Sunday, January 01, 2006

My Mobile Predictions/Resolutions for 2006

Happy New Year! Thought I would join the crowd and make some crazy (or easy) 2006 mobile predictions/resolution. So here goes:

Mobile Devices

I predict that a number of new mobile devices will be added to my household in 2006. On the handset front, 2006 is looking like the year of the smartphone. I'm getting ready to upgrade from my Audiovox SMT-5600, and have been drooling over the Sprint PPC-6700 (HTC Apache) for some time now. I finally had a chance to check it out in the stores and came away very impressed. The fact it has Wi-Fi is a big plus in my book.

However, with the upcoming introduction of smartphones from other players, such as the Motorola Q, the Treo 700W, the Verizon version of the HTC Apache or even the rumored Cingular 8125 (HTC Wizard), the decision will get much harder. I just might have to buy more than one handset in 2006 :-)
Mobile Gaming
My daughter is turning 8 shortly and is angling for a Nintendo DS with the Nintendogs game. It's the first real interest from her in video games beyond those for the PC so it will be interesting to see where this goes. There are definitely a lack of good games for girls on any platform, but judging from my recent shopping experiences, there is a lot of pent-up demand. Good to see someone is trying to address this oft-neglected market.

On the overall mobile gaming scene, Nintendo seems to be making the right moves delivering innovative and compelling games for the DS. Their wireless efforts should be lauded as well. I've been down on Sony and the PSP lately, but I have been quite impressed with SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo. Gave it to my son for Christmas after reading Russell Beattie rave about it. Definitely a step in the right direction for the PSP and the multiplayer wireless online option is great too.

In my opinion, multiplayer online games are the future for portable/mobile gaming. The ability to play against others makes it a lot more fun. Throw in location-based features and you might have something really cool. I'm still waiting for a mobile Sims game that does this. If Nintendo can do this for dogs, surely EA can do it for The Sims?
Mobile Content
Other than itching to get my hands on one of the new iPods, the whole mobile content space really hasn't excited me yet. The ringtone market is all about personalization and as consumers upgrade to more sophisticated handsets, they will bypass purchasing them and just make their own. I've done it for the SMT-5600, and I think most in the key target audience will do so as well. If you can get it for free then why pony up $2 or $3 for a ringtone?

As for music on my handset, I don't have the need for over the air full track downloads, especially when they cost much more than the 99 cent downloads on iTunes. I'll just forsake the "convenience" and download to my PC before transferring to my handset, thank you very much. Until the carriers and music labels get off the greed train and realize 99 cents for a song is the price threshold, I can't see this market going anywhere soon.

For mobile video, I can see short programming, such as music videos, news and sports highlights working. Even with compelling content, pricing will be critical. Anything more than $5 a month will slow down adoption. Then again maybe the carriers want it that way since their networks weren't designed for delivering video?
Mobile Data
My only real prediction for 2006 is 3G data packages from the top 4 U.S. network operators will be a commodity much sooner rather than later. All-you-can-eat packages will drop down to the $15 to $25 a month range. Sprint has already jumped the gun offering its EVDO network for only $15 a month so it only makes sense that Verizon and Cingular will soon follow. Whenever T-Mobile decides to offer 3G they will go straight to value pricing.

So what does this mean for carrier ARPU? They need to sell a lot more data-centric devices and deliver content people are willing to pay extra for. Good luck.
Mobile Devices II
Lastly, one more device I plan to add to my collection in 2006 is the Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS training wristwatch. By streamlining the form factor, improving the GPS chipset, and adding a heart rate monitor, this looks like a worthy upgrade to my well-traveled Garmin Forerunner 201. And if I can stay healthy, I might even attempt to complete my first marathon this year. Of all my predictions/resolutions for 2006, this just might be the craziest as anyone who has endured the training can attest :-)
Wishing everyone all the best in 2006!