At Mobile World Congress this week, industry leaders are gathering to learn about the hardware and software advancements that will change phones this year. But while Samsung and LG compete for headlines with new screen, camera and payment technologies, there are seven emerging mobile capabilities already underway that could significantly change how consumers and brands interact in the near future:
1. The notification layer becomes our mobile DVR
Android and iOS building richer support for content and interactions in notifications has enabled many application functions to take place out of the app. Contextual triggers such as time and GPS make content in notifications more actionable than a typical user-initiated app session. The notification stack is becoming the DVR of mobile -- a single repository for everything we need to digest or take action on. Soon we won't care which app contributes the notification itself. This notification layer won't just live on the phone -- we'll dip in and out between our laptops, watches, TVs and more.
2. Messaging becomes a dominant platform
Messaging is the dominant form of mobile interaction from our personal lives (Facebook Messenger) and our professional ones (Slack). Messaging apps we spend all day on will own more of our time by turning their communication layer into a platform for other applications. Facebook is rolling out tests with Uber, enabling users to call cars and alert friends of a scheduled ride, via a message thread alongside the rest of their social communications. Slack launched a platform for similarly robust applications on top of enterprise messaging. Companies will work fast to build presence on these new platforms.
3. Artificial intelligence and bots become our best friends
The ability for artificial intelligence to serve as middleman between users and tasks will make text and voice messaging -- the conversational UI -- scalable. Siri is the most well-known manifestation, but Amazon's Alexa has quickly become a homeowner's best friend. By simply shouting at an Echo-connected speaker you can order products, turn on music, get weather reports, and more. Messaging platforms like Slack enable bots to respond to requests and crunch tasks, such as the Foursquare bot that allows users to message it for local restaurant recommendations.
4. Mobile app streaming saves us from app overload
The overabundance of apps makes it difficult for brands to attract downloads, let alone repeat usage. Important content gets locked inside apps, and websites (like Yelp) force mobile downloads to access information. Google's new app streaming capability combats these issues by erasing the divide between easily accessible webpages and content buried in never-downloaded apps. Users access the app content through a streaming non-downloaded version of the app. This will improve the mobile user experience, especially mobile search, and increase trial and usage of applications.
5. Mobile becomes command central for our connected ecosystems
The mobile phone isn't just an independent device; it's the center of our device ecosystem. Incredible processing power, ubiquitous internet and fast, intuitive interfaces make it the nucleus of all smart devices. Apple Watch borrows censors and connectivity from the iPhone. Galaxy VR integrates with a phone to enable virtual reality. Hue lightbulbs and August locks use phones as controllers. Chromecast and Apple TV are turning our once-revered TVs into "dumb glass," broadcasting content from our phones. Windows Mobile Continuum even enables phones to connect to a monitor and keyboard to become a desktop PC.
6. Ad blocking forces paying for mobile content
While ad blocking isn't new on PCs, it's more attractive to mobile users because it significantly reduces expensive data usage and speeds up load times -- issues caused by websites irresponsibly bogged down with heavy banner ads and tracking codes. But while ad blocking improves the mobile user experience, advertising pays for much of what we like getting for free. The result will be a major change in business strategies for publishers and advertisers, and a major shakeup in the way consumers think about valuing what they want.
7. Instant Articles steal control from publishers
Companies are also attacking mobile speed and bandwidth issues by developing new forms of publishing that streamline code and cache content. Facebook's Instant Articles and Apple News have staked a claim in the media space, and Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages is joining them. These new publishing platforms have the potential to offer a better consumption experience for users, but at the risk of stealing control from publishers. Facebook and Apple are offering new native advertising options that can get around ad blockers, incentivizing publishers to hand over their monetization.