One could argue that in 2014, the mobile industry changed a lot. Not just in smartphones, tablets and wearables, but also in the carrier world. We saw T-Mobile and Sprint really up their game and get serious about competing with the big two, AT&T and Verizon. But what about 2015? What’s in store next year for the Mobile industry? Well that’s what we are taking a look at today.
More than just Smartphones and Tablets
For a while, carriers were mostly only selling smartphones, and in 2014 we saw more tablets on sale at carriers. Heck, Verizon added about a million tablets last quarter alone, which is double their smartphone additions. But now we’re going to see wearables on sale at carriers (more on wearables in a minute). That started with the Galaxy Gear last year, and continued with the Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, Gear Fit, Gear S, LG G Watch and the Moto 360. We’re also seeing this with cars. Some manufacturers have contracts with carriers for 4G LTE, including Chevy working with AT&T. And this is where carriers are going to continue to add customers to their growing numbers.
Not that the current crop of wearables are bad or anything, but they are still sort of first-generation products. We had wearables in 2013 from the likes of Fitbit, Jawbone, Samsung and Sony, but in 2014 a lot of other players joined in. Including Google with Android Wear. In 2015, I believe we’ll see the wearable scene get even larger, and hopefully better wearables. We have some great smartwatches out there already, like the Moto 360, and the ASUS Zenwatch, in 2015, I think we’ll see more, with more features, and possibly lower prices.
The Battle for #3 in the US
In the second half of 2014, Sprint and T-Mobile have really picked up their competitive spirits. Sprint changed their CEO, and lowered prices pretty quickly, mostly to compete with T-Mobile, but that’s helped them keep customers, and add some new ones. T-Mobile had vowed that they’d take the #3 spot from Sprint by the end of 2014. That could still happen, but it won’t be a huge lead. Which means the battle continues. It’s going to be really interesting to see what these two carriers do in 2015, and how it affects the duopoly of AT&T and Verizon.
More wireless carrier competition
In 2014 we saw something we haven’t seen in a while. AT&T and Verizon actually competing with T-Mobile and Sprint. For the longest time, AT&T and Verizon haven’t needed to compete because their networks were amazing, and people were willing to pay that price for their network. But with more and more people leaving for T-Mobile or Sprint’s lower prices and improving networks, AT&T and Verizon have had to actually compete with the smaller carriers, and lower prices. This is good for all consumers, but even better for those working at T-Mobile and Sprint. And I fully expect this to continue into 2015.
While we won’t see AT&T buy T-Mobile or Sprint, or Sprint buying T-Mobile or AT&T, what we will likely see is these big four carriers buying up other regional carriers. This year, AT&T bought Cricket Wireless and merged it with their Aio prepaid wireless provider, to make a pretty decent prepaid provider here. So we’ll likely see more of that in 2015. As the FCC obviously wants at least 4 major carriers here in the US.
Moar Android Auto and Android TV
At Google I/O this past summer, Google introduced to us Android Auto as well as Android TV. We were all excited about them both, because they’ve been a long time coming. We’ve already gotten Android TV in the form of the Nexus Player. Which is still in the early stages of Android TV, and could use some help. In 2015, I’m expecting a lot more Android TV boxes, as well as TV’s with Android built in. Which probably isn’t that far off.
And when it comes to the car, I’m expecting to see some cars at the North American International Auto Show in a few weeks here in Detroit to have Android Auto built in. Which would be amazing. There’s a bunch of car makers that are part of Google’s automotive alliance for Android Auto, and I can’t wait to see how well it works in a real car, instead of those mockups that Google had at Google I/O.
Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile all have VoLTE running in some capacity on their network now. No word from Sprint yet. But I fully expect this to expand in 2015, and to expand quickly. Most carriers aren’t investing in their voice network anymore, and I don’t blame them since they want to move everything over to their data network and have calls go in over data. Which Google has already given to all of us that use Google Voice (and it works pretty well) but for those that use a regular phone number, VoLTE should be much more mainstream by this time next year.
Sundar Pichai announced Android One back at Google I/O this year, and it really put a lot of smiles on our faces. Basically it’s bringing really cheap, but good, smartphones to those in other countries, like India, with stock Android. They partnered with Indian OEM’s like Micromax and Karbonn for the first few and they did pretty well. Once those were made available and sold out almost instantly, a bunch of other OEMs started jumping on the Android One bandwagon, and we heard that it’ll expand into more countries in 2015. So look out for that.
Tablets aren’t doing well, unless it’s named the iPad. But this isn’t really a surprise. Part of the issue is the software. Apple has really worked hard to get some great tablet apps available for the iPad and added some nice software features as well. While using a tablet on Android is kind of just like using a bigger smartphone. And if you already have a 6-inch phone, what’s the point in a tablet? This is a major reason why tablet makers aren’t selling many tablets these days. So one of two things is going to happen in 2015. Either we see Google really step up in making Android more tablet friendly as well as getting more apps tablet friendly, or we’ll see tablet makers making less tablets, and more smartphones or wearables in 2015.
Changes from Samsung
While I tried to stay away from mentioning particular manufacturers, I think this one is important. In 2014, Samsung saw some drops in their profit. Albeit they are still making money hand over fist. But they are seeing competition from Chinese OEMs like Meizu, Xiaomi, Huawei, ZTE and others. Most of which aren’t popular in the US, but they are popular in Europe, which is a big market for Samsung, similar to China and North America. I had a chance to play with Meizu’s MX4, MX4 Pro and M1 Note, and now I can really see why Meizu is really taking a bite out of Samsung’s pie in China and even in Europe.
Samsung has already made some big changes in their personnel, moving people around and such. They’ve also said that the Galaxy S6 is going to be a complete overhaul from the Galaxy S5. Which I think is needed. As we’ve basically had the same look on Samsung phones since the Galaxy S3 in 2012. Then there’s also this. It looks like the Lollipop update on the Galaxy Note 4 actually fixed a lot of our issues with Touchwiz, and I love that!