What made waves in the mobile realm this year? We take a look in our third installment of ReadWriteWeb's top products of the year. Our founder Richard MacManus kicked us off with social products and Jon Mitchell took a look at web-based consumer products. To make the mobile list, a product had to be built to fundamentally work inside mobile platforms, hence the platforms themselves (iOS, Android flavors etc.) do not make the list. Take a look at our list below and let us know what we may have missed in the comments.
A word from our sponsor:Skytap Cloud is ideal for distributed Dev/Test, Training and Sales Demo teams. Teams are empowered to:
• Create multiple cloud environments in seconds
• Run existing applications without any code changes
• Deploy virtual data centers, take snapshots and collaborate
• Accelerate bug resolution cycles by 75%
• Reduce operating costs by 70% annually
Customers of all sizes can deploy Skytap in a day. Try Skytap for free.
Ad powered by BTBuckets
1. SquareTo understand Square is to fundamentally understand the changing nature of money as information and the ability to turn money into digital bits that can be transferred anywhere without the use of hard currency. The example we like to use at ReadWriteWeb is the ability to pay at your local farmer's market or in a taxicab. With its dongle reader, Square aims to make mobile payment transactions a ubiquitous and accepted activity. The company did not rest on its laurels this year though. It cannot, especially with so much competition in the mobile payments dongle space from companies like Intuit, Verifone and Erply among others.
This year, Square introduced the concept of Amazon-style one-click buying to real world merchants with the Square Card Case. It also turned the iPad into a point-of-sale terminal with Square Register. Square updated its app to be speedier and more efficient and the Card Case evolved to the point where it is more or less like having an open tab at your favorite retailer tied to your bank account. Pain points at the point of sale? That is what Square is trying to alleviate and it took great strides this year to that end. Square also went to the 2.75% flat fee on transactions, lowering the industry standard and forcing every one else in the ecosystem to play catch up. It has been a good 12 months for Square overall, starting the year with a big round of funding in January and iterating and refining the product throughout the year. That is a far cry from the hiccups of 2010 when dongles did not work with the iPhone 4 and the company was embroiled in a lawsuit. The opportunity for increased success for Square rests in the company's own hands.
2. Nuance & SwypeApple brought you Siri, the virtual assistant inside the iPhone 4S. Yet, Nuance is a leader in the field with its innovative and speech-to-text functionality and ability to understand various languages and dialects. The Dragon Speech SDK can be dropped into almost any iOS or Android application to take advantage of speech-to-text capabilities. What Siri did with that technology was then tie it to a search engine and give it a personality that can talk back. What Nuance is doing is working on new and exciting ways for users to interact with the input methods on mobile devices. Nuance is working with app developers to create and entirely new breed of application that is speech aware and reactive. The company is working with mobile developers through its mobile developer program and we have seen some of the fruits of its labor in the area already.
Nuance also made another large splash this year by acquiring Swype, one of the biggest third-party touchscreen keyboard input methods on mobile devices today. Swype has been downloaded over 50 million times to Android and Symbian devices. When Nuance bought Swype, we wondered if the company's friendly relationship with Apple could eventually bring Swype to the iPhone. When Siri was announced by Apple for the iPhone 4S, our Marshall Kirkpatrick lamented that it should have been Swype. If you have not used Swype, it is a keyboard input method where you keep your finger on the touch screen and input letters by moving to them. If you are a Swype user that has that capability taken from you (by getting a device that does not use Swype), it is definitely missed.
3. Facebook Mobile + MessengerIt is very difficult to ignore the most used mobile app in the world. Approximately 350 million people have accessed Facebook through mobile devices across the world. That, to put it mildly, it outrageous. Facebook Mobile continues to evolve as well. One significant subplot to much of the news in mobile development circles this year would be how and where Facebook would move and if it was coming to come out with an HTML5-based mobile Web app store. We have since found that is not going to be true but Facebook does have some big mobile projects cooking around bringing its app ecosystem to mobile. There will just be no specific app store as Facebook believes users will create viral apps by sharing them along the social graph. Facebook's mobile strategy lays within those two elements -- the Web browser and the open social graph. Every thing that the company does is influenced by those two guiding factors, mobile is no different. Facebook also came out with an iPad app this year, which is essentially a mobile Web-based application wrapped up neatly to use the native capabilities of the iPad through iOS. We studied this year at length how Facebook mobile was designed to write once, run everywhere and how HTML5 is the future of the how Facebook interacts with the mobile Web.
Facebook also released its Messenger application this year, a stand alone product from the normal Facebook app. Really, if Facebook had not acquired group messaging service Beluga this year, that company would have probably found its way on to this list. The Messenger app further cements Facebook's status as not just a place to share ideas or thoughts, but as a true communications platform that can be accessed from anywhere at anytime. Facebook Mobile is only going to grow in 2012 and we will begin to see some of the ways the company is fundamentally changing the applications, sharing and communications through mobile devices. Facebook has put the argument of Web apps vs. native apps front and center on all mobile developers minds, something that was not true a year ago.
4. Google WalletThere has been nothing that has done more to bring near field communications (NFC) payments into the mainstream mind share this year more than Google Wallets. We often say that Google is a company that is always in beta and the Wallet program is no exception. NFC technology may eventually have the type of ubiquity to completely change the payments industry but at this point the major in payments are still testing the idea or toying with various implementations, like Coke machines. It will take a while before the Google Wallet project is spread far and wide and a lot of that has to do with its current constriction of partners. You have to be a very specific person (use CitiBank, have a MasterCard and be a Sprint customer with a Nexus Android smartphone) to use the NFC capabilities of Wallet at this point, but those partnerships will lose exclusivity by the end of 2011.
NFC adoption, or the lack thereof, has been a significant source of debate this year in mobile circles. Some see it as the greatest thing to happen since touchscreen devices while others are not convinced. Google Wallet is near the center of that debate and anything that can cause that amount of conversation among different industries such as technology and the financial sectors deserves a spot in the top mobile products of the year.
5. Angry BirdsMobile developers are leading the field in application development for any kind of computing system. They are pushing the bounds of what can be done with computing, on smaller processors with smaller screen sizes and graphics rendering. Within the realm of mobile developers, mobile game developers are the ones truly leading the charge. Other developers have seen the type of success that Rovio has had with Angry Birds and it has started a bit of a gold rush to create the newest viral sensation. Cut The Rope, Tiny Towers and Infinity Blade (I and II) are examples of successful mobile games as well.
Angry Birds is not just some one hit wonder though. It came to the Chrome browser and the Chromebook, opened a bank, toyed with the idea of NFC and partnered with Nexage to monetize all of those flying fowl. Rovio also came up with a bit of Magic at the ReadWriteWeb 2Way Summit and soon there may be Angry Birds everywhere.