Smartphone penetration is expected to reach around 60% across the Asia Pacific region this year, signaling that mobile technology is now the dominant way consumers are getting online and communicating in APAC. For marketers, the golden opportunity to reach out and engage them is crystal-clear, and in light of the following four tech developments, becoming all the more exciting.
5G networks will offer notably higher bandwidth and lower latency than the current 4G networks, with speeds as much as 20 times greater. They will also allow for the use of a large number of devices with ultra-low power consumption (think: Internet of Things). Considering 4G spurred everything from mobile video to Uber, just think about 5G’s potential to make emerging technologies mainstream.
According to Telsyte senior analyst Alvin Lee, 5G networks will drive further fixed and wireless convergence, providing consumers with Internet services that “just work” regardless of the network technology and device being used.
By 2025 APAC is expected to become the world’s largest 5G market, according to the GSMA, the industry body for mobile telephony standards. Indeed, the region is already a test bed, with 5G pilot programs that took place at the Winter Olympics in South Korea, and the Commonwealth Games in Australia.
The 5G tests at the Pyeongchang Olympics were conducted by Korea’s largest telco, KT Corp. The trials involved video demonstrations for consumers attending the games, showing real-time, 360-degree angles of competitors as they undertook their events. According to KT, this demonstration would not have been possible using 4G without buffering, which would have detracted from the immersive experience.
The Commonwealth Games trials in Brisbane also demonstrated the speeds that 5G can attain, hitting 15 gigabits per second and enabling 8K video streaming on the move. Other 5G demonstrations included controlling robot arms and using hand gestures via internet connection, as well as playing virtual reality soccer against a real opponent.
“Depending on spectrum and network availability, some countries in APAC are planning a 5G rollout in 2020,” Lee said. “A few countries, such as Korea and Australia, have an earlier timeline, happening sometime this year.”
New Operating Systems
This year Apple and Google will release new versions of their operating systems–iOS13 and Android Q, respectively. For Apple fans, the biggest news is a revamp of the home screen, representing the first time the iOS interface has been substantially redesigned since iOS6 took on a “flatter” look several years ago.
With the iOS upgrade, consumers can expect “a continuation of the trend towards a hybridisation of Mac and iOS apps,” Kidman said, as well as a smarter Siri digital assistant and enhancements to Apple’s augmented reality (AR) software.
“It’s important to understand that these new operating systems are now the dominant way people get online,” he says. “For that reason, enhancements to their security and usability will affect a massive amount of people, both in this region and globally.”
Foldable phones are the same size as a normal handset but, when fully expanded, become the size of a tablet. Chinese upstart Royole was the first to market, when its foldable phones went on sale in 2018. Samsung will be entering the fray with the Galaxy Fold this spring.
For marketers, foldable phones represent an opportunity to present more information and offer a more immersive experience from their branded apps as they adjust to differing screen sizes. Videos will become more compelling, while AR and virtual reality (VR) will become mainstream, offering marketers new ways of presenting their products and services.
Telsyte’s Lee acknowledged that it might take a while for foldable phones to achieve critical mass, noting that acceptance of the form factor comes down to application support, usability, and the way the products are marketed.
According to Alex Kidman, senior telco and tech editor at Finder.com.au and co-host of tech podcast Vertical Hold, Android Q will incorporate software allowing for different form factors, like folding screens. The inclusion of this technology should help with the wider acceptance of folding phones, he said.
Digital Assistants, AI Come Of Age
Digital assistants and artificial intelligence (AI) are providing new opportunities for how marketers approach personalisation and deploy campaigns. The AI assistants built into smartphones, including Siri, Google Assistant, and Cortana, are moving from reactive technologies, such as setting a timer or answering questions about the weather, to proactive technologies. This means they will better anticipate the needs of the user, such as setting schedules, pre-emptively mapping out transit routes, and even suggesting a present for someone’s birthday (assuming the birthday is recorded in the phone’s calendar).
Futurist Ross Dawson, who has been following the digital assistant market for some time, said he expects these technologies to become more context-aware and better able to offer appropriate responses to user questions.
“These platforms are competing to rule the digital world,” he told CMO.com. “We can also expect things like gesture control and the use of emotional cues, such as facial expression, to be incorporated into these platforms over the next few years.”
For marketers, this increases the chance of getting their brands in front of consumers, Dawson said. A user asking a digital assistant which brands offer what they’re looking for will hear responses that rely heavily on search engines, as well as what the assistant already knows about the user’s personal preferences. In 2019, expect digital assistants to get smarter and more useful, he added.