Facebook, 5G, and foldable mobiles

Dario Betti, CEO of the Mobile Ecosystem Forum, explores what the future will hold for the mobile industry

As spring approaches and the economy starts to recover from the pandemic, the next year will bring change to the mobile ecosystem. Let’s look at four areas of change for 2022.

The Metaverse vs AR/VR

So much talk about the Metaverse, but it is not here yet. This new virtual interoperable world is being built right now, but at first it will be a patchwork of competing and not interoperable solutions.

Roblox, Epic’s Fortnite or Meta’s Oculus: who will win the metaverse platform race? It is too early for them, but in 2022, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will really make a business impact – for the first time. If you are working on retail, real estate, education, or games you may well be looking at these solutions during the year.

The interest in the Metaverse will generate more opportunities, investments, and momentum. For instance, the technology developer Summit Tech from Canada has shown how they can create a Metaverse environment today, but business-wise they have been busy rolling out VR solutions for e-commerce retailers and e-sport events.

MEF valued the global market for VR hardware and services at 4.2 USD billion in 2019. After a long stagnation we expect growth over 30% for this market in 2022. It will be new services, rather than hardware that drive the growth.

5G revolution or evolution

If you expected a 5G revolution in 2021, then you were disappointed.

Consumers are not flocking to the shops asking for 5G services: many are still confused by the ‘G ‘numbering as well as the features of this new technology. The applications for 5G based on its improved speed and latency will come, but they are still fighting for visibility now.

Despite all of this, we will witness one of the fastest technology adoptions for faster mobile network advancement. The network coverage is expanding globally except for Africa. Over 850 devices have already been released in the market with 5G support, the price levels have now come to a good mid-range point. People are buying new 5G devices without realising it.

This is old fashioned evolution, not a revolution – but 5G is a true improvement in service quality. This is good news for the entire digital ecosystem in the long run.

Payments – what next?

How will person-to-person payments evolve in 2022? Will it be a wallet, a blockchain platform, or a super app? The fintech industry has been playing with new and exciting technologies for a while.

However, this has not always been met with favour by the end users. Simple solutions should not be discarded: even unassuming messaging/QR solutions can work well. In 2021, we have seen the blossoming of a Brazilian payment platform based on QR codes. In 14 months, the PIX payment system reached 107 million users and transactions worth over 115 million USD per month.

The secret of this success? A united front from the banking system and a fair amount of support from the state.

Another prediction: Facebook will finally put to rest its global blockchain stable coin (the ‘Diem’ saga). It is too early to land an internationally agreed digital currency. This might not be a surprise; plenty of rumours have circulated in the past 12 months. Facebook is fighting an acceptance war with too many stakeholders, and regulation must be matched or even created.

Instead, a more pragmatic approach to focus on country-based solutions will improve results in 2022.  At some point we will have to look again at international interoperations, but not this year.

While payment technologies happily compete and represent the sexy part of the industry – something else will be the winner: Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL). These solutions are emerging as a strong value-add. They are welcomed by users with tight budgets, and are highly profitable for the payment providers.

What’s not to like? Well, it seems that regulators are finding controversial issues: charges, conditions, and transparency are areas that need to be addressed. Expect more innovation in payments, but also more oversight. It will be BNPLthat will grab attention in 2022, more than the sexy new tech.

The continuing story of foldable phones

Folding phones are now back in fashion. These are not the clamshell devices of the 2000s; nowadays, screens are folding as well. The Samsung Fold 1 in September 2019 was the category opener, but in 2021 we saw the Microsoft Surface Duo 2, the Samsung Fold and Z Flip and the Huawei Mate X2.

Our prediction is that as component prices fall, other big device vendors will join the ‘fold’ to differentiate. Google and OnePlus top of our prediction list, but even Apple could start innovating on their line-up. In 2022, we will see the first mass market foldable phones. In 2021 the foldable phones sold accounted for a few millions world-wide: not enough to be present in the hands of the punters in your average high street. 

In 2022, we expect an additional 10 million foldable devices to be sold. Foldable phones will still be rare but becoming a fashion statement. They won’t be a technical wonder at a massive premium anymore.

Dario Betti is CEO of MEF (Mobile Ecosystem Forum) a global trade body established in 2000 and headquartered in the UK with members across the world. As the voice of the mobile ecosystem, it focuses on cross-industry best practices, anti-fraud and monetisation.

Main image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

© Business Reporter 2021

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