Wireless Industry Opportunities Are Changing

The wireless industry has grown and changed over time. In fact, there seems to be a major transformation every few years, and change is starting to occur once again.

So what will wireless look like tomorrow, and how will it grow? Where should workers, companies and investors look for new opportunities?

The second smartphone revolution started six years ago with Apple iPhone and Google Android. While that segment is still robust, it is also changing. Each year these devices do more and become more necessary in our lives. The smartphone is going to turn into the remote control for everything you do.

Today we don’t leave the house without three things: our keys, our wallet and our smartphone. Tomorrow, it will just be the smartphone. Everything in your wallet will be in the smartphone, and that device will also open every door and start every car we own.

Good News for Customers

This second chapter in the smartphone revolution is only 6 years old. Before that time, Blackberry led and the smartphone industry accounted for roughly 15 percent of the market. Today, the leaders are Apple, Google and Samsung, with well over 50 percent of the market, and growth is still occurring.

Things are changing, however. So many of us own smartphones that new sales to new users are slowing. That means we can expect to see the marketing strategies of the carriers and handset makers change. Winning business from each other is going to be more important going forward.

That’s good news for wireless customers. For a carrier or handset maker to win, they must be good. So expect to see quality and service continually improve. Advertising and marketing will also move in this direction.

Industrial Transformation

For illustration, look at two recent examples: the new Verizon Wireless ad campaign saying they have better coverage, and AT&T Mobility saying they are winning many first-place awards from companies like JD Power for customer satisfaction and quality.

This is the future.

The truth is, most carriers offer great service today; who is the best for you depends on where you are standing when you make the call.

Tomorrow, however, is very different — and it’s worth a look. Wireless carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, C Spire and US Cellular will not only grow their own smartphone business, but they will help transform other industries as well.

Want a few examples?

The Automotive Example

Automotive is a real driver, using wireless as a key to its future. For example, Toyota is expanding its wireless capability with Entune, letting users hook up their smartphones to get live traffic, weather and Internet access.

That means users can get updated information like traffic and weather all the time; the kids can surf the Web; and Toyota can stay in touch with the driver.

This is happening with an increasing number of automotive brands across the board, including companies like the Ford, GM and Honda brands — and many others. Also, the services keep expanding.

Medical and health care is also getting a checkup. Imagine apps on your smartphone to make an appointment at your doctor’s office, get questions answered or to report daily results on your diabetes blood sugar levels in order to get more timely recommendations.

There are countless ways the health care industry is starting to use wireless to improve what they do. This is exciting because it will let our doctors be able to treat us more effectively and share information with other medical personnel.

Transforming Retail

Retail is another big area. You walk into a store and you are greeted on your smartphone with a message. “Welcome back, what are you looking for today?” Then, “Oh, you want to see the television sets? Straight back and to the right. Any questions?”

Retailers can also send wireless coupons to users in or out of the store. This can start new avenues of electronic dialogue. In fact, you can use other apps to scan the codes of the items you are considering and check pricing at other nearby stores as well as on the Web. This can save you time and money.

Along with this change in retail, however, come some wireless challenges. To wit: I was shopping in a store for a water filter for my fridge. After finding it I walked around the store a bit and got the idea to use one of the apps on my smartphone.

I scanned the code from the filter box in my hand and was immediately informed that it was the best price in the area. That was good — but if I ordered through, it would cost less.

A few short clicks later, still standing in the store, I was done. It was delivered in two days at a discount. Amazing. Wireless is changing the retail environment. Ease of use, innovation and cost savings will continue to put pressure on existing retail and will continue to change things.

Wireless Opportunities

So, as exciting as this is, retail must change to survive this transformation.

If you are an investor, there are many existing companies — like the wireless networks and smartphone makers who will continue to experience rapid growth.

Growth, of course, will look different than it did in the past few years. Instead, it will focus on winning business from each other in the wireless industry. The next few years will reward the early adopters of wireless technology — until eventually it becomes a standard cost of doing business, when everybody does the same thing.

If you are a worker, there are new opportunities being created right now from carriers and handset makers. There are also wireless opportunities in every other industry as well, however.

Remember: As other industries move into wireless, they realize they don’t have a clue about this new segment, so they need help to become successful.

Countless Opportunities

So, we are in the very early stages of another wireless revolution that is changing the way we do everything. Wireless will change not only itself, but countless other industries as well.

So, continually ask yourself: If we are in the very early stages of change, how can you take advantage of this? There are countless opportunities for investors, workers, wireless companies and every other industry breaking into the field.

Expand your vision to be able to focus on and see them all. As you can see, there is a great opportunity in wireless, beyond just the smartphone. Some companies will be successful. Others won’t. Picking the winners in advance is always the biggest challenge.

However, at this point, the opportunity is there for traditional wireless companies, and for helping other industries use wireless to transform themselves.

Of course, we are also still just in the very early innings of this new game. So batter up!

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at [email protected].

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