in 2022. The mobile game market is worth a lot of money (US$84 billion in 2020 according to MEF estimates); even a marginal move can create a big impact in the market.

Payments – the impact of Buy Now Pay Later

While payment methods happily compete and present new solutions (e.g., the messaging platform Signal’s launch of micro payments) the real focus will be on the services developed around payment. Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) solutions are emerging as a strong value-add. This has not happened without controversy: charges and customer profiles have come to the attention of regulators lately. Expect more innovation in payments, but also more oversight.

5G – the upgrade cycle is taking over

If you expected a 5G revolution in 2021, you may have been disappointed. But the strong line-up of network coverage and handset devices is now driving a good rate of upgrades. Consumers are not flocking to buy new handsets for 5G services, but they are buying new devices and then finding the positives of more stable and faster connections. A good old evolution, not a revolution.

The Metaverse is not here, but AR/VR are

So much talk about the Metaverse, yet it is not here. It will start somewhere, but at first it will be a patchwork of competing and not interoperable solutions. Roblox, Epic’s Fortnite or Meta’s Oculus? Who will win the metaverse platform race? Well in 2022, it will be the older terms: augmented reality and virtual reality. The interest in the metaverse will generate more opportunities for the more mature and easy technologies such as AR and VR.

Mobile Marketing- An interlude year – but Messaging formats will grow faster

The death of the browser cookie and the subsequent revolution on advertising tracking has been postponed by Google’s announcement that the Chrome browser will still support tracking cookies until the second half of 2023. So, more of the same for 2022?

Not really. In 2022 big advertisers will move quickly towards new solutions – expect more focus on AI based solutions as well as a continuing growth of messaging formats for marketing. Messaging is still a small part of the advertising spend but its engagement, tracking and response KPI’s are making it more central in marketing strategies.

The split Mobile Operator

Operators are asking themselves some existential questions about their future. The investment in 5G and the coming of 6G/OpenRAN is now making addressing these questions timely if not urgent. Some operators are moving towards a more enterprise-centric model. Some are taking a fuller ‘wholesale’ role. A handful of them are taking a role in the digital economy making their bets on new consumer services.  Expect more shifts in strategies in 2022, few can still afford to stay on the fence.

Creating solutions for enterprise customers is a key solution: in the late 2010s business revenues accounted for less than 20% of the total. Things are changing now with flat or smaller consumer ARPUs (average revenue per unit). For instance, more operators are now entering the CPasS (Communications Platforms as a Service) market with gusto, even if some could say, with a visible delay. Offering solution instead of connectivity is a big leap though, that will require considerable investment and change. The wholesale approach is now much more common (from network sharing to new edge solutions), the new evolution in technologies (Open RAN, Hyperscale Cloud, Edge) are well aligned to support new business models.

While this model is aligned with the strengths of many operators, it still requires large investment and cultural shift. The most arduous, yet potentially the most rewarding approach for mobile operators is to build/bundle new digital consumer services for their end users (consumer but also enterprise customers) running a digital service factory on top of the network functionality has long been a target for many operators. While positive results have so far been rare, we are seeing some notable successes.

Foldables phones – the new form takes place

Folding phones are now back in fashion. These are not the clamshell devices of the 2000s: nowadays, screens are folding as well. The Samsung Fold 1 in September 2019 was the category opener, but in 2021 we saw the Microsoft Surface Duo 2, the Samsung Fold and Z Flip and the Huawei Mate X2.

Our prediction is that as component prices lower, other big device vendors will join the ‘fold’ to differentiate. Google and OnePlus are top of our prediction list, but even Apple could start innovating on their line-up. In 2022, we will see the first mass market foldable phones.


Dario Betti is CEO of MEF (Mobile Ecosystem Forum) a global trade body established in 2000 and headquartered in the UK with members across the world. As the voice of the mobile ecosystem, it focuses on cross-industry best practices, anti-fraud and monetisation. The Forum provides its members with global and cross-sector platforms for networking, collaboration and advancing industry solutions.

Web: https://mobileecosystemforum.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mef

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/mobile-ecosystem-forum

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MobileEcosystemForum/

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