Mobile Survey: Startups Leading the Way as New Devices Gain Steam

Now that the old standby debates in mobile have been largely sorted out—iOS vs. Android, apps vs. the Web—it’s time to find new areas for rapid growth and change in this era’s dominant computing story.

A fresh survey of mobile-industry insiders shows that leaders in the sector are looking at new kinds of devices and gadgets to pick up steam this year, along with a connected revamp of many existing products.

Respondents to the survey, an annual exercise from well-connected Seattle-area industry consultant Chetan Sharma, also think that startups are doing the most intriguing work in the connected device world, leaving many of the technology industry’s biggest names in the dust.

Sharma’s survey isn’t mammoth in size—it captures the insights of about 175 executives, developers, analysts, and other informed observers. But Sharma’s network and customer base include many of the top players in mobile, so their opinions pack a punch.

When asked to identify the top mobile storylines for 2015, survey respondents pointed to new technologies and platforms—connected devices were mentioned in nearly 35 percent of responses, while “new experiences” like smart glasses, self-driving cars, and flexible displays clocked in at nearly 25 percent. A specific product, Apple’s new smartwatch, was cited in nearly 20 percent of responses.

Biggest Mobile Stories Sharma Crop


To go along with a spike in connected electronics, survey respondents said that user data will be hugely affected in the next five years.

When asked which category would be influenced the most by mobile computing trends in that timeframe, respondents put “health and monitoring” at the top, mentioning it about 60 percent of the time. The very closely related “wellness and fitness” also was ranked highly, getting mentioned in more than 30 percent of responses.

Category Impact 5 Years Sharma Crop


At the same time, Sharma’s survey-takers said that consumer adoption of new wearable electronics remains in the early stages.

The top three trends most likely to happen this year are that wearables are “limited to some early adopters,” while the entire ecosystem of companies and providers continues to grow, mostly piggybacking on top of the base of smartphones, rather than having their own dedicated cellular connections.

Wearables Happen Sharma Crop


Big companies don’t fare well in the survey’s estimation of connected device innovation. Startups are deemed by far the players doing the “most interesting work” in the Internet of things sector, followed far behind by Google, Intel, Qualcomm, and GE.

If that view is on target, look for more corporate acquisitions in this sector. If big companies can’t grow innovation themselves, the only choice left is to go shopping for it.

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