Photo courtesy of JonJon2k8
For a few years now, I've been hearing people talk about how mobile will hold the next big wave of innovation here in the US. The exception to most technological advances, we are behind many developing nations in mobile. In Africa, for example, it is already being used for microlending, reporting violence and human rights abuses, crowdsourcing crisis information and HIV/AIDS prevention. Organizations like FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi are leading the way in using mobile for social good, and the UN is delivering food aid to refugees via text message.
Because so many people in the US have access to computers, mobile hasn't been a priority, but the convenience and utility of being able to give, bank, report, research and organize on the go may finally be dawning on us.
For a while now, we've been able to leverage the immediacy of being able to donate instantly to a cause that moves you through text to give campaigns. And with the help of the Mobile Giving Foundation, mobile giving is improving with respect to the range of organizations that can set up mobile giving campaigns and the percentage of the donation that actually reaches the nonprofit. Last year Alicia Keys demonstrated the power of mobile giving when she raised $450,000 for Keep a Child Alive from 90,000 mobile donors through one appeal on American Idol, and Ben Stiller has recently launched a series of hilarious Stillerstrong videos to raise money through mobile giving for a school in Haiti. For more about mobile giving, see extremely helpful articles by Joanne Fritz and Katrin Verclas.
When people ask what the next *big* thing in social media will be, the quickly growing, and moderately addictive, Foursquare is often the answer. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, it really only makes sense to use Foursquare on your phone because the purpose of the social media tool is to share with friends where you are out and about in your city and trade tips on deals, favorite dishes or places to watch the game. While I'm still getting into the habit of checking in when I go out, this game-meets-information-sharing platform has lots of potential. Once the reportedly coming-soon blackberry application is widely released, Foursquare will likely be widely used for not only impromptu happy hours, but also volunteering and community organizing.
Holiday bargain hunting has also proven an opportunity for new mobile applications. According to a Deloitte survey, one in five holiday shoppers says they are using their mobile phones to shop this year. The New York Times reports that "of those, 45 percent said they would use their phone to research prices, 32 percent said they would use it to find coupons or read reviews and 25 percent said they would make purchases from their phones."
There are a slue of applications that have been created for mobile-enhanced shopping, including one called ShopSavvy actually allows users to scan the barcode on an item and automatically search for the lowest price available near them. (Is it just me, or is that amazing?) And companies like Amazon and eBay, who says its mobile shoppers are spending $500 million this year, are trying to make it easier for customers to shop using their phones. Just as mobile is helping smart shoppers, applications are also being created to help retailers get smart about mobile. For example, Yowza uses GPS locations to send shoppers coupons for stores within walking distance of their location.
Although this may not be quite the heyday of mobile in the US yet, Foursquare will release a BlackBerry app and become widely adopted next year, and retailers will learn from the mobile use of consumers this holiday season. With all of this activity in mobile (finally) heating up, it seems like 2010 could be a big year. What do you hope to see in mobile innovation and adoption next year?