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2010: The Year of Mobile

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How is it that time of year again? With the holidays upon us, the common theme to many of my conversations is the frenetic pace of 2010. Looking back on an eventful year, embedded in many of the major stories is a massive surge in mobile connectivity in our daily lives.

From the launch of the iPad, to the exploding universe of applications that give the mobile web meaning, it was a game-changing year for mobile. A snapshot of the progress is captured in the widely shared Mobile Year in Review video that launched on Monday.

Among the key trends:

  • We love our apps. In 2009, 300 million apps were downloaded. Fast forward to 2010 and that number leaps to 5 billion.
  • Location, location, location. Location-based services took off in 2010, offering information and consumer-friendly bargains specific to where you are at the time. The iconic emblem of this growth in 2010 - Foursquare, which grew from 200,000 users to a devoted community of more than 5 million.
  • Social migrates to mobile. Time magazine just announced its person of the year. More than 200 million of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's users are now mobile. Twitter, too, saw a 345% growth rate in mobile users. And, 100 million YouTube videos were played on mobile devices over the past year.

The year 2010 also brought some bad news--if you're a digital camera. Three out of four Americans now use their mobile devices to take pictures. In fact, the most popular "camera" on photo-sharing site Flickr is now the iPhone.

We also saw the concerted expansion of mobile broadband service, bringing the experience of the wireless web ever closer to the speed and reliability of its wired counterpart. No coincidence then that a full 77 million connected smartphones shipped in the fall of 2010 alone. And, mobile connectivity now extends to the far reaches of the earth--and beyond. This year, 3G service was established on Mount Everest and a U.S. astronaut checked in on Foursquare from space.

What's driving it all? Consumers. Americans have a bounty of choices among diverse service providers, wireless plans and devices--making our beloved gadgets endlessly customizable to how we lead our lives. Throw on top of that the fact that U.S. consumers have the lowest per-minute wireless rates in the world, and it should come as no surprise that 92% of Americans say they are happy with their mobile service.

What's on tap for mobile in 2010? In a word: More. The Obama Administration is poised to roll out early in the year its plan for making more spectrum available to fuel the fire of consumer wireless demand. The opportunities for broad innovation--and the job creation and economic growth that accompany it--are staggering.

Yes, the year 2010 sped by at a dizzying pace. But mobile innovators--and all of us who benefit from their transformational work--have much to be thankful for and a lot to look forward to in 2011. I hope you and your loved ones have a happy and safe holiday season. And, if the winter snow leaves you stuck at the airport, there's always Angry Birds to keep you company.


Jonathan Spalter, chairman of Mobile Future, has been founding CEO of leading technology, media, and research companies, including Public Insight, Snocap, and Atmedica Worldwide. He served as an advisor to and spokesperson for Vice President Al Gore during the Clinton administration.

Mobile Future is a 501(c)(4) coalition comprised of and supported by technology businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals dedicated to advocating for an environment in which innovations in wireless technology and services are enabled and encouraged. For a full list of members and sponsors and to learn more about the coalition, go to www.mobilefuture.org.

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