Who would have thought those enormous blocks of plastic you could play Snake on back in the early noughties would end up completely transforming the way brands communicate with people?

Mobile is an exciting channel that presents an enormous amount of opportunities to connect with consumers, but it is evolving so quickly that many marketers are struggling to keep up. 

Old mobile phones

So what have been the biggest trends in mobile in 2015, according to our panel of experts?

Mobile overtakes desktop

Carl Uminski, COO and Co-Founder of Somo:

Mobile is now in the late majority in terms of usage. It is the primary screen for most digital interactions and as predicted is clearly becoming the remote control to our lives, connecting us with the world around us. 

Meanwhile, the velocity of adoption for connected devices grew throughout the year, which will only increase the importance of mobile.

Virtual reality has come a long way

Carl Uminski:

Virtual Reality (VR) has come a long way this year, especially as it no longer requires a powerful computer. 

We now have devices like the Samsung Gear and even Google Cardboard that can be run simply from a smartphone. This is a huge step forward for the potential consumer and enterprise uptake of VR.

Dan Thornton, Founder of The Way of the Web:

The release and promotion of Google Cardboard is a great way to introduce virtual reality at an incredibly low cost, and it’s interesting that journalism is slightly ahead of the consumer for once when it comes to VR. 

The New York Times included Google Cardboard with all home newspaper deliveries in November, promoting the NYT VR app.

The changing world of mobile SEO

Richard Baxter, CEO of Built Visible:

After Marshmallow was released, the pace of mobile evolution really seemed to pick up this year, especially in our space: search. 

We’ve felt a huge increase in requests for projects for mobile-first content development and general mobile site audits for SEO (especially companies with complex international desktop and mobile site configurations).

I expect to see that trend to continue to grow into 2016.

We’ve seen mobile search change drastically, with search engines tolerating non-mobile friendly sites less and less.

And we’ve seen ranking boosts in mobile search for mobile-friendly content and the diversity of the results themselves expand into ’in-app content’ depending on the device and OS making the query. 

Through Google’s App Indexing (& the Google App Indexing API) mobile marketers have been given the opportunity to open up the content contained within their apps for search engines. 

This content not only influences organic search directly, but can also be resurfaced via OS features such as auto complete searches or via the recent roll out of Google Now on Tap, and Bing’s equivalent, ‘Snapshots’.

App content visibility can be extended even further via the use of Schema.org markup to satisfy certain user actions such as listening to a specific song, watching a video or opening a specific app from any web page. 

So I would say that this year we’ve seen quite a few new options open up for marketers, many of which require a good foundation in technical search to fully understand.

Dan Thornton:

The biggest event in mobile in 2015 has to be that Google began indexing content from selected mobile apps to show it in search results, and is opening up that functionality for more brands and developers. 

There are three big implications: 

  • Firstly, mobile apps and search will now be more closely linked in terms of search engine rankings. 
  • Secondly, we only use a handful of the apps we download, so it’s a way to surface those we’ve ignored on our phone when we actually need them. 
  • And lastly it reinvigorates the debate around mobile and responsive websites versus app development

A growing need for speed…

Gary Elliott, Head of Strategic Services at Rocketmill:

Speed has become increasingly important. The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project has reminded us all that mobile experiences need to be fast.

Mobile payments

Carl Uminski:

Mobile payments have undergone huge developments, with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay all allowing for seamless transactions in 2015.

Apple’s use of its fingerprint scanner, TouchID, for authentication was particularly important and set the bar high for the competitive products.

New technology has made mobile more useful

Gary Elliott:

Wearables, connected homes and cars have extended the usefulness of our mobile devices, and beacons have allowed brands to make physical experiences more personal. 

But the Apple Watch fails to impress… 

Carl Uminski:

One of the year’s major disappointments has to be the Apple Watch, which has failed to solve any specific consumer need. 

Consumers only seem to find the fitness functionalities useful, so with the Apple Watch at a far higher price point than the vast array of other fitness trackers on the market, it will have to further differentiate itself to compete long term.  

There is no doubt that the Apple Watch has potential, though, particularly in the enterprise world.