Sales figures for mobile devices reached new heights in 2012. Market research firmtablet sales would near 120 million, about doubling the total sold in 2011.
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In addition, the number of active smartphones eclipsed 1 billion during the past year. That's one for every seven people on the planet. And while it took almost two decades to reach 1 billion active smartphones, research firmprojects there will be 2 billion by 2015, fueled by growth in developing economies in China, India and Africa.
It's not just phones and tablets though. All sorts offlourished in 2012, from watches and wristbands tothat can project video on the inside of the lenses. Speaking of glasses, in April, Google sent the tech world into a tizzy when it unveiled plans for a futuristic headset called .
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Well, if you think mobile came a long way in 2012, this year could be even better. Here's an outline of where we think mobile technology is headed in 2013.Brand Wars Will Drive Innovation
In terms of smartphones, mobile in 2013 will be like an evening of boxing. For the main event, heavyweightsandwill square off to see which can produce the world's most popular device.
The Samsung Galaxy IIIthe iPhone for that honor. While Apple went conservative with new features on the iPhone 5, Samsung went bold, equipping thewith an enormous 4.8-inch display, near field communication (NFC) technology (more on this later), a burst-shooting camera and a voice-enabled assistent akin to the iPhone's Siri.
Apparently, Apple is preparing to counter-punch. There are alreadythat Apple is testing its next iPhone, identified as "iPhone 6.1" which runs iOS 7.
Behind the iPhone and Galaxy a host of capable contenders are hungry for a shot at the belt, including devices from ,and .
There might even be some new players in the game. It seems likely that Amazon will debut asometime in 2013. There was even talk that Facebook was working on its own smartphone, but CEO and founderthose rumors in September.
What does this all this mean for us? It means better phones. Competition drives innovation. Look for these brands to consistently try to one-up one another with faster processors, better cameras and more innovative features.
That's not the only battle that will play out in 2013. Another one to watch will be the fight for third place in mobile operating systems. Android is the undisputed number one with nearly . While Apple's iOS is miles behind Android, it is still firmly entrenched at number two.
In 2013, the top two contenders for third place will beand , which isin the coming months.
A few dark horses are running in this race for third. Mozilla plans to launch asometime during 2013. Then, there is , a Linux-based mobile OS. Samsung recently revealed plans to releasein 2013.
Both Firefox and Tizen aremobile operating systems, but they won't be the only ones. There are two other open source mobile operating systems to watch going forward.expects to release smartphones and possibly tablets running its Sailfish OS in 2013; andshould hit the market by early 2014.No NFC Mobile Payment, Yet
Before leaving the house, most will check to make sure they have three things: keys, wallet and cellphone. Well, thanks to NFC technology, cellphones might soon lighten the load by essentially replacing wallets with an "e-wallet."
It seems like we have beenfor years now. Basically, it enables two devices to make a very short-range and secure connection through radio technology. If a smartphone is equipped with NFC, as are most newer-model Androids, and if a retailer has an NFC terminal, one could make a purchase by simply tapping the phone on the terminal.
NFC technology also has other applications, such as data transfer between phones, but mobile payments is the feature most often discussed.
Services likeandare already in place. They secure one's payment information within a device.
The reason why mobile payment through NFC has not yet hit the mainstream is that device penetration is not at the point where it has prompted retailers to update their technology. Basically, not enough smartphones have the technology. Androids have started to adapt, but unlike iPhones, Android hardware is not uniform across the various devices.
While the wheels have been in motion for some time, they're really spinning now that most new Androids, including the Galaxy S III, come with NFC. If Apple releases a new iPhone during 2013, and if Apple decides to include NFC this time around, it will probably tip the scales in favor of rapid adoption of mobile payment.
Even if all that does happen, however, there probably won't be a new iPhone until later in the year, so odds are you're not going to see NFC penetrate the mainstream during 2013. Maybe 2014 will finally be the year of NFC.Flexible Smartphones
Here's something you never knew you needed -- a flexible smartphone. These devices will be lighter, more durable and the screen will be bendable. This feat is possible by making the display out of an(OLED) and shielding it in plastic rather than glass. Samsung is reportedlywith plans to start producing a bendable phone.
Samsung is not the only player in this game, however. Many companies are . At Nokia World in London in 2011,which not only bends but is controlled by bending. Check it out in the video below.
Since there are quite a few companies working on this, it seems likely that one will try to be first to market in 2013. There are rumors that the next model of Samsung's Galaxy will feature a bendable HD display. We'll find out much more about this at the , scheduled for next week. Stay tuned for updates.The Future of Smartphone Cameras
Cameras and phones have been married for about a decade (they , previously). In that time, the relationship has been constantly improving in terms of specs, which has led to higher-quality photographs.