Over the past 20-plus years, we have seen a shift in the mobile industry from basic feature phones, predominantly used for voice communications, to complex smartphones, tablets and watches driven by applications using data.
According to market research firm MarketsandMarkets*, today the U.S. smartphone penetration rate is close to 80 percent, with the millennial generation (18-35 years of age) leading the charge with over 93 percent market penetration. A recent report by ComScore* found that business mobile users also represent 65 percent of all digital media consumption (voice, video and messaging), surpassing traditional PCs and desk phones that are now secondary touchpoints.
So what’s driving this adoption? The reality is that mobile communication is not just a phone call anymore — it’s a complex and personal experience built on a unique set of tools and applications to meet an individual’s desired and personal user experience. Data affordability and consistent improvements in speed have further deepened mobile appeal and driven adoption.
Figure 1 below describes the evolution of the mobile business user across four stages of development, and shows us where we’re likely heading as new technologies continue to disrupt old ways of communicating and working.
Stage 1: Silo, Silo, Silo
In this stage, the focus is around basic electronic communications (i.e. email) and voice communications driven by different numbers across desk phones and personal mobile devices.
Stage 2: A Touch of Business
The mobile business user evolves with remote access from VPNs via laptops and smart handheld devices to help extend the reach into internal company systems such as corporate intranets.
Stage 3: We Want Our Individuality
The mobile data market explodes, driven primarily by mobile application adoption hosted by third-party app stores such as Apple and Google. The standardization of IP breaks voice, video and messaging away from traditional service providers to over-the-top providers.
At the same time, flex-work management becomes a stronger value proposition to employers as it helps reduce traditional bricks and mortar overhead and enhances employee incentive programs for increased retention. Mobile adoption inhibitors within the workspace begin to break down. Issues such as security, QoS, mobile device management and cost of bandwidth help adoption as IT becomes more comfortable with available control mechanisms for mobile users.
Concepts such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) come into play as users start to bring personal devices into the office for business use with the desire to use corporate services, applications and experiences.
Finally, cloud and SaaS applications hit the business market. Mobile business users start to use cloud services as a means for data storage, backup and document sharing.
Stage 4: Productivity Everywhere
Business applications become a focus for developers as consumer applications begin to saturate. As a result, applications become more accessible with a seamless experience across multiple endpoint devices, including mobile phones. Both small business and larger enterprises become more comfortable using public cloud environments for critical and complex business applications.
The omni-channel experience for purchasing continues to improve as businesses optimize the desktop, mobile, telephone, social media and bricks and mortar models seamlessly for their customers, employees and vendors. Unified communications built around traditional IP-PBX, voice, messaging, video and conferencing continue to improve adding real-time workforce collaboration tools. This further enhances a team sharing environment and customer interaction mediums to support the more complex omni-channel customer experience requirements. Such advancements change mobile unified communications (Mobile UC) to an advanced Mobile Unified Communication and Collaboration framework (Mobile UC&C).
Stronger Native Device Experiences Drive Mobile Productivity
It’s clear that real-time collaboration and go-anywhere productivity are the future for mobile business users; adding to this experience, technologies such as HTML 5 and WebRTC will continue to drive innovation. Mobile OS providers, such as Apple and Google, are now realizing the need to support such technologies to go after business users. In doing so, we will see a reduction, over time, on the dependency of local applications specific to the device to a complex set of web-based applications optimized for the mobile business user. Optimization to the mobile user means not only determining relevant capabilities specific to the road warrior, but also ensuring that certain core elements such as voice, messaging and video always remain localized to the device.
As depicted in Figure 1, businesses today are hovering somewhere between stage 3 and stage 4, with a continued desire for choice of over-the-top business applications that layer in a stronger native device experience for critical business communication components, such as voice, video and messaging. Apple’s introduction of CallKit is one way that OS providers are helping move the mobile industry forward with an improved mobile user experience. Quite simply, CallKit is a new framework that lets an over-the-top VOIP application integrate tightly with a native Apple phone user interface. RingCentral is proud to introduce this latest innovation for iPhone users, which represents an important step in the right direction to help establish the appropriate balance between a complex cloud application and a core, mobile-first environment to truly build a more anywhere, anytime, any device experience.
Originally published Dec 01, 2016, updated Aug 07, 2020