2012 “Top 10” MOBILE trends & rankings

In a season where every second tweet and Google+ post is a look-back or forward at the “mobile” year, it is sometimes difficult to navigate all the insights. Just Google “Mobile Top 10 . . .” and you will find every blogger, publication and pundit providing their vision of what is newsworthy, trendworthy or simply rankable in mobile.

The proliferation of mobile “Top 10s” is a good thing. It is proof of all the many verticals areas that mobile has intersected. Health, IT, gaming, banking, retail, social, payment, fraud, security, privacy, patent trolling – all now have some form of a top 10 mobile list.

The explosion of the Mobile Top Ten list shows both how disruptive mobile has become and, also, what a massive audience it commands. Top 10-related news headlines seem to drive more hits and be retweeted more than other items.

(Twitter even tweets its top 10 most retweeted tweets. No. 2 being @LilTunechi Lil Wayne WEEZY F “aaaaaaahhhhhhmmmmm baaaaakkkkkkkkkk.” The 2011 top of the top 10 retweets was by Wendy’s restaurants “RT for a good cause. Each retweet sends 50c to help kids in foster care. #TreatItFwd.” Wendy’s raised $1.8 million.)

We seem to all need, what Perry Hoekstra in his blog calls an “Obligatory 2011 Top Ten Mobile Story List.” I presume it helps us simplify this expanding, complex world of mobile. If we can prioritize importance and cut off the discussion at ten, the list can help us make sense of mobile.

Lists also keep us honest. We never are right on half our predictions. Remember our 2010 trends and forecasts? They are out there in the blogosphere for all those with 20/20 hindsight to chuckle.

In December 2010, we all had an opinion on HP webOS-powered tablet plans – that never happened. And where on the list was Google’s purchase of Motorola, ostensibly as fodder for their IP wars against Apple? Missed that one.

But the biggest problem with these lists is their length. In the wasteland of eggnog and turkey dinners, I ask, where are the mobile Clifs Notes? Where is the super-list? Where is the list of lists?

Steve Yankovich, head of mobile for eBay, tells us that the mobile consumer’s attention span is roughly 15 seconds, nose-to-phone. EBay designs its mobile pages for the dwell time at an elevator or the time idling at the red light. Perhaps, in the spirit of mobile efficiency, we better design our year-end prognostications for this small attention-deficit window.

This holiday season, I add to the litany of lists my retrospect and forecast of mobile, but below in 100 words or less.


  1. Facebook timeline set it back in history
  2. Google+ builds circle of trust
  3. Symbian sang swansong
  4. Apple continued to make data a free commodity
  5. Spectrum war showed its dark side
  6. All screens called mobile
  7. Amazon cloud disrupts the mall
  8. Consumer data became jewel in the crown
  9. CarrierIQ poster-child of privacy angst
  10. NFC wallet traded press, not payment


  1. NFC proximity marketing, not proximity payment – yet
  2. X9 (ISO) delivers mobile security recommendations
  3. Apple says “I Do” to NFC
  4. Research In Motion exits stage right
  5. Cloud checkout is optimized and mainstream
  6. Super App = HTML5 browser
  7. Focus on prepaid market services
  8. LTE networks and spectrum become big issues
  9. Mobile privacy hype continues
  10. Microsoft and Nokia enter stage left

Not quite 100 words, but near enough.

Happy Mobile New Year.

Carrier IQ and Starbucks?

 By Gary Schwartz

Now I have your attention, there is an interesting parallel between Carrier IQ and Starbucks that explains a lot about the phantoms we battle in the mobile world.

Remember about one year ago , the news wires were full of security articles on the Starbucks wallet. The Mobile Commerce Daily published a story titled “How to Compromise the Starbucks Rewards Card APP in 90 Seconds.” To compromise the system, the mobile forger could simply photo capture a Starbuck’s 2-D code off an unattended phone and proceed to debit the owner’s prepaid account at any Starbucks café.

The Starbucks mobile stored-value program has the identical functionality of the Starbucks plastic stored-value card. Instead of swiping the card, the Starbuck’s attendant scans the number off the phone via a 2-D code on the phone screen.

What is interesting about this scenario is not the fraud. Plastic stored-value Starbucks cards are stolen, lost, or misused every day. There is limited risk. The wallet is designed for micro-transactions and Starbucks is happy to repay the loyal but irate consumer two lost “No foam Soy Mocha Decaf Lattes”.

As I discussed at length in The Impulse Economy, what is of note is that the mobile misdemeanor gets more press. The phone is more personal than the cowhide wallet and, therefore, under more scrutiny. The mobile phone houses family photos, girlfriend’s SMS, business notes and now a wallet.

Then Carrier IQ arrived.

We woke up to CNN showing the hoodwinked public (care of Trevor Eckhart) that their phone in their pocket had been hijacked. Wired Magazine editors explained that every keystroke, every media selection, every location was recorded by the Carrier IQ software as a Matrix-like data. For the unsuspecting phone owner of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon phones, all this information was recorded.

  • Perhaps our secret SMS messaged are being posted on the cafeteria wall?
  • Our photos and videos screened by the IT department?
  • Our love life the laughing stock of the mailroom?

The fact that the Carrier IQ software is basic diagnostic code installed in the phone to help debug and improve performance on the network and the fact that the code is impossible to read without an IT certificate; all seems immaterial. (Similar diagnostic software can be found on smartphones globally.)

But here is the Starbucks parallel . . .

We did not seem to react when Windows ran the Dr. Watson diagnostic software on our 1995 PC operating system. (The only complaint we had then was it was slowing down the computer and most folk went to their geek squad to dive into the Window’s Registry and disable it.)

Why is Carrier IQ different from Dr. Watson? Why is the Starbuck’s mobile application different from the piece of plastic in our wallet?

Are we more vulnerable on our phone? Should Al Frankin and the nice folk at the FCC be panicking? I do not think so.

Of course, we need to be aware of privacy and security issues related to new technology. Trust needs to be built and trust needs to be kept. We need to proactively work on security and privacy standards (www.x9.org / www.mefmobile.org)

However, the mobile industry is light years ahead of incumbent digital media in self-regulating, self-policing and considerable navel gazing.

The digital incumbents (online and other media) need to look to the mobile industry that has proudly monitored mobile messaging short code provisioning in US unlike Japan and Europe and to Apple who invented the mobile APP has closely monitored provisioning of content on its network.

Is the industry perfect? No. Does it need to work hard to maintain trust? Yes. But in a world where every screen is mobile and soon many wallets; where health, media, fitness, gaming, business, and, of course, communication convergence is happening aggressively on a month-to-month basis, we are going a fantastic job.

(Since this was written on my US smartphone, I hope the industry folk are reading my data now. Send.)