It's been said a million times. We have seen countless changes and improvements over the years in the mobile realm. For instance, 2011 was the year of the dual-core processor, and 2012 has been the year of large, high-resolution displays, quad-core chipsets and LTE.
This year is quickly coming to an end, however. And 2012 has turned out to be an awesome year for us mobile folks. Processor technology is already astounding, mobile image sensors are as impressive as they've ever been and grainy, pixelated displays are quickly (and thankfully) becoming a thing of the past. Hardware and build quality, on most fronts, are at an all time high.
Because of this, though, my expectations for 2013 are mixed.
It's impossible to predict the future, and it's hard to see or imagine where the improvements to mobile technology will occur. And with so many great leaps in 2012, it's hard to expect just as many technological leaps – such as from a 4.65-inch 720p display to a 5-inch 1080p display, or dual- to quad-core chipsets – in the coming year.
But that doesn't stop us from speculating or hoping for various improvements to happen.
Sitting at a table with some friends this afternoon, I asked them a fairly simple question: "What single improvement over current smartphones do you hope for in the smartphones from 2013?" Of all the possible improvements, I was hit with two that actually surprised me. One said he would improve voice control – Siri, S Voice, Google Now, etc. The other said he would vote for better smartphone cameras.
Personally, I can't disagree with these. I've explained how voice controls are a bit gauche. Talking to mobile devices is certainly less awkward than it has been in the past. I hardly have a problem with speaking a text message, even in public now. But the current state of voice control (i.e.: opening applications, creating emails or reminders, etc) leaves much to be desired.
And I've ranted enough times about the limitations of mobile cameras, specifically with Android. They've definitely improved over the last two years. Manufacturers have equipped smartphones with better glass and better sensors. And the processors are certainly more capable than before. But comparing images taken with my iPhone to those taken with the Galaxy Note II or HTC One X shows how much room Android manufacturers have to advance image sensing. This is both due to the stock performance of the camera and third-party applications available on iOS that allow things like fine-tuning camera settings, such as shutter time.
I also wouldn't mind seeing improvements in context awareness or automation features, like Google Now or the premise behind Placeme.
If I were to choose a single area where the near future smartphones of 2013 would be improved, these two features would most definitely not be at the top of the list. Improved cameras would be near the top, sure. But if I were to pick one area where smartphones still undeniably fall short, there is still one area that needs serious work: battery life.
Don't get me wrong, some different tactics implemented in 2012 have greatly improved device stamina. Most manufacturers, for example, started equipping smartphones with 2,000mAh batteries or larger. Motorola and Samsung took that one step further, equipping devices with monster batteries. The Samsung Galaxy Note II and Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX HD 3,100mAh and 3,300mAh batteries, respectively.
The Galaxy Note II easily lasts an entire day – usually about 30 hours to a single charge. But if I really push it to the limits, I can kill the Galaxy Note II battery in a single day. And I'm sure I could do the same with the DROID RAZR MAXX, outside of any realistic or normal usage, of course.
Point being, dead smartphone batteries are still a potential issue. I still carry a portable battery charger. And this is where I would love to see significantly more effort directed in 2013. I would love to see either rapid charging or smartphone batteries that don't take hours to charge and are measured in days or weeks versus mere hours.
That may be a lot to ask, but battery technology is the one piece of the puzzle that has hardly improved since the very first smartphone. The only difference now is smartphones are simply equipped with larger batteries. And that's a decent temporary solution, but it doesn't come without some side-effects, like significantly extended charging time.
What area would you choose to improve the smartphones of 2013, ladies and gents? Camera? Battery life? Voice control? Or would you improve some other area? The good news is that CES is only three weeks away and MWC is in February. We may get a nice glimpse into what 2013 smartphones will entail sooner rather than later.