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5 mobile trends to watch for in 2013

Expect real estate industry to debut some cool HTML5 apps

Mobile has had a significant impact on the real estate industry. But despite the explosion of mobile, the technology is still in its infancy.

Venture capitalist Mary Meeker documented in her December 2012 Internet Trends report that there are 1 billion global smartphone users. That is a staggering statistic. However, there are 5 billion global mobile phone users.

The smartphone market and user adoption has a tremendous upside.

There will certainly be an even larger shift to smart devices in 2013, but what else can real estate professionals expect in mobile this coming year?

Here are five mobile trends I expect to see in 2013:

1. Mobile video

The consumption of online video is growing exponentially, particularly on mobile devices. According to The Nielson Co.’s quarterly Cross-Platform Report (as reported by Business Insider), mobile video has gained 15 million viewers in the last two years — an increase of 77 percent. As the carrier networks expand infrastructure and increase bandwidth, these numbers will continue to grow.

Real estate pros have embraced the unique role that video plays in marketing. It’s a wonderful medium to showcase homes and communities. It’s a natural progression that the consumption of real estate-related video transitions from the desktop browser to the mobile device.

2. Responsive Web design

I’ve been covering responsive web design for some time now. It’s a flexible solution for real estate. Pete Cashmore, CEO and founder of Mashable, has declared that 2013 will be the year of responsive Web design.

The technique is now a household term — at least in my house — and users will have high expectations in terms of the user experience in 2013. The real estate industry will need to deliver a holistic approach that streamlines the user experience from the desktop to the mobile device or app and back.

3. HTML5 app development

Native apps, applications developed to run on a specific platform, deliver a sophisticated user experience by utilizing the software and hardware features of the device. Native apps are not going away anytime soon. However, there will be some powerful Web apps created with HTML5, CSS and JavaScript in 2013.

Max Katz, head of community and developer relations for mobile app builder Tiggzi, thinks native mobile apps produce the best user experience. On the other hand, Katz said in a post, it can be costly and time consuming to build and maintain an app for every major platform. That’s why many apps get built as Web apps or hybrid apps, Katz observed.

I agree that many brokers and real estate agents do not have the resources to develop native apps for all of the major platforms. I expect some cool HTML5 industry apps to debut in 2013.

4. Mobile advertising

With mobile Internet usage set to surpass traditional desktop Internet usage, mobile advertising is gaining serious traction. Market research company eMarketer is predicting overall spending on mobile advertising in the U.S. — including display, search and messaging-based ads served to mobile phones and tablets will rise 180 percent this year, to more than $4 billion.

Social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have solidified their mobile advertising platforms and Google Mobile Ads can reach consumers across mobile search, websites and in apps. These channels provide Realtors with opportunities to connect with mobile consumers and to leverage a mobile marketing strategy.

5. Mobile wallets

Near-field communication (NFC) standards are an emerging mobile technology utilized by Google Wallet and others. Apple has developed Passbook, an app that stores things like tickets, boarding passes and coupons. Microsoft has its own mobile wallet platform. With most of the major mobile platforms supporting some variation of the mobile wallet, I expect digital coupons and other digital transaction tools to make significant strides in 2013.

Mobile will continue to reshape the real estate industry and impact the way we interact with consumers. 2013 should bring exciting mobile innovation, and I, for one, cannot wait!

Tom Flanagan is the director of information technology at Residential Properties Ltd. in Providence, R.I. You can contact him at or @tflan on Twitter.

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