Mobile developments in 2016, what to expect in 2017

By Lorna White


United Kingdom


A look back at what happened in mobile for 2016:

  • In 2016, the smartphone became the most popular device on which to access the Internet.
  • Mobile video ad spend is now more than one-third of mobile spend, reflecting consumption habits on this device.
  • Adoption of wearables in the United Kingdom hasn’t grown as much as anticipated due to barriers to the category.
  • Mobile payments are growing rapidly, especially amongst those 18-24 years old.
Looking ahead to 2017, expect AR, VR, and voice search to play a larger role.
Looking ahead to 2017, expect AR, VR, and voice search to play a larger role.

Growth of mobile

Smartphone penetration in the UK has jumped from 52% to 81% of the population in the four years prior to May 2016. However, adoption has now begun to slow down significantly, rising by 7% in the year to 2016 (Deloitte).

Mobile video

There are more digital video viewers in the UK than ever before, with 63% consuming video this way in 2016 (eMarketer). This growth has been driven by the amount of video content made available online and also by smartphone users, 68% of whom watch videos on their smartphones.

This trend has been reflected in mobile ad spend. According to the IAB/PWC ad spend report for H1 2016, mobile video makes up more than one-third of mobile display spend.


Overall wearables haven’t quite taken off as expected within the UK. Even though adoption has doubled, penetration is only at 9% for fitness bands and 7% for smartwatches in the UK (International Data Corporation).

Cost and ease of use act as barriers. Also, these devices tend to have limited appeal. Even though keeping fit is a mainstream need, measuring and being reminded of one’s lack of fitness can be off-putting, never mind sharing this data with others.

Mobile payments

Apple Pay launched in 2015 with Android Pay following in 2016, and both made mobile payments accessible to the masses. UK mobile payments are projected to hit more than £1.2 billion a week by 2020, with 60% of the UK population expected to use mobile payments at least once a week by this time.

A look ahead at the mobile landscape for 2017:

  • Ever-advancing software and hardware amongst the smartphone manufacturer competitors.
  • Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR) breaking into everyday life.
  • Changing the way we search through increased use of voice.
  • Connecting the home, and how new devices will become household essentials.

Smartphone hardware and software

We’re likely to see a development in smartphone assistants with Google moving to Assistant, which will integrate the newly launched Allo messaging app. It will be interesting to see how Google’s smartphone Pixel performs, which was launched in October, replacing the Nexus phone.

Watch out for Samsung’s next move. After the exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7, this has been discontinued, and Apple is set to reap iPhone 7 sales, despite concerns over removing the earphone jack.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

AR and VR are starting to make headway in the UK. The launch of VR headgear, such as HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, offers a high-quality VR experience.

Barriers do currently exist, such as high costs, comprehension of technology, and lack of portability. However, hardcore gaming audiences will overlook these. Companies are trying to make VR more accessible with Sony PlayStation’s VR headset, removing the need for expensive hardware if a PlayStation is already owned, and Google Cardboard VR viewers.

Voice search

Search is ever-changing with new tech and consumer behaviour. Voice search, in particular, is seeing unprecedented growth thanks to the development of mobile assistants such as Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant. Google has also announced its SEO split for mobile and desktop search to show different results, highlighting the importance of a mobile-specific strategy.

The advent of voice search makes natural language queries more common. Often, the voice search will contain a “near me” query, highlighting the fact the consumer is looking for local businesses.

The increasing rise of voice search brings with it a wealth of new data on user intent, habits, and preferences. All of these elements need to be considered for businesses, ensuring site set-up and analytics are reflective of this new way of searching.

Smart home

Last year, wearables were the big news, becoming more accessible to consumers with lower price entry points. This explosion of connected technology is expected to translate into the “smart home” in 2017.

Introduction of devices, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home as a central hub for all devices and Hive to control utilities remotely, means it is more manageable to be connected. Adoption is still fairly low; only 14% of UK adults have a smart kitchen appliance, and only 7% own a smart thermostat, though 35% have a smart TV (Mintel).

About Lorna White

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