One of the well-noticed developments with the iPhone 5 was the change from the "old faithful" 30-pin dock connector to the new 8-pin "lightning" connector. Making a change like this in an existing ecosystem is kind of like ripping off the Band-Aid after a cut is healed - it's never an ideal time, but once it's done, it's done.
The initial change and associated irritation will dissipate, but it highlights an interesting and important development in the mobile ecosystem: the accessory market is playing an increasingly important role. And it is a significant growth area for the mobile business.
Mobile accessory revenues are also up 32 percent for the first half of 2012, and there are no signs of it slowing down anytime soon.
We, too, have self-interest in this accessory market. Dyle's partners are making off-board atsc-mh tuner accessories that enable users to receive over the air TV signals live on their mobile devices, without having to worry about their mobile data caps.
The EyeTV Mobile accessory, a TV tuner for iOS devices, connects directly to the dock connector on devices and receives TV signals from a miniature antenna to live broadcast programming - including local/national news and sports and entertainment content.
The EyeTV doesn't use Wi-Fi or cellphone data connections. Instead, it uses its pullout antenna to detect the signals that networks like NBC, Fox and Telemundo are broadcasting from their TV towers. Eventually, accessories like the EyeTV will be able to develop a real-time map of where consumers are able to receive broadcast signals.
In addition to the EyeTV Mobile accessory, of course custom/fashion cases and covers are one important part of the story as well. With a standard size device (e.g., iPhone) selling huge volumes, these adornments can help consumers personalize these devices with a sense of their own style.
But we think there is also a bigger trend happening beyond the fashion market. Mobile accessories that pair up with dedicated apps help consumers and businesses take better advantage of their smartphones. A smartphone is a powerful, nimble computer that is always on and always available. But it doesn't always have every feature a consumer might need.
In order to meet design, size, or cost requirements, a device maker has to be ruthless in prioritizing what components it adds to a smartphone. The result is that a lot of the "on board" innovation is around improving existing basic capabilities - faster clock speeds, better screens, more megapixels and better audio. These innovations are one-word marketing magnets that are proven to move more units.
This means that features that are new, or niche - such as near field communication (NFC), health monitors, payment systems, sensors or TV tuners - don't always make it into the main device. This is where accessories become an essential part of the mobile ecosystem, giving consumers a way to take advantage of the availability and computing power of their smartphones.
One class of devices in this new wave of accessories enable consumers to connect to ambient signals and data. For example- my Wahoo heart rate monitor connects to my iPhone via bluetooth. I am able to sync my heart rate with my fitness app that calculates, in real time, exactly how many calories I am burning while I run. Looking at my smartphone app, I can determine in real time whether I will be able to have the India pale ale with dinner or if I will need to stick with water.
Another category of accessories is in the payments sector - instead of spending hundreds of dollars for a dedicated reader, small businesses can use new mobile accessories as credit card readers. Square and Intuit help businesses to accept and process credit/debit cards - these readers take a fairly rudimentary data set (the credit card swipe) and enable it to be input into more sophisticated customer management tools at the point of sale. No longer does the retail sales person need to anchor themselves at the register ... they can enable transactions from anywhere in the store.
And then there is also gaming. While there are many dedicated portable gaming devices, as well as a myriad of gaming apps available to consumers, the iCade Mobile accessory from ION is incredibly unique. The accessory snaps on to your iPhone or iPod Touch device offering the user additional gaming controls, complete with buttons that enhance the gaming experience that touch screens sometimes cannot provide. The iCade Mobile works with hundreds of games and apps and provides fresh new thinking to the phrase "mobile gaming."
These are just a few examples of the accessories that are making mobile devices even more useful.
Erik I. Moreno serves as Senior Vice President, Corporate Development, for Fox Networks Group (a division of News Corporation), where he is responsible for identifying new business and strategic opportunities, as well as work on acquisitions and joint ventures (MundoFox Broadcast Network, hulu JV, MySpace Music JV, Mobile Content Venture JV). Mr. Moreno is also Co-General Manager of the Mobile Content Venture (MCV), a joint venture of 12 broadcasters that are working to deliver live digital television to mobile devices in the United States.
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