The first week of 2012 over, which for many people involved early starts, rail fare hikes and less predictable galeforce winds, with the Olympic Games and the Mayan 2012 phenomenon still to contend with.
But what will happen to the mobile industry in 2012? Here we’re looking into our crystal ball and letting our imagination get creative with our likely and not-so-likely predictions for 2012.
1: It’s all about the Quad
2012 will be the year of the quad core phone. NVIDIA has already announced it's Tegra 3 chip, which is rumoured to be appearing in HTC handsets due for release at CES or MWC, and debuting in the Asus Transformer Prime tablet. The advantage of a quad-core chip is faster performance and superior graphics, but with lower power consumption. Expect to see quad-core phones from every major manufacturer by the end of the year. It’s great to see this technical innovation; but while this much power will benefit serious gamers and those who stream media; it’s not something everyone will need. Ultimately, quad-core chips will push forward mobile gaming, but will not become mainstream in 2012.
2: Windows 8 tablets will take on the iPad (for business)
Due to land in the second half of 2012, Windows 8 is Microsoft’s next-gen operating system designed to work across PCs and tablets.
From hands-on time with early Windows 8 tablets, we’ve been impressed. The combination of Windows 8 enterprise features with an intuitive Metro-style interface designed for touchscreens and ARM chipset could create the first tablet genuinely capable of work and entertainment. The synergy between devices means it's far easier for businesses to port their content over to the tablet, which could see it being a big success in the business sector. Plus by giving 5000 developers tablets equipped with software development tools, the OS should launch with a decent selection of applications.
3: RIM will go through a huge company restructure, release an amazing phone but it might not be enough.
2011 was undoubtedly RIM’s annus horribilis, which is a real shame because the company has produced some great products. The Playbook wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination (lack of native email, limited apps and no BBM being pretty major). But the original Playbook with QNX is far more enjoyable and intuitive experience than a Honeycomb tablet. Owing a lot to Palm of course. If this experience could translate to a phone, coupled with native email RIM could have something truly special. But RIM needs to get something good out soon.
4: Google+ will not kill Facebook
Google+ was meant to be the Facebook killer. While it’s certainly interesting, with some great features like Circles, it’s struggled to match Facebook's mass appeal, for many it's just a bit dull, functional yet not personal. In 2012 it will continue to grow slowly, but won’t ever seriously threaten Facebook.
5: There will be an official Facebook phone, but it won't be a big success
Facebook phones have been one of the trends of 2011. The HTC ChaCha, with it’s full Qwerty keyboard and full touchscreen HTC Salsa, offered lacklustre Facebook integration, coupled (in the ChaCha’s case) with a tiny screen and limited memory. Infinitely superior was the INQ Cloud Touch, which got Facebook integration bang-on, but unfortunately didn't get the success it deserved.
Current rumours suggest that HTC has been cherry picked to create the device. So that’ll be a blue unibody design then, with a fairly good camera and Facebook variation of Sense. With so many handsets offering adequate Facebook integration and BBM’s success with the youth market, we’re not convinced there's a need for a Facebook phone or that it'll fly off the shelves.
6: But there will be a Spotify phone
You heard it hear first. In 2012 we think there will be a new music phone with Spotify as the native music application.
Again, INQ's Cloud Touch got there first, having the Spotify for Android app as its default music player. But we're more up for something a bit more high end, aimed at the people who are willing to pay £10 a month for offline access.
The next step is surely to integrate the service into a phone, bringing the features of the Spotify Platform beta to the fore. Virgin Mobile customers currently get six months free, but why stop there. As well as a customised Spotify widget, we’d like to see external controls, such as swiping to adjust the volume, a minimum of 64GB internal memory.
Come on Spotify? What do you think?
7: The sun will rise and there will be a new iPhone
Yes folks there will be a new iPhone. How predictable. We can expect it to be more powerful, with OS tweaks undoubtedly adding a feature similar to something that exists on another operating system (think swipe-down notifications) as well as something every other manufacturer will try to replicate. This alone will cause griping from some corners of the web from Apple haters.
For six months before release every tech website and blog will be full of rumours based on patents, leaked pictures, accessories and network pre-order pages about this iPhone 5/new iPhone/next-gen iPhone, but Apple will manage to keep most of the details secret. On launch people will queue up for days to get it and it will sell thousands and thousands.
And one to keep an eye on... SOPA
Not strictly mobile related, but SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) is something everyone should be aware of. Currently being debated by the US House of Representatives with a vote scheduled for January. The bill is being introduced to prevent online piracy, but actually is an barely disguised attempt at censoring the internet by putting US copyright law onto other countries. If passed, private company’s who believe a website outside the US that ‘“engages in, enables or facilitates” copyright infringement can apply to the US Department of Justice to it force payment facilitators (such as PayPal) to stop funding to the website, search engines (like Google) to stop linking to the website and ISP’s to block the website. This can be crippling to a websites - just look what happened to Wikileaks.
Although SOPA will certainly stop some copyright offenders, if abused it could be used to restrict free speech and control the internet, including platforms like WordPress and Wikipedia. Just this week Nintendo, EA and Sony have decided not to back the bill and Google, Facebook and Amazon have threatened blackouts, (read the open letter here) arguing it will change the landscape of the internet and amount to web censorship.
Pic credit: ADR Studio