Was 2012 the year of mobile? No, and in reality trying to say that any 12 month period can be heralded as the ‘year of mobile’ is nonsense in an industry that is already well established yet also constantly evolving.

But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been any important trends and innovations in the mobile industry this year.

For example, we’ve seen more brands start to realise the importance of operating a mobile optimised site, a growing awareness that tablets are a vital part of ecommerce and a move towards embracing responsive design, particularly among publishers.

To shed more light on the most important mobile trends from 2012 and do a bit of future gazing to next year, I spoke to several mobile industry experts…

1. What were the most significant trends in mobile this year?

Carl Uminski, chief operating officer at Somo

2012 has been the year where we’ve really seen mass market adoption of mobile. We’ll end the year with smartphone penetration at over 60%, and tablet penetration at 14% – these devices are mainstream now.  

The growth of tablets has been a key trend and has had a particular impact on mobile shopping. People are spending real money on their mobile devices now, with tablets becoming the digital purchasing platform of choice for many people.

For retailers this is significant as tablets outperform desktop when it comes to online sales, with higher conversion rates and average order values. Tablets also offer the opportunity to put the fun back into shopping by mixing content with commerce.

Andrew Girdwood, media innovations director at LBi

The huge growth in tablets is a key trend in mobile this year. Ironically, that’s paired with the rise in acceptance that it is rather clunky to put smartphones and tablets together in a single category called “mobile”.

The growing connection between personal identity and mobile device is another headline trend. Generally speaking when someone interacts with their mobile they are logged in to a social network.

Mobile ecommerce also feels like one of the success stories from 2012. More brands are now offering a good mobile experience and more customers are using mobile to shop. 

In some cases that shopping may result in an online transaction and in others it will be the main research and browsing a customer engages in before buying from another device or going in-store.

Daniel Gurrola, group strategy and business development, VP, Orange

We’ve seen 4G networks coming online this year, and the demand for smartphones, tablets, and the mobile web generally was stronger than many expected.

It’s now clear that mobile operators are becoming more data-centric companies. We have come a long way with addressing the technical challenge in deploying these fantastic high speed networks, but the big question facing the industry is how to monetize data.

As a result, we’re seeing a lot of innovation in tariffing (shared bundles, pricing based on speed/service, value added services, partnerships, etc.), and we’ll continue to see that innovation and experimentation on data monetization running throughout 2013, as well as continued efforts to provide the most innovative and relevant services to our customers either through our own R&D efforts or through partnerships with leading internet and content players.

2. What will the key trends be in 2013?

Carl Uminski

The entrance of 7” tablets will have a big impact. These will be used for digital content consumption but also as a larger screen portable device (as opposed to standard tablets which are mostly used in the home).

Mobile usage will continue to increase and desktop will no longer be the primary screen, as we become truly multi-screen, mobile-first consumers. 

When it comes to mobile advertising we’ll see much more video being used in 2013. The introduction of 4G and continued spread of Wi-Fi access will mean a new level of interactivity is possible. And if a picture says a thousand words, a video shows a thousand pictures. 

Sector-wise, retail will see the biggest shift. Any content that is digital and physical – books, musics etc – will tip in 2013 to be mostly digital in delivery, driven by mobile and tablet.

Fashion retailing is also rapidly moving online and fashion brands and retailers are beginning to lead the way in this sector with exciting, innovative multi-screen customer experiences.

Andrew Girdwood

We’ll see action in the mobile payment sector. Square may lead the charge but we’ll see traditional vendors increasingly active as well as new and interesting start-ups.

Low and mid-tier smartphones will be the entry point to the market for a larger number of customers; especially in emerging markets.

And there will be more inter-connected devices. These may be physically connected devices like the Asus PadFone or Transformer, virtually connected devices through apps like Xbox SmartGlass and the YouTube App’s Pair with TV feature, or simply via the cloud through Dropbox and SkyDrive.

Daniel Gurrola

There is no doubt that 2013 will be a another big year for the mobile industry – we’ll see mobile payment and contactless services becoming more prevalent as huge body of work done by Orange and other players to build the ecosystems will reach a critical mass, and that will also create exciting new mobile marketing opportunities. 

We’ll also see operators innovating in messaging and voice – with Joyn and rich communications services rapidly coming online throughout 2013.

It’s now in Spain and we will be helping to launch RCS in Belgium, France, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia through 2013 – giving customers a native enhanced messaging service that provides strong competition for some of the OTT messaging services out there.  

Finally I think we’ll see a lot more happening in consumer cloud services. We recently launched our consumer cloud service in France which has been a first in terms of the size of the storage available, but more importantly in that we’ve made sure our customers don’t have to use their data allowance to access these services.

We’ve launched some great services in 2012 on our own and with partners like Facebook, Wikipedia, Microsoft, Deezer, Evernote, Lookout and others – and you can bet that we’ll continue to do the same, creating compelling new services and experiences for our customers.

3. What is your favourite app from 2012?

Carl Uminski

Hailo. The team that launched this have used mobile to completely disrupt an industry and solve a problem – for both cab users and cab drivers alike. They’ve got about 8,500 cabs on board in London already and are going global. 

For work, I’m a big fan of Evernote. A great example of mobile-first thinking with excellent multi screen access. I use it all the time.

Andrew Girdwood

From the grey area of “is-it-really-an-app” is Google Now. This is a wonderful utility for any mobile device, predicting what the user needs to see, when they need to see it.  

Google Now rolled out in June 2012 and has enjoyed plenty of upgrades since then.

Daniel Gurrola

We’ve just launched a mobile messaging app called Libon, which is definitely worth a try if you haven’t already.

It’s a free app on iOS (Android coming soon) combining HD voice over IP, visual voicemail, enhanced messaging and contacts, and it’s available in 90 countries around the world.