A look at the Tech of 2011 – Mobile and Gadgets

The two biggest stories of the year were the iPhone 4S and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus

2011 Was definitely the year of mobile and gadget explosion. Our favorite devices became more capable, widespread and cheaper than ever. WiMax fell by the wayside as LTE and HSPDA+ protocols replaced them – the latter just a placeholder until LTE networks could be rolled out. We got some awesome new tablets, some great updates to our favorite mobile OS’s and killer new smartphones. We found that cable cutting is possible — just not if you’re a sports junkie (yet). Keep reading for our summation of 2011 in Mobile and Gadgets.

The Year in Short:

  • Apple released their iPad 2, iPhone 4S and iOS 5.
  • Google/Android released versions 3.x (for tablets) 4.x for all and the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus smartphones.
  • Microsoft released Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) yet still does not have a flagship device in NA.
  • HP/Palm drops WebOS development, TouchPad firesale creates more development than anything HP every did
  • RIM BlackBerry PlayBook released, is horribly crippled and costs RIM upward of $300M (might even cost the jobs of the Co-CEOs).

Apple and Google Win 2011 – to no one’s surprise

The Mobile/Gadget World was utterly dominated by Android and iOS in 2011. At the end of the day, the two operating systems captured over 70% of the US smartphone marketshare. They have marginalized the once great RIM, while Microsoft is struggling just to stay even remotely relevant. The battle between Android and iOS is one of differing approaches to the same problem. Apple has integrated fully in the supply chain, controlling and curating the entire platform. Apple makes large profits on handsets, service, as well as app sales (30% share of every sale). Google is making their money through ad sales and services, as well a portion of application sales. At the end of the day, Apple is making more money off of smartphones and tablets – while Google has greater influence. Microsoft needs a huge 2012 to remain relevant – and they have the capabilities to do that.

Android and iOS are the only mobile operating systems that mattered in 2012

Both Apple and Google have had some stumbles in the past year. However, these stumbles have created stronger offerings. Android’s Tablet offerings – the 3.x (Honeycomb version) of the operating system was not well received. However, the recently released Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.x) and the Galaxy Nexus have given Android the true flagship device they have always needed. Apple’s iPhone 4S was not what the pundits (nor the consumers) desired. It was just another incremental upgrade – but their iOS 5 brought many features (just look at @dbehr24’s post) that were necessary and improved the experience. With Android 4.x and iOS 5, we have two mature, developed operating systems for mobile devices and tablets, and should provide excellent competition in the near future. I do believe that there is room for another contender – if it is done right.

Tablets had a strong showing in 2011, which will continue in 2012

The iPad 2 was the tablet winner, but the Kindle Fire surprised everyone

Tablets have been a secondary story in 2011. The iPad 2 sold like gangbusters, around 12M units a quarter. Apple is still selling some original iPads as well. Android was released for tablets early this year – but still has yet to be widely adopted. The Amazon Kindle Fire has outperformed any and all expectations, with over 4M in sales since it was released (around Thanksgiving). The success of the Kindle Fire has been attributed to both the cost ($199) and the Amazon ecosystem. But in my opinion it is more than just one or the other – but a mix of both, plus the great form factor that is a 7” tablet. The rush for bargain touchpads underscores the consumer demand for a tablet – yet the price points have not met with consumer expectations. India is rolling out their $50 budget tablet now – and I imagine we’ll continue to see the $200-$300 price point to continue to be the sweet spot.

This year, gadgets and mobile were undeniably inextricably entwined. I do not believe that this will necessarily stop. The Android OS is widely available for installation on a vast amount of gadgets, from set top boxes to PMPs. It is used on the majority of smartphones and tablets worldwide (just not the best-selling). Apple made a big move by releasing the iPhone 4S on every single carrier at the same time – Google needs to follow in their footsteps with further Google Experience Devices. While the Galaxy Nexus launch was a success, it was mitigated by infighting and other issues with Verizon. Google has to fight to keep their gadgets in stock – and allow OEMs to ship launchers that can be easily ignored (or changed). So long as OEMs insist that their “special sauce” increases the usability, Android (Google) will lag behind Apple.

The “Beta” gives me a warm and fuzzy for old Google products

Disruptive Actors of 2011

2011 did have some disruptive actors. Most notably is Republic Wireless, (blog here). They offer unlimited mobile data, text and voice with a commitment to using Wi-Fi for only $20 a month. The service piggybacks Sprint’s network, which cannot be the only network they use. Cable cutting is another disruptive capability; one that removes the monopoly of cable and satellite providers. Apple, Roku, Boxee, and Google TV are among the products that enable cable cutting. As Android is better adopted for the big screen (it already looks great), cable cutting will become more widespread.

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