Predictions for 2013 mobile technology world


 Well, in out last personal view we talked about the best smartphones of 2012, but then what is 2013 bringing to us?

Looking at what happened in 2012, we can get to some conclusions on how things might develop in the next year.

There is surely much to talk about. So let's try to make some predictions.

 

Smartphone prices

During the last half of 2012 I have seen many device manufacturers in different areas of the world abandon (either completely or partially) the manufacturing and commercialization of feature-phones and shifting to a total dedication to smartphones using Android.

The reason for that: the plunge in the price of smartphone manufacturing.

I guess everything kind of started with the Taiwanese chipset maker Mediatek, that achieved a low-price commercial chipset for Android phones, which allowed phones of very reasonable quality, specs and design to be built for prices under $200 for dual core devices and under $150 for single core devices. Talking end-customer prices.

This has put pressure in the whole industry, and soon Qualcomm had its chipsets at competitive prices as well. Additionally, Intel entered the market with Motorola and Intel's Medfield (Atom based) processor, and together they made a high-end device called Razr i which is still selling for approximately $350.

OK, so the prices were already set for this year, and the manufacturers began to try to give more for the same price. They began investing in better cameras, more resolution in the screen, more memory and storage areas, an updated OS (Android 4.0 instead of Android 2.3), and specially, quality design. Chinese phones don't "look Chinese" anymore, they can compete with every big brand phone in the market.

The result is simple: today in Latin America you can find very decent "local brand" Android devices selling for US$210 or even $180 for a very attactive dual-core device.

We shouldn't also forget companies like Huawei, Alcatel Onetouch and ZTE, which are global companies that focus in low-priced phones. They are building extremely good devices (at least part of them) and giving a fight (in developping markets) to market leaders such as Samsung, LG and Apple.

I am sure we will not see the newest Smasung device being released for a price of $200, but I am also quite sure that the price levels of $750 which we were used to pay for our newest phones aren't going to be repeated in the next years, unless we are talking about disrupting technology which is still not known to us.

RAZR NEXUS

There is a lot of talk in the net about a new joint project between Google and Motorola on a new device under the codename XPHONE.

I believe this device will be the first Razr Nexus, and it will be released with Android version Key Lime Pie (which will be called 4.5 or 5.0). The specs will be similar to the best devices known today, but price will be in best case similar to the $350 which are being charged for the LG Nexus 4. It will be a global GPRS/HSPA/LTE device, and as all Nexus devices, it will be sold unlocked.

 

NFC

NFC will continue its progress in the same slow and disappointing pace - or maybe we should say fading... no, fading is too much, but this technology is up to now refusing to catch the critical mass needed for it to take off. 

I believe the difficulties in taking off will continue during this year. And then the question will be if the market can find other solutions, maybe based only on software, to substitute it. The big problem here is in how to identify and certify the identity of the paying side, and how to prevent fraud. NFC was supposed to be the best answer for that, but the need for terminals which support it all over the world is causing big trouble in the adoption of the technology.

Meanwhile, almost everywhere in the world there are institutions developing and testing alternative methods, many of them software-only methods, and if they succeed to build something which is proved to be secure before NFC catches up, then NFC is doomed.

This subject is an interesting one to watch for following years, but at least in the NFC context for 2013 I believe very little will change.

 

SECOND SCREEN

I am not sure if the public is already acquainted with this term, so let's begin by defining it: SECOND SCREEN is the term used for defining the use of additional screens for interacting with companion software to TV broadcasts. It can be a computer, a phone, or a tablet in the technology which is nowadays known to us.
 

An example: in Brazil, the broadcasts of The Voice show in the lower left part of the TV screen tweets published by people during the program. They are watching the program and tweeting using the hashtag #TheVoiceBrasil. In other places, there are already companion applications either to specific programs or to broadcasting channels. In both cases, there is still a lot of space to grow, and a hungry market to consume any development done in the area.

Part of this market will be filled by niche programs which will attract their public from specific groups of interest. The Second Screen page in Wikipedia show us some examples of what is being done and what will be done in this area:

 

Applications

Many applications in the "second screen" are designed to give you another way of interactivity to the user and also another way to sell advertising content.[9] Some examples:

  • Transmission of the Master's Golf Tournament, application for the iPhone (rating information and publicity) [10]
  • TV programs broadcast live tweets and comment.[11][12]
  • Synchronization of audiovisual content via web advertising [13]
  • Applications that extend the content information.[14][15]
  • Shows that add on their websites, content devoted exclusively to the second screen [16]
  • Applications that synchronize the content being viewed to the portable device [17]
  • Video game console playing with extra data, such as a map or strategy data, that synchronize with the content being viewed to the portable device[18][19][20]

I believe that this trend is definitely getting stronger during the next year, and will get even stronger when smartTV get able to easily operate a second interactive screen inside the main screen. I suggest that everyone that has a good idea of a companion software to sports broadcasts, music shows, etc, begins developing it ASAP.

CLOUD

Cloud computing will continue its growth and will continue to enable us to use smaller amounts of storage in our local devices. Google Drive and Skydrive will press others to increase the amount of storage offered and lower their prices. We are already beginning to see a migration from Dropbox to the two services above, and Dropbox is responding with the signature of agreements with Samsung and other device makers to place their service as a default service in the devices for the first year or two. However, if they are not competitive, nothing will prevent users from migrating their data to more competitive services.

Other services like Google Docs, Office 365 and Salesforce.com will also become with time more attractive and relevant. However, this year will still be only another phase in their growth process, since there is need for a shift of mindset in the public that consumes computer sofware and services. It will still take some time until it becomes mainstream, but it is already rolling towards that.

TABLETS

This is probably one of the subjects that most surprises me and most makes me curious.

Despite the relative success of the low-priced tablets like the Nexus 7, and a growing preference for small-screen tablets, the tablet format is still far from setting itself as the heir of the tablet/notebook. And it ain't achieving this status this year either.

Let's see: The main advantage of the notebook was that it was definitely the same computing platform we had at our desktop. The only difference was that it was portable. In this meaning, there are still a lot of features missing in the tablet for it to substitute the notebook. It begins from simple things like being able to save and show ALL our mail, an effective search at the mail server, the execution of software that runs in our desktop and today can run only under Windows, and a lot of other functionalities. These are things that the tablet OS developers will need to solve if they want the tablet to substitute the notebook.

In general, Microsoft is in the right way with their Windows 8 and Windows 8 RT. They could lead for one kind of solution in which the same software is compiled twice for both platforms and everything is ready. Another interesting solution that appeared in the last days is UBUNTU for phones, which has the ability to work like a desktop UBUNTU when we connect the phone to a docking station connected to a keyboard, a mouse and a big screen.

I believe these solutions are better than the Ultrabooks, but there is also a space for those. However, Microsoft needs to get its act together with Windows 8 being used with a keyboard and mouse. There are some things that are very difficult to use in this situation, and I hope MS are able to come out with a solution soon.

For this moment, I see tablets increasing their market on the people that want to do short things with the device, such as check latest mail, browse the web and do some multimedia activities, while the Notebook retreats as a result of its limitation to the business world.

SMART TV

OK, we have already talked a little about them under second-screen, but I believe that this should be a paragraph on its own merits.

I believe that the Smart TVs are finally ready for prime time, and their time will come during 2013 and 2014. I believe that we will be a faster growth in the SmartTV market during 2013, year in which it will catch the critical mass for a major burst in 2014. The devices will become smarter, more stable, cheaper and more accessible, and this will help them arriving to the marketing levels which will help them win the market from all other kinds of TV sets.

CELLULAR

Technologically, this is the LTE year. Interesting to see that this time, the first to jump into the LTE bandwagon are the US and Latin America, with some movement in the UK and in some other countries.

I believe we will see a lot of development of new network functions and new devices to support these functions, and among them a great importance will be given to Voice-over-LTE. 

Also the area of battery demand by the LTE phones is going to be solved or improved significantly.

I wish I could predict that the international DATA roaming prices would go down. I don't believe it will happen. After operators have put their price down in almost every functionality due to competition, data roaming is the only field left where they can stil rob us in the open. And this is not on its way to change soon.

So our solution for data abroad will continue to be to hope to find free wifi networks around us, or to buy local prepaid SIM cards wherever this is possible. There were a lot of projects on city perimeter public wifi networks in the past, and some of them continue to work, like Jerusalem's network at the center of the city, Rio de Janeiro's network at the seashore, and London's olympic network which is still on. But as time goes by we hear less and less about new projects.

 

Augmented Reality

This is another subject in which I believe we will see substantial growth this year. New usages for the technology, new applications, are all going to push this subject forward.

Though I promise I am not running and standing in line to purchase them, I believe that some augmented reality glasses (like Google Glass) are going to do their commercial debut this year, but this is going to be mainly for early adopters. Google will push this very strongly.

However, whether or not this technology won't have a fast slope up and a faster slide down like the bluetooth headsets is still a question. I believe that the technology is not yet ready for prime time and it will take time until it is. It will also take time until people are ready to use something like this. So maybe it is better to wait for some years until the world is ready to receive it.

Anyway, this is definitely a subject which is making me very curious, and I will keep following it to see where it is taking us.

Battery

I believe either one will happen:

1. We will finally see the release of some new battery technology that will either be able to hold a device on for at least 1.5 days or be able to be refilled immediately without a power outlet (like fuel cell)

2. Manufacturers will finally be able to pump 5000mAh into a regular sized and weighted phone.

Battery Life is one of the most problematic issues in today's phones, and it needs to come to a solution; maybe the two options above are acceptable solutions. A number of weeks ago I was talking about new developments in the area, about university researchers that managed to replace the Graphite used to store ions in Li-Ion batteries with new Crushed Silicon cells and triple the lifecycle of the battery through that change. However, there is still time until this comes to commercial level, and let's hope the research continues and makes progress. We have also heard about the new Huawei phone with a 5-inch screen and a 3,800mAh battery. So it seems this is the way, at least for now.

 

Conclusion

This will be a very interesting year in terms of technology. I expect big and fast things to happen. It is going to be nice to see things happening, and I will continue following all these subjects.