If there’s one thing anyone walked away learning from Mobile World Congress this year, it’s that mobile truly is everything. And with all the buzz around emerging mobile trends and gadgets that made their debut last week, there’s certainly a lot to take in from the wireless wonderland that is #MWC2016.
As we look back to a week filled with panel discussions and new mobile innovations, there are some topics that have clearly emerged as hot areas of discussion.
Mobile ad blocking – agree to disagree
First, there’s nothing like a little controversy about mobile monetization and privacy to grab the attention of the media. Sure enough, they jumped all over the discussion around the announcement from Shine Technologies, a Silicon Valley startup that signed with Three Group, a European carrier, to block mobile ads at the network level, starting in the UK and Italy.
If there is one positive benefit that comes out of this discussion, it’s the realization of the need for speed. Ad blocking at the network level has major implications for both advertisers and publishers, and there are countless reasons why both would push back on technologies like Shine. But for far too long, the industry has been lenient on poorly engineered ads that consume far too much data and “clog up the pipes” on mobile devices, and we are looking forward to possible new standards around compression and speedy ad serving that might come from this.
New smartphones – without an iPhone complex
As Zach Epstein of BGR put it, this might be the year that we finally see Apple’s rivals stop copying the iPhone. All eyes at MWC were on Samsung, LG, HP, HTC and others to see which iPhone 6 features they would introduce on their phones.
The answer? None, really.
Instead, Samsung, in its release of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, included an always-on display with clock and calendar, increased battery capacity and improved the cameras so that they focus faster and work better in low-light environments. They also brought back expandable memory and water/dust resistance. LG, too, included water resistance and memory cards in its brand-new G5 model. (See a video comparing the two.)
What does this mean for mobile advertisers? We asked Deep Katyal,senior director of product innovation at Opera Mediaworks, about the implications of these new phones:
“The innovation in the camera is really exciting for advertisers, because consumers will be able to create even higher quality visual content that can then be integrated into brand experiences, such as selfie ad units and brand-sponsored contests,” he said.
“But what I love most is how the simple enhancements, like water resistance, battery life and the watch-like display make the smartphone even more of an extension of the user. They will think less about protecting, re-charging and turning it off and on, and instead will be able to simply have it with them throughout the day as their constant reference point for information and communication. It will become even more personal, and as such will be even more valuable of a medium and channel for advertisers to reach their audience.”
Virtual reality is now… reality
Last year, all eyes and ears were on tech and gaming company’s announcements of their virtual reality systems, from HTC’s Vive to the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift.
This year, those systems are becoming more of a reality for consumers, as Samsung said that its mobile virtual reality product, Gear VR – which powered by Oculus – will be included for free on all pre-orders (through March 18) for its new Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge phones.
Those buyers will also be able to download six Gear VR games for free (package value $50), and the company said there are now over 200 apps and games available, with more being added. Will the Oculus appstore become the new App Store and Google Play?
One trend we are watching carefully is the growth of video capture in virtual reality. Over one million hours of video have been watched in Gear VR, Samsung claims – not surprising given the massive surge in video consumption we’ve seen.
However, Samsung is now making it easier to record and upload personal 360 videos with the new Gear VR camera, so users can capture and save moments instantly.
We think that this burst of user-created videos, and the sharing of them that will certainly follow, will only serve to further fuel the growth of mobile video. Users will become more accustomed to seeing immersive video experiences in their news feeds and within apps, and we will see engagement levels for all types of video increase across both.
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