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2012 Wrap-up. 2013 Predictions, Part I.

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1st January 2013

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2012 was a tough year for mobile phone manufacturers, with many major handset builders reporting sales sharply down. The year was also marked by some vicious litigation between companies, some of whom seem to be engaged in an all-out war to destroy their rivals. You can see the predictions we made last year here.

 2012 Wrap-up. 2013 Predictions. 2013 Predictions

Screen sizes increased throughout 2012, and one key question seems to be this: just how big can they go? The massively popular Samsung Galaxy S III has a huge 4.8" display, and even stubborn old Apple upped their display size to 4" from 3.5".

Traditionally we have expected bigger displays to have a higher pixel count, but the relative success of the big screen but fairly low resolution Nokia Lumia 900 indicates that perhaps size is everything, and expect to see big but cheap panels becoming standard for all but the cheapest smartphones.

Handsets have also become faster, and 2013 will see a battle between dual core and quad core processors at the top end. Quad core CPUs might not have the easy ride that you might expect. Intel will also begin to carve out a small but solid market share with its new range of CPUs, but ARM cores will still remain dominant. Expect high-end smartphones to ship with 2GB of RAM as standard by the end of 2013.

3D technology was a bust in 2012, and we don't expect it to return any time soon. If 3D displays ever end up in a future iPhone or Galaxy S then things might change. There is an outside chance that LG might produce a third 3D handset though, especially as they make 3D TVs.

With a few exceptions, megapixel counts in cameras have generally maxxed out at 8 megapixels or so. The Nokia Lumia 920 demonstrates that there is a lot more to camera optics than the number of sensors in in the camera, even the 41 megapixel Nokia 808 PureView generally takes 5 megapixel photos and uses the rest for oversampling or optical zoom emulation. We would expect to see 12 megapixel sensors becoming more common, but the industry is really going to have to work hard to keep up with Nokia. 1080p and 720p HD video recording will start to be standard in all but the cheapest phones, and it is just possible that the first UHDTV capable devices might be capable of 2160p recording by the end of 2013.

NFC, wireless charging, LTE and HSPA+ will gather pace during 2013, although the fragmented frequencies of the LTE landscape will cause problems. Apple gave LTE a significant boost with the iPhone 5, we would expect the next generation iPhone to support NFC and perhaps wireless charging as well which will move things along a lot more.

 Word Cloud We predicted that feature phones would be dead in 2012, but it seems they are alive and well. Nokia's successful Asha range capable but inexpensive devices are blurring the boundaries between feature phones and smartphones. But sub-€100 Android smartphones will become more common and will be very attractive to consumers.

The market will remain dominated by iOS and Android devices, with Windows Phone 8 trailing a long way behind in third place. No other mobile OSes will matter in any significant way, although it won't stop companies from trying to promote alternatives.

Legal cases will continue to rumble on, usually involving Apple in one form or another. It appears that Apple and Samsung are involved in a wrestling match to the death, and either they will have to come to an accommodation or one side (or perhaps both) are going to end up being cleared from the shelves. Many other firms are involved in litigation, and probably the only real solution is to improve the way that companies can license technologies and to stop patent abuse.

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