In the mobile industry, the next “big thing” can come at any moment. And as we’ve seen over the years, it can range from anything that’s featured in our favorite devices. From a frequently used part of the software, a single feature, or even part of the hardware it’s something that can sell phones like hot cakes off the shelves if it gets passed around through word of mouth well enough. There’s no real telling what’s going to be the next big thing, but if a company thinks they’ve got the next thing in their pocket, they’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that everyone starts using it, or at least knows about it, right off the bat. It’s that word of mouth that makes these things so successful, so the more people you’ve got talking about it, the better it is.
Before 2007, I can remember working in my place of employment and having customers walking up to me and asking if we had any phones that could play music wirelessly. I remember being asked that question a lot; and I remember at the time that there weren’t many phones out there that could actually do that. But, despite the fact that the market wasn’t saturated with devices featuring the functionality, people definitely knew about it, and now it’s certainly everywhere. Strangely enough, I don’t see a lot of people using the feature, which I think is slightly ironic.
And then there was the iPhone, and there’s no denying the legitimate change to the mobile market that Apple has had. Whether you love or hate Apple (is there a middle-ground?), the fact that we have phones like we do right now is due in major part to the Cupertino-based company launching the iPhone. Simple user interface, icons that launch the phone’s features and services, and then eventually applications. Applications are obviously still the “big thing” and it doesn’t look like that’s going to stop any time soon.
So, what is it now? We’re well into the year 2011, and I feel like we’re not talking about the next big thing nearly as much as we should. But, the more I think about it that may have something to do with the fact that no one may be able to agree on just what, exactly, that thing is. Many people would probably point their finger to dual-core processors and say that’s the next big thing, and that would be an easy option. Others might say it’s paying for things right from your phone, thanks to NFC. And while it’s not talked about all that much anymore, Near Field Communication seemed to be all the rage just a few months back. And, after today’s announcement from Google, it looks like the company from Mountain View wants to bring that conversation back.
So is NFC the next big thing? There’s no doubt that Google wants it to be. After all, the company is investing plenty of resources into making the contactless payment option as common as our smartphones themselves. But, will it take off? The proper hardware for NFC transactions isn’t in the majority of phones today, and if we look down the pipe, it’s probably safe to say that the majority of phones don’t seem to be featuring the technology, either. But, the Google Nexus S 4G from Samsung, and currently available on Sprint’s network, has the proper hardware, and it’s going to be the powerhouse device that tries to sell the technology and features to the world.
So can a single device running on the Sprint network push the technology into widespread adoption? I think that may be the one area that Google has made a mistake, truth is told. Whether or not NFC gets picked up and widely used seems inevitable, and I imagine that in the next year or two we’ll be seeing more NFC methods of payment popping up, with people talking about how awesome it is. But, I think the adoption could be done faster if Google had tried to make sure that at least one more device was available in the wild, and available on more than one carrier. But instead, we’re looking at the new features of Google Wallet made available for only one phone, and through a partnership with only one US-based carrier.
So what do you think the next big thing is? Is it NFC payments? Or dual-core processors? Or is it something else entirely? Let me know in the comments below what you think.