Mobile Trends 2013

Creative Commons / Janitors / Flickr

Creative Commons / Janitors / Flickr

This aims to be a very short introduction to MoJo – mobile journalism. This is a booming area at the moment with sales of tablet computers – most significantly the Apple iPad (the dominant brand) – rocketing in recent years.  This has led to the once dominant PC manufacturers (think Dell, HP etc) to reassess their business models. Dell, number one manufacturer of very un-sexy looking desktops, seems to be debating whether to exit the consumer market completely and focus on B2B server stuff. I wouldn’t be buying shares in Dell at the moment. Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system is aiming to put some life (and much needed sales) back into the laptop sector with it’s combination of laptop and touch screen tablet functionality.

Devices and apps

When it comes to manufacturers, the biggest names in mobile tablets and smartphones are the American Apple corp (iPhone / iPad), Taiwanese HTC,  and the Korean Samsung. Samsung has a bewildering number of devices for all budgets, the highest end being in the Galaxy and Note ranges. These tend to run on the Google Android OS which is an open system. Creating Android apps is cheap compared to getting on Apple devices, but there are loads of different versions of Android in ‘the wild’. Android users tend not to update their OS, while Apple users get encouraged to.

Of course, Apple machines run its proprietary iOS. Apple has strict quality controls when it comes to what it allows to appear in the App Store. If you ain’t in the App Store you won’t be on Apple devices. Apple also take a big chunk of your app profits which can be crippling – you may want to go free and take advertising.

While the iPad is fending of competition from Google (Nexus range) and Samsung,  Apple desperately need to create a better iPhone with a larger screen. The device looks both fat and small compared to the latest Galaxy S. As rival smartphones have become better, Apple is at a crucial point in 2013. It knows it must raise its game.

Nokia (remember them?) are actually getting their shit together and producing some decent smartphones these days in the Lumia range. I am wondering if my next phone will be a Nokia? However, while they may have great screens and incredible cameras you will end up with Windows OS on your phone (and you really don’t want that!). What about Blackberry? Your guess is as good as mine. App creators are ruling them out and without a decent Blackberry World store they are screwed.


To be truly mobile you need connectivity and this is where things are getting interesting. If you want 4G at the moment you need to give EE a ring. But rivals O2, Vodafone and 3 (Three) will be rolling out 4G shortly. Many argue that these companies really need to focus on getting their existing coverage sorted out, particularly outside big cities, before attempting to launch the much faster 4G . I certainly have a ‘love hate’ relationship with my provider O2 (mostly hate at the moment). But once 4G is rolled out it should be good. EE promise speed of 80 mbps in 12 cities across the UK, including London and Southampton. It’s certainly payday for the mobile providers as anyone who uses 4G will find themselves eating through their data plan. It should also boost sales of more expensive 4G phones.

The feature phone is almost certainly dead. Apart from the glove compartment models, most phones will be ‘smart’ and the word will soon be redundant.

What does the roll out of 4G mean to journalists? Assuming we can get a connection, it obviously gives us the potential to do far more video transmission and live broadcasts via mobile will become common. 4G apparently will work well indoors (so no more hanging out of a window to get a one-bar signal?). We can expect to see more live broadcast such as the ground-breaking reporting by Mark Stone on the London riots.

E-Readers – your moment has passed

On the consumption side we can expect to see more of the same – consumers using mobile devices as their primary news and entertainment sources on the go. The main limiting factor will be access to fast connectivity. The tablet is certainly on the rise and all those old Kindle e-readers that we bought two years ago will soon be banished to the bottom draw. You won’t be able to give ’em away on eBay.

Sports fans

With the massive rise in mobile consumption, journalists must review the type of content that appears on mobile devices and how it is presented. Mobile is hugely important for sports fans with the BBC re-designing it’s mobile offerings to cater for this. Mobile consumption is particularly high among young males. Once the trend was ‘web first’, it is now app first.

Get personal

On the consumption side, personalisation is really important. People get really attached to their phones and express their identity through the apps and games they choose to download. The biggest pain with apps are the constant updates. Apps  go against the spirit of the open web – they tend to be closed, propriety and non-searchable environments. It’s a struggle to make mobile advertising work and the latest data from the Guardian about the numbers of subscribers paying a monthly fee for its iPhone app and iPad edition are disappointing. It’s concerning that people do seem to be getting out of the habit of buying newspapers and magazines in print format and digital editions seem to be doing very little to compensate.

Get local

People have been banging on about the use of location-based services on mobile for ages. I am really wondering if they will ever take off in any significant way for social networking. For many it also seems very creepy and an invasion of privacy, but we’ll see.

Does journalism work on tabs and phones?

At a time when the top ten iPad app list is dominated by games, journalists are debating what content people want on their devices. Reading long form journalism on a tab is a pleasant experience compared to reading from a PC screen or mobile phone. There are some really great apps out there. I love The Economist, Guardian and pay for mags occasionally on Zinio. However, the experience isn’t significantly better than reading a web page and most media apps lack the interaction.

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