The last 12 months have been pretty wild in the mobile world, as we’ve seen some major partnerships, Apple and Android continue to dominate and 4G LTE start to roll out. We think that 2012 will be just as important, if not more so, than the last twelve months, so we’ve enlisted the IntoMobile team to throw down some predictions for the next year. We’ll check these at the end of 2012 to see how we did.
Before we dive into 2012, go ahead and check out our year-end wrap up pieces.
Check out: Top 10 mobile stories of 2011
Check out: Why I didn’t buy a new phone this year
Check out: 2011 in review: Research In Motion and BlackBerry
Check out: 2011 in review: iOS
Check out: 2011 in review: Android
Check out: 2011 in review: Windows Phone
Alright, it’s now time for our wild predictions that will probably embarrass us this time next year.
Google’s Motorola makes the next Nexus device
By Marin Perez
I fully expect the Google, Motorola deal to go through and even though Google says it is making the buy for patents and will keep the handset maker at arm’s length, I get the feeling we’ll see a lot of synergies next year. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Nexus device come out of the Googorola entity.
Google has said that Motorola won’t get any special access or advantages over other Android makers but I think it has to say that to comfort other Android handset makers like Samsung, LG and others. The deal will actually increase Google’s headcount by a lot – even with the coming layoffs – and it would kind of be irresponsible for Google to not utilize the deep connections to make Motorola devices amazing.
As for a Nexus device, it wouldn’t be that far-fetched, as Motorola has already been the maker of quasi-Nexus devices. The original Droid was our first look at Android 2.0 and the Xoom was our first take on Google’s tablet-friendly Honeycomb. We’ve heard rumblings that Google may finally show off a Nexus tablet in about six months and I think it could be Motorola which gets first dibs.
RIM will stop sucking … eventually
By Simon Sage
Okay, it’s a long time coming, but BlackBerry devices aren’t going to be a second-class smartphone for all of 2012. We’ve seen hopeful glimmers of BlackBerry’s future by way of the PlayBook, but to date, the tablet OS has been little more than a developer test bed to ease the platform transition. Next year is when RIM makes the switch in earnest, and they’re being smart about it. RIM has a multi-pronged developer strategy which will attract developers regardless of which languages they know, and next-gen products will aggressively leverage the existing Android app market.
Now, just because BlackBerry is going to stop sucking in 2012 doesn’t necessarily mean that BB10 will see massive success. Android has a ton of momentum, and over the last couple of years, managed to bowl over BlackBerry’s market share. It will take another couple of years before BlackBerry has a shot at winning over anybody already invested in competing platforms.
It’s not a stretch to say RIM has taken too long to upgrade their operating system, and with that wait, expectations will be high; this is why I’m not saying that BlackBerry 10 will knock our socks off. Even with the PlayBook lead-up, there are bound to be some bugs to squash and features to add after phones like the Milan and London hit the streets.
At the very least, 2012 will be the year RIM starts fighting, and BlackBerry smartphones will start looking like they exist on the same planet as Android, Windows Phone, and iOS devices. It’s just too bad that we’ll have to wait so far into 2012 before BlackBerry becomes competitive.
T-Mobile USA will still exist somehow
By Marin Perez
AT&T has pulled out of its bid to buy T-Mobile for about $39 billion and there are still many questions remaining on what’s going to happen to the nation’s fourth-largest mobile operator. Well, I’ll say that the T-Mobile USA brand will still exist this time next year but it may not be the same.
We’ve covered what T-Mobile can do now without AT&T and it is facing some stiff challenges. It is far behind the competition in terms of subscribers and it doesn’t really have the spectrum to roll out a nationwide 4G LTE network, which will become increasingly important over the next few years. Still, it has some options and a few things going in its favor.
We’ve heard rumors that AT&T may just strike a deal with Deustche Telekom to form a joint venture with some of T-Mobile’s assets and this could help AT&T get around some of the governmental regulations. T-Mobile would still be around but it would probably be giving AT&T way more roaming than it currently does.
If that doesn’t happen, look for T-Mobile to team up with Dish Network to help it build out a 4G LTE network. Dish does have some spectrum and it’s itching to get into the mobile market. Heck, it may eventually buy out T-Mobile if it can. The bottom line is that I think T-Mobile (and that T-Mobile girl) will be around for Christmas 2012.
The Android army marches on
By Blake Stimac
2012 looks like it will be quite a stellar year for Android already. With the introduction of Ice Cream Sandwich and the leaked hardware we’ve already seen for 2012, Android stands to maintain and further its lead in the mobile market. With HTC making fewer but better phones, Sony Ericsson’s Arc successor, and Samsung’s Galaxy S III all slated for next year, we’ll definitely see some great flagship handsets coming from the top manufacturers of the world.
We know that Jelly Bean will be landing sometime in 2012 but we’re definitely hoping that Google will focus on fighting fragmentation more than ever. Android 4.0 will ease some issues but it will never stop, especially with the custom user interfaces manufacturers love to put on their handsets. If Google comes up with a solution to help manufacturers differentiate their handsets, all while ensuring a swift update cycle, one of Android’s biggest battles with itself could be soothed. That said, older handsets and newer budget Android devices won’t receive such treatment and this will always be the thorn in the mobile operating system’s side.
While iOS devices will always be a threat to the success of Android to some extent, it’s Windows Phone 7 that has a greater chance at catching Android when it comes to sheer volume of users. That said, this depends if Windows Phone actually begins to gain traction and the jury is still out on that one. The strategy alone, while more strict than Android’s open nature, still stands to eat into Android market share. 2012 will truly prove if Windows Phone was too late to the game and if it does gain traction, not only will this put more strain on Android, but it will also make Google go into innovation overdrive.
[Image via ThinkGeek]
The Apple iPad continues to lead the tablet market
By Marin Perez
It wasn’t too long ago that some thought Apple was over reaching with the iPad but after two years, it’s clear that tablets are here to stay and that Apple is the clear leader. Apple’s Steve Jobs said 2011 would be the “year of the iPad 2” and despite multiple high-profile tablets from the likes of Research In Motion, Motorola, LG, Samsung and HP, Apple was the clear leader in the tablet space and I expect that to continue in 2012.
The overall tablet market is expected to expand and the iPad will continue to lead the way, even if it doesn’t have as tight of a grip on the larger market. If Apple follows its usual release schedule (not a sure thing), we could see the next iPad around March. The rumors suggest it will have the next-generation A6 mobile processor, a super high-resolution 10-inch Retina Display and a robust app ecosystem which still cannot be matched by the competition.
That doesn’t mean the tablet market is going to a pushover, as competitors are refining their games and pushing the envelope in terms of hardware and software. We’re also seeing the exciting emergence of the relatively inexpensive tablet market with devices like the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet and we expect these to continue to thrive. Heck, these may even force Apple into releasing a 7-inch model – just look at how it finally dove into the iPod Nano market once the competition proved there was a viable market.
Nokia’s comeback bid won’t be a home run
By Stefan Constantinescu
Nokia is going to crash land in North America during the first half of 2012 and things aren’t really going to get better until Microsoft releases Windows 8 during the latter half of the year. The Lumia 800 was a rushed product, having little to no differentiation from the rest of the competition, and worst of all it recycled the design of the Nokia N9.
If it shows up in America, and that’s a big if, it’ll have a larger screen and support for 4G LTE, because that’s what the carriers want to sell to their customers. One bright area in Nokia’s future is actually the feature phone department, where Stephen Elop has committed to spending additional resources. We may even see features that were exclusive to the Nokia N9 trickle down into Nokia’s feature phones. Regarding tablets, there’s a strong chance Nokia might bring one out to market running the ARM version of Windows 8.
And as for Symbian … does anyone really care at this point?
Europe steps up its game
By Dusan Belic
During next year Europe will be about two things: LTE and market consolidation. It is expected that most (if not all) nations of the Western Europe get its first LTE networks, while some in the East may also join the trend.
When it comes market consolidation, we’ve already seen that happening in the UK with the local brand of Orange (France Telecom) and T-Mobile (Deutsche Telekom) teaming-up to form a new company: Everything Everywhere. It is expected that something similar starts taking place in Austria, with Three acquiring Orange, and we’re pretty confident other European countries will have their own such deals, as well.
It will be interesting to watch how things are developing in France, where Iliad got its mobile license. Up until that point, it was known as the Internet service provider (Free) that made Internet access more affordable and it’s likely they’ll try to do the same with mobile Internet, bundling a ton of data with every smartphone plan …
[Image via Shutterstock, Maugli]
Apple will launch a smaller iPad
By Marin Perez
Ok, so this one is probably the prediction where I’m going out on a limb but I think 2012 will be the year that Apple produces a smaller iPad. I’m not sure if it will be a 7-inch version or the 7.85-inch version but I believe looking at Apple’s previous track record will give us some good insight into this.
If we look at the iPod market, Apple kept on saying that it didn’t need to produce a smaller model but it eventually pushed out the iPod nano once this market was established by the competitors and I believe that is starting to happen with the tablet market. While the Galaxy Tab and Flyer aren’t as popular as these companies would like, devices like the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire are selling millions of units and also drawing a lot of developer interest. Apple could swoop in to this market with a $300 or so tablet and still clean up without eating too much into the larger iPad sales.
One way it could definitely do this is by making the iPad 3 with a Retina Display and perhaps leaving the smaller version with a high-resolution but not a Retina Display. Of course, I could be completely wrong on this one but I hope this one pans out.
Mobile gaming matures
By Daniel Perez
I believe 2012 is going to be a year both Android and iOS platforms will continue to take a huge chunk of the mobile gaming pie. Both NVIDIA and Qualcomm will begin to push out devices that are contain quad-core CPUs, while Apple will presumably release the iPad 3 with a retina display, making gaming on the device so much sweeter on. The new iPhone has been rumored to have a larger display and a processor faster than its A5 chip currently used in the iPad 2 & iPhone 4S.
In the land of dedicated handhelds, both the 3DS and the Playstation Vita are very impressive devices in their own rights, but seeing as the 3DS has been out for over a year and only has ONE must-have title with Super Mario 3D Land, the Playstation Vita will seem like a much more reasonable dedicated handheld gaming system with its strong launch titles, PS3 connectivity, and ability to deliver graphics as good as a PS3 game. Still, it’s going to be tough to convince people to carry around a dedicated gaming device when they already have an amazing game-playing device in their smartphone.
WebOS flounders but gets more attention than it should
By Marin Perez
HP said it would open source webOS and that it would eventually make tablets with this platform later down the road but I get the feeling we’ll hear some speculation about it making a comeback in 2012. Well, don’t believe it. I think the best days of webOS are already behind it but that won’t stop the tech press from gushing about it next year.
Don’t get me wrong, I dig webOS and felt like it was truly innovative and beautiful … in 2009. The modern smartphone experience has evolved and grown and webOS has just not kept up with the time for various reasons. Yes, the goal of open source is to use the crowds to help fill those gaps at a faster rate than any single company could but I get the feeling that this will wind up more like the Symbian Foundation than Android (if you even consider Android truly open source). I’m just not seeing the value of webOS for a heavy hitter to in.
If the Android patent wars get even dirtier and a company like Apple scores some major legal victories without the intent of signing licensing agreements, webOS may be seen as a good alternative but I’m still not convinced it is good enough to compete with iOS, Android and Windows Phone at this point. Maybe in 2013 but even that’s relying on the absolute best-case scenario.
Windows Phone plugs along
By Kelly Hodgkins
The upcoming year will be a big one for Microsoft and its Windows Phone platform. The mobile OS is ending the year at the bottom of the metrics, but enthusiasm for the platform is high. Nokia just released its first Windows Phone handsets in Europe and will release additional models in the US starting in 2012. We already know the Lumia 710 will land on T-Mobile in January, and a report from Paul Thurrott of WinSuperSite suggests the entry-level handset will land on Verizon in April. There’s also three LTE handsets expected to land on AT&T in the first half of 2012. This trio includes the Nokia ACE, HTC Radiant, and Samsung Mendel. Beyond that, we expect to see HTC, LG and Samsung expand their offerings both here in the US and overseas.
On the software side of things, Microsoft is rumored to be working on the next version of Windows Phone, codenamed Tango. This Tango update may target entry-level handsets like the Lumia 710 and allow Windows Phone to tap into emerging markets. There’s a second update, named Apollo, that may land in the second half of 2012 and boost the feature set of high-end handsets. Somewhere in between these two updates, Microsoft will likely add LTE support for those 4G handsets expected to land in Q2 2012.
It’s too early to know what these high-end new features will be, but I would expect to see improvements in the camera, support for quad-core processors, support for higher-resolution displays, and improved overall performance. Hopefully, Microsoft will do more to integrate Windows Phone into its Xbox 360 platform and boost app submissions to the Windows Marketplace. Companies may also add their own specialties like the Nokia Collection, a set of apps specifically for Nokia handset owners.
We’ll finally get more flexible data plan
By Marin Perez
I think 2012 will finally be the year that the mobile carriers wise up and allow customers to be more flexible with their data plans. While carriers may fear losing revenue, I believe offering customers more convenience to fit their lifestyles will ultimately lead to more customer satisfaction and increased revenue.
We already know that Verizon will introduce a family data plan in the middle of 2012 and this will allow a group of users to share a data plan instead of having to purchase an individual data plan for each smartphone. Look for competitors like AT&T and Sprint to follow suit.
What I really hope to see is a carrier finally allowing users to have a data plan that can go across devices. For instance, I really think that a tablet with integrated mobile data connectivity can be extremely useful but there’s no way I’m going to sign up for a new data plan which I’ll only need once in a while. I think the Apple iPad has it right with the prepaid pay-as-you-go mobile data option but I think we can go one step further and have a carrier give you a data plan which you can use across any device. I’m thinking about $10 per GB would be right, even if you have to have devices sold from a single carrier.
It’s going to take one bold carrier to start this in the United States, so I’m hoping Sprint can be that carrier in 2012.