As 2013 gets off to flying start, giffgaff takes a look at what we might expect from mobile phones in 2013. From new and more affordable handsets to cutting-edge technologies such as 4G and wireless charging, 2013 is set to be an exciting year for mobile.
Since the first smartphones were introduced over 5 years ago, they’ve never been particularly cheap to buy. Cutting-edge smartphones such as the Apple iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III normally retail for around £500: certainly not small change for anybody.
Over the past few years, smartphones have become increasingly affordable. This is primarily due to Google’s free and open-source Android operating system: it’s now possible for manufacturers to design a feature-rich smartphone at almost any price point.
Amongst the giffgaff community, one of the most popular low-cost smartphones in 2012 was the Huawei Ascend G300. Costing less than £100, it’s a very respectable Android smartphone at a fraction of the price of many others. This year we’ll see the Huawei Ascend G330: an updated version with Android 4.0 and a dual-core processor.
More recently, LG and Google shook up the market again with the Nexus 4. The Nexus 4 provides high-end specifications and the latest technologies at just £239 SIM-free: around half the cost of an iPhone 5 or Galaxy S III. This is likely to put downwards price pressure on other manufacturers.
With competition ramping up in the smartphone market and with new manufacturers such as Huawei and ZTE gaining a higher profile, smartphones are sure to become more affordable in 2013. Combine that with a super-cheap giffgaff goodybag from £10/month and you’re onto a winner.
Nowadays, smartphones are incredibly good at helping us in our daily lives. Whether we’re looking for a new recipe or simply trying to find out when the next bus arrives, there’s an application for almost anything.
In the future, it is expected that smartphones will become more intelligent – they should help you in your daily life before you even ask it to. For example, smartphones should alert you with information that might be of interest to you whilst also hiding information when it’s not relevant. Rather than overloading you with hundreds of notifications a day, your smartphone should be intelligent enough to interrupt you only when there is good reason.
One of the biggest developments in this area has been the introduction of Google Now in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. This is set to appear on 2013’s new Android devices and Google are constantly improving it to become smarter and more intelligent. Manufacturers such as Samsung are also introducing “intelligent” software features: for example Smart Stay which keeps the display on when you’re looking at it and facial recognition which helps you to take a better photograph.
The arrival of new and more intelligent phones is certainly something to watch out for in 2013.
Nowadays, the majority of our smartphones use third-generation mobile networks (or 3G for short). One 4G network launched in the UK last year but it’s this year that we’ll see the majority of new 4G networks arriving. 4G technology promises faster download speeds and lower costs for mobile operators.
The UK’s 4G spectrum auction is set to take place this month with new 4G networks launching in May or June. Keep a close eye on the results of the 4G auction as well as the next generation of 4G phones. We’re expecting 4G handsets from Apple, Samsung and Nokia this year with better battery life and greater network compatibility.
Almost every high-end smartphone last year came with a “Near Field Communication” (NFC) chip. NFC is essentially a technology that allows your mobile phone to communicate with other devices placed in close proximity. Samsung, Google, HTC and Nokia have all jumped on the NFC bandwagon and the expectation is that Apple will join the club in 2013.
NFC technology opens up all kinds of new possibilities: one of the most exciting ones is being able to pay with your mobile phone. Wireless payments are already accepted in many shops and restaurants (look out for Visa PayWave & Mastercard PayPass signs). They’re also accepted on London buses and will be introduced on Tube, DLR, Trams and Overground this year. Once the rollout is complete, you’ll be able to use a NFC-enabled card or smartphone as your ticket to travel across London.
Before smartphones can be used for NFC payments, the banks and financial institutions will need to support them. Many people hope that 2013 will see the launch of mobile payments in the UK: the Americans already have the Google Wallet application for NFC payments and it’s expected that something similar will launch in the UK this year.
Earlier this year, giffgaff explored some of the surprising places where you can find mobile technology. For example, did you know that London buses and some Ford Focus electric cars already communicate using 3G mobile networks? Did you also know that many home appliances in Asia (including ovens, refrigerators and vacuum cleaners) can be controlled with your smartphone?
Over the last few years, we’ve seen mobile technology embedding itself into industries such as banking, healthcare, education and agriculture. This trend is set to continue in 2013 with growth in the “M2M” (machine-to-machine) sector of the industry.
For consumers, we’re likely to see more electronic devices integrating mobile technology this year. Smart power meters are one example: they’ll help us to understand our energy usage and will automatically submit our meter readings. We’ve also seen the first 3G-enabled cameras this year with Samsung’s Galaxy Camera. In 2013, we expect to see new categories of devices with mobile technology.
For more on connected devices in 2013, check out the gaffer's article on the year of networked things.
Over the past few years, the trend in smartphone design has been towards ever-larger display sizes.
Take the Samsung Galaxy as an example. Samsung’s flagship device in 2010, the Galaxy S, had a 4-inch display. Fast forward two-years and 2012’s iteration of the Galaxy S features a 4.8-inch display. Display sizes have grown by around 40% in the past two years and it’s a trend that is likely to continue in 2013.
As the super-sized Samsung Galaxy Note has sold well, many analysts believe that the Galaxy S4 will launch with a 5.0-inch display. 5-inch displays have already been seen from ZTE and HTC.
The display size on Samsung’s high-end smartphones has been increasing over the past few years. It is widely expected that this will continue in 2013, perhaps up to 5.0-inches on the Galaxy S IV.
Another thing to look out for in 2013 is higher-resolution displays.
Apple kicked off the race towards higher-resolution smartphone displays 3 years ago with the iPhone 4. The iPhone 4 featured a “Retina” display with 326 pixels per inch (326ppi): enough they claimed that most people would be unable to see individual pixels on the display. In the time that has passed since, other manufacturers have caught up and released 300+ ppi displays with a 720p resolution (1280x720 pixels).
In 2013, it is speculated that the race towards higher resolution displays will continue. Many analysts believe that we’ll see 1080p displays on a smartphone (1920x1080 pixels). Such displays are likely to be even sharper than before and will pack more than 400 pixels per inch. However, battery life could be compromised at higher resolutions. Providing that manufacturers can pack enough battery life into their 1080p devices, 2013 could be a visual feast for new smartphone owners.
Wireless charging is the ability to top up the battery on your smartphone by placing it on a specially-designed charging pad. Using “electromagnetic induction” technology which is similar to that used for charging electric toothbrushes, wireless charging in smartphones has already come a long way in the past year. Standardised charging methods such as Qi have been agreed amongst manufacturers and new handsets such as the Nexus 4 and the Lumia 920 are implementing the technology.
In 2013, we expect to see increased consumer adoption of wireless charging technology. Apple and Samsung are yet to implement wireless charging on their devices but once they have the technology should kick off. Looking further forward, we hope to see the first appearance of wireless charging stations in public places. This will bring the end of the battle for scarce power sockets and the problem of tangled power cords in your local coffee shop.
Cloud storage refers to being able to store data such as photos and documents online. Some of the most popular cloud storage services include Dropbox, iCloud and Google Drive (see our review of cloud storage services here).
With consumers dividing more or their time between a laptop, tablet, smartphone and TV it’s likely that cloud storage services will become a popular way of storing and accessing your files from multiple devices.
Google and Facebook have recently been attempting to tap the market for the cloud storage of photos: the latest versions of the Google+ and Facebook apps can automatically upload your photos to their websites. This can provide an automatic online backup of your photos and can give you the ability to share your photos with ease. However, many consumers still have worries about the privacy and security of files stored in the cloud.
Research In Motion struggled in 2012 with many BlackBerry users opting to trade in their devices for iPhones and Androids with better application support. They will be hoping to reverse this trend in 2013 with the launch of BlackBerry 10.
BlackBerry 10 is a brand new operating system for BlackBerry devices. It features a touchscreen-optimised interface and new features such as BlackBerry Hub, BlackBerry Balance and Active Frames. BlackBerry 10 will also have the ability to run Android applications – something which should help to resolve the lack of apps on the BlackBerry platform.
BlackBerry 10 will be released around the end of January.
Mobile phone displays typically use either one of two technologies: LCD or OLED (organic LED). Organic LED is the newer of the two technologies: as each individual pixel can emit light directly, the display can work without a separate and rigid backlight.
Most OLEDs are currently covered with a sheet of glass, though it is also possible to place OLEDs within a flexible sheet of plastic. Even when OLEDs within a flexible display are bent or distorted, they can continue to function as normal. This makes it possible to produce a flexible display that can be used in a smartphone (see the Nokia Morph demo device or this concept video from Samsung).
Samsung have announced that they will be producing flexible displays on a commercial basis in 2013. These flexible displays will be marketed under the “YOUM” brand name. Although it’s unlikely we’ll see a fully-flexible smartphone in 2013 (most other components such as the battery and memory chips aren’t flexible), we could see some interesting new form factors this year. This might include a phone with a display that curves around the edges of the phone. We could also see foldable smartphones or tablets.
In this article, we’ve looked forward to see what 2013 might bring in the world of mobile. This year, we should see handsets which are more affordable, more intelligent and which feature larger and higher-resolution displays. We should also see the adoption of new technologies such as 4G, NFC and wireless charging.
What are your predictions for 2013? What are you most excited about seeing? We’d love to hear your thoughts: please drop us a comment below and let us know what you think!
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