The Future’s Bright: Where Next for Mobile Technology In 2013?

This year the smartphone market has grown at an unbelievable rate thanks to a range of new handsets, boasting innovative features and functionality that could only have been dreamed of just a few years ago.

But, with so much coming to the fore in 2012, which direction will mobile technology take next? And, what will the likes of Apple, Samsung, Nokia, RIM and Microsoft do in 2013 to make their creations even more mind-blowing than this year’s headlining acts?

Looking back at some of this year’s stand-out features the team at Dialaphone have jotted down their expectations for what they’d like to see transporting mobile technology to the next level in 2013.

Chris Helsby, Dialaphone writer

After seeing what Samsung has done with the Galaxy Camera, I’m hoping that more technology manufacturers will follow the Korean firm’s lead and begin to use smartphone platforms on other gadgets.

While we already have ecosystems developing that involve smartphones, tablets, televisions and games consoles, it will be interesting to see if other consumer technology can also be linked in, with data, media, accounts and information being shared seamlessly between each device.

Android’s open-source nature makes it perfectly positioned for this kind of purpose and I wonder if more manufacturers will adopt Google’s platform for their devices rather than in-house, custom-made operating systems.

We could even begin to see a second wave of the re-skinning that has for so long been a feature of Android handsets, with a whole raft of new and impressive user interfaces becoming commonplace.

Beyond this, I think Windows Phone 8 could well become more popular amongst consumers, particularly if it manages to gain a foothold in a particular demographic, such as younger smartphone users.

The strength of the handsets released for the platform so far, along with its fantastic-looking user interface could be enough for Microsoft to significantly increase the market share of its mobile version of Windows.

Andy Boxall, Dialaphone writer

Two of the major smartphone trends of 2012 involved big screens measuring at least 4.3-inches and processors with four cores. In 2013, phone displays could become an even bigger selling point, with cutting edge hardware featuring either 1080p resolutions or flexible screen technology.

Don’t expect the latter to mean wibbly wobbly phones though, as we don’t have flexible innards for that type of device just yet, but instead look out for phones with displays which curve around the chassis, or are shaped even more ergonomically than the subtle curve seen on some Sony Xperia devices. Flexible screens are exciting because they’re thinner, lighter and almost unbreakable compared to their glass cousins. Both Samsung and LG are working on this technology.

With such high resolutions – which will have to be mated with 5-inch or bigger displays, otherwise it’s not worth it – and powerful quad-core processors likely to be more common place in 2013, battery life will become even more important than it is now. New battery tech is still a while away, so manufacturers may look at power-sipping components to help make the most of the energy they have available. Technology such as that seen on Sharp’s IGZO display panels, and processors using a more power efficient 22nm manufacturing process or a variation of NVIDIA’s four-plus-one Tegra 3 chip, will probably be exploited.

On the software side, the most interesting battle will be for third place behind Android and iOS, with Research in Motion’s BlackBerry 10 taking on Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8. As the latter hasn’t managed to gain much of a foothold yet, if BlackBerry 10 impresses and is able to hit the ground running, the pair could be neck-and-neck by the summer. However, Microsoft’s massive, celebrity-filled marketing campaign may end up swamping RIM.

Sarah Hazelwood , Dialaphone writer

There’s been a lot of speculation recently about Samsung bringing flexible screens to the fore next year, but I am hoping this is something that materialises and that we eventually see other manufacturers following suit.

Flexible display technology would see the thinnest screens made of a clear substrate with the barrier properties of glass. It would offer many benefits over the displays we have at the moment and factors such as a reduction in thickness and weight, as well as improved durability, which would transform the way we use mobile and other handheld devices in the future.

It will obviously take time to develop such a complex feature, especially to the point where you can eventually roll up your smartphone and put it in your pocket, but I really hope next year is the time when it can really start to take off.

If Samsung get in there first with the first elements of flexible display technology, 2013 could prove to be another great year for the Korean firm and place them as a leader of innovation on the smartphone market.

Jonathan Alsop , Dialaphone video producer

After the phone/tablet hybrid, the Samsung Galaxy Note II, I am eagerly anticipating handsets that do not skimp on display size. I am looking forward to the continuation of powerful visual experiences offered by manufacturers, especially those that are brave enough to disregard possible consumer preconceptions about what is the ‘socially acceptable’ size for a phones display.

Unfortunately whilst I have a longing for larger sized displays on devices, this only exasperates a common issue that affects all high spec smart phones – battery performance.

With rapid innovations continuing to unfold in the mobile industry, advancements in battery technology, by comparison, appear stunted. I’d like to see improved battery life in high end devices, that would enable the device to go longer without the need for the obligatory overnight charge after using many of the powerful apps, games, camera and sharing utilities, often synonymous with the best devices.

Dean Quinn, Dialaphone sub-editor

Whilst the technology has been around for quite some time now and many handsets released in the last 18 months have attempted to incorporate with varying degrees of success, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that 2013 will be the year that NFC finally takes off. So far, flagship devices from all the major players have included the contactless data-sharing and payment tech, with the notable exception of Apple who deemed NFC unnecessary for its iPhone 5, instead opting to create iOS 6′s Passbook digital wallet-esque feature.

Many industry commentators, as well as Apple’s own Phil Schiller, have questioned the convenience of using the tech for contactless payments, voicing concerns about the initial outlay for retailers. The worries users have about battery life have also been vaunted as a reason for the lack of uptake of NFC – after all, who would want their digital wallet running out of power, leaving them powerless to purchase?

However, with more and more retailers joining the likes of  McDonalds and Starbucks in offering contactless payment facilities, and Google’s continual development of its Google Wallet product so that it is moving towards becoming an integral part of its mobile ecosystem, the NFC payment market could ‘mature’ this year. Who knows, if a certain prominent technology company saw fit to include the tech in its next smartphone and champion it as an innovative new development (as this company is prone do so), it might just prove the catalyst for a new NFC era in 2013.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether our expectations are accurate but we’re sure that whatever comes to light over the next 12 months, there will be plenty to keep us on our toes, wondering where future mobile innovations will take us next. Check back in twelve months time to see just how on the ball/wildly inaccurate we all were!

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