Mobile Industry Trends Revealed at GMIC 2014

It’s no surprise that the fifth annual GMIC (Global Mobile Internet Conference) in Beijing was even bigger than ever, attracting more than 20,000 attendees. With more than 1.1 billion mobile phone subscribers in China and 5 billion worldwide, there is no other device that impacts our life more than our phones today.

More than 90 percent of all social interactions are now conducted via the mobile phone. What a change in just a few years! After spending two days at the conference listening to the sessions, walking the expo, and talking to industry luminaries, here are the six key insights and trends that seemed worth sharing.

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Gadgets

Smart devices were much more prevalent this year. Last year Google Glass was the big draw, but this year, it’s common place. One booth had 20 of them for attendees to try. This year we saw many local vendors coming out with Western device clones and original ideas for product ranging from virtual reality goggles to watches to smart scales and even one- and two-wheel self-balancing Segway clones.

An entire track of the conference was dedicated to smart devices. With the new AndroidWear smart watches/devices and the long-awaited iWatch releasing shortly, 2014 is going to really be the year of the wearables! Marketing in a very personal yet non-intrusive way via these devices will be a new frontier of creativity for brands and agencies alike in the coming years.

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Gas-Savers

Smart and electric cars and smart car accessories were making a big showing at the event. Several auto-focused vendors had large booths from both local and international vendors. The Tesla at the front entrance drew large crowds. Several local vendors also promised some impressive technology for turning normal cars into smart cars with a small plug-in device. The popularity of smart and connected vehicles will mean marketers now have yet another way to reach consumers in their cars using a medium other than radio.

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Games/Girls

Mobile gaming firms were a large share of the exhibitors this year. The expo floor looked more like ChinaJoy than the GMICs of the past. Many show girls and cosplay characters walking around the event, making it feel more consumer-focused than the past, and giving a sense the space is getting quite crowded. Games and girls has always been a profitable formula for the Internet; things haven’t changed in the mobile age, but it’s unlikely all these vendors will be around for the next event.

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Globalization

Chinese firms have usually been focused on the Chinese market in the past, but there is a clear trend where Chinese mobile firms are starting to target international markets. From big players like Tencent and UC to device and toy makers and small app/game developers, they all were talking about going global. International ad networks and e-commerce suppliers are both getting significant traction from Chinese vendors trying to reach new markets.

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Ghost Towns

Weibo and Windows Mobile were both big topics from a few years ago…that were conspicuously quiet this year. Even with the recent IPO, the Weibo booth was surprisingly vacant and Windows mobile phones were nowhere to be found. I heard reports Weibo’s monthly active users (MAU) haven’t really dropped, but no one I know still posts regularly on it anymore. Weibo is still the only mass-market direct distribution channel for brands, but it certainly isn’t having as strong an impact as it did a few years ago.

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General Intelligence

Artificial intelligence, Big Data analytics, robots, natural language user intelligence, and gesture controls were all buzzwords being thrown around on and off stage that related to new products and services being shown at GMIC. Machines are certainly getting smarter and these futuristic terms are getting more real than ever. A live demo of a humanoid robot interacting with speakers and audiences showed how science fiction is starting to turn into science fact. In another session, a speaker pointed out that Google has acquired eight artificial intelligence-focused early-stage stealth start-ups for more than half a billion dollars in the last few months. This really makes me think the future is closer than we may think…

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