Ever since the first iPhone release over 7 years ago, the mobile revolution has been unabated. Smartphone sales and tablets sales continue to rise and desktop sales are steadily dropping. In fact, global PC sales fell a record 9.8% in 2013 and are expected to drop 6% in 2014 with downward trends continuing through 2018. Meanwhile, there are expected to be 1.75 billion smartphone users this year. More than 2.23 billion people worldwide, or 48.9% of mobile phone users, will go online via mobile at least monthly in 2014. At the beginning of the year, more people in the U.S. used mobile devices than desktop devices to access the internet. Forrester also expects mobile commerce transactions in the United States to total $114 billion in 2014. $76 billion will be from tablets, while the remainder will be from smartphones. These same numbers are replicating themselves globally.
The continued ascendancy of mobile computing over desktops, coupled with the rise of Internet of Things and wearable device, are marking another new era in the form factors of computers and how we interact with them. As the PC continues its downsized trajectory from our desktops to our pockets . . . and now to our wrists (with the pending launch of Apple Watch), we can only ask ourselves what’s next for mobile?
This is a great question and it does seem to have a clear answer: voice! Now by ‘voice’ we mean sending voice message with your smartphone, making calls, and performing a range of tasks like web searches. While speech recognition technology has been around for years, there are some interesting trends more recently that signal voice as the “next big thing” in the world of mobile. Recent improvements in the processing power of phones, the sophistication of speech recognition algorithms, and the increasing network speeds of LTE / 4G are some of the major factors giving more prevalence to voice messaging. Earlier this year, in fact, it was reported in the U.K. that SMS texting declined significantly in 2013 because of increasing usage of platforms like WhatsApp and Skype.
WhatsApp is currently the world’s most popular instant messaging platform, allowing users to not only send text messages, but also images, video, and audio media messages. Seeing the future of this market, Facebook acquired WhatsApp in February of this year for $19 billion – marking the social media giant’s biggest acquisition to date.
In addition, VOIP players from the desktop era like Skype have gotten onboard the move to voice messaging. Since its first voice-only application came out in 2003, and since adding video features in 2006, Skype has innovated the VoIP protocol to meet the growing needs for real-time video and audio calls over the internet. Skype has also kept up with the mobile revolution by offering its app on all major devices. It offers free face to face video and voice calls over a 3G or WiFi connection as well as low cost service to mobile devices and landlines.
In addition to the rise of new voice messaging apps, speech recognition technology continues to improve dramatically. Between Apple’s Siri and Google Now people can use their voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more. Siri, in fact, is much like a personal digital assistant. As Apple puts it, “Siri makes everyday tasks less tasking. It figures out which apps to use for which requests, and it finds answers to queries through sources like Yelp and WolframAlpha. It plays the songs you want to hear, gives you directions, wakes you up, even tells you the score of last night’s game.”
So you hopefully get the point here . . . Tremendous breakthroughs in recent years in mobile and collaboration technologies have translated into exciting new possibilities in real-time communications and social computing. Everyone today expects much faster services and voice obviously has many advantages for getting the information you need as quickly as possible. Not to mention, it avoids the clumsiness of the keyboard!
Information is no longer just at your finger-tips. If you want to know what’s the next big thing in mobile you need go no further than your own voice. The possibilities of communicating faster, better, and to more people is what makes voice the new medium for exchange in today’s rapidly changing digital market.