The mobile video experience is evolving rapidly. Virtual reality (VR) applications gained new momentum at the recent Mobile World Congress (MWC) event in Barcelona, Spain. Mark Zuckerberg spoke about the rising popularity of 360-degree video, and HTC demonstrated new apps for mobile gamers.
Given the current growth trajectory in the market, mobile VR device shipments are forecast to reach more than 50 million by 2020 -- that's a CAGR of 84.5 percent, according to the latest study by ABI Research.
The introduction of Google Cardboard served as a catalyst for low-cost VR software applications. Moreover, Google has announced that they reached a milestone of 5 million Cardboard shipments this January. Impressive results, since Cardboard was launched at the Google I/0 event in 2014.
Emerging Ecosystem of Mobile VR Developers
"The VR content ecosystem is opening up to include casual and traditional VR gaming, as well as education experiences," said Sam Rosen, vice president at ABI Research.
ABI says that 360-degree video also saw notable investment from Facebook and YouTube, pointing to another promising VR growth opportunity. While content developers are still learning how consumers engage with mobile-reliant VR systems, augmented reality and gaming are already on growth trajectories.
As the ecosystem expands, a growing number of vendors are releasing their own VR accessories as a value-add to their smartphones. At MWC 2016, Samsung announced its new S7 flagship smartphones, with the addendum that all pre-orders for the devices will be bundled with the Samsung Gear VR.
Mobile Virtual Reality Market Development Trends
Similarly, LG announced it will offer hardware modules built to improve certain aspects of its new G5 smartphone, and also revealed a VR accessory in the LG 360 VR.
ABI belives that smartphones are the perfect platform for the VR market, because they already have the power and technological functionality necessary to create a fun, in-depth simulated 360-degree video environment.
As their capabilities continue to evolve, ABI analysts anticipate that high-end VR applications -- which is currently exclusive to PC and game consoles -- will expand to mobile-powered apps by 2020.
Google Cardboard is just the beginning. In the years to come, independent growth across major markets -- including mobile devices, wearables, gaming, advertising and big data -- will all evolve and power the next generation of the mobile VR market.