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13 Mobile Technology Predictions for 2011

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It’s nearly time to flip the calendar over to 2011, and although this was an exciting year for mobile technology, the next 12 months are sure to bring even more advancements, services and gadgets. Indeed, I’m already wondering how many of my seven favorite gadgets from 2010 will be replaced. In that vein then, here’s what I’m expecting, and even hoping, to see from the mobile technology space in the coming year.

  1. Verizon iPhone. I do believe (and have since earlier this year) that a Verizon (s VZ) iPhone will at the very least, be announced in January. And it’s an even money bet that the iPad will gain the rumored cameras required for FaceTime, too. With Apple’s 2010 re-hire of Rich Dellenger, a user interface designer who created the effective notification system for Palm’s webOS (s hpq), iOS will likely see improved notifications in iOS version 5. Thanks to more robust mobile broadband options, I expect Apple (s AAPL) to offer iTunes music streaming in 2011, as well. I don’t forsee any new mobile products from Apple, however, even though I think there’s a market for a smaller iPad.
  2. Android Phone Improvements. Android (s goog) phones will come closer to rivaling the user experience of Apple iOS devices, but they’ll still fall short. It won’t matter in terms of platform market share, and more developers will code for both iOS and Android, with a greater emphasis on Google’s platform if pressed to choose just one.
  3. Android + Verizon LTE. Google will design one stock Android handset for Verizon’s LTE network.
  4. Intel Chips. Intel (s intc) will finally deliver on its Atom effort and get the chip in a few phones, but none will be blockbuster successes. While Android can be ported to Intel’s x86 chip architecture, few will tackle the effort because of investments in ARM technology. Instead, Intel’s best showing will be in Nokia MeeGo devices (more on that below). Even with a few available products, the gap between Intel- and ARM-powered handsets and tablets will continue to widen.
  5. Speaking of ARM handsets… Although phones with dual-core processors will debut in early 2011, more than 25 percent of smartphones sold by the end of the year will use dual-core chips.
  6. Microsoft Kinect. Microsoft’s (s msft) Kinect product will keep the Xbox a leading platform and the device will continue to be used for various interface hacks. No other gaming platform will have a similar peripheral that unseats the Kinect as a top-seller. Microsoft will officially support the device in an update to Windows 7 and my son will still not be able to beat me in a Kinect game.
  7. Nokia. Nokia’s (s nok) smartphone market share will stabilize, but not grow beyond 40 percent as cheaper Android phones will flood the market by the second half of the year. The company will continue to tout MeeGo, which will become available in the form of six devices in 2011, not limited to handsets; I expect a tablet and netbook to run MeeGo next year. There will be talk of Microsoft buying Nokia, but it won’t happen. Windows Phone 7 on a Nokia device might, however, as a short-term trial strategy for both parties.
  8. Smart home technology. Smart homes with web-connected automation will slip into mainstream conversation, but near-field communications will still be confusing to most due to a lack of mobile payment standards.
  9. Tablets. The iPad will continue to sell in record numbers next year, but the combined sales of Android tablets will be close behind at the end of 2011. Consumers will still pass up Microsoft Windows 7 tablets. However, Microsoft will demonstrate a lighter, touch-optimized platform for tablets by mid-2011 and follow up with products near the end of the year. Research In Motion’s PlayBook (s rimm) will gain enterprise customers in 2011, but businesses will adopt the iPad, and possibly even Android tablets, far more heavily.
  10. Metered Mobile Data. Although U.S. carriers will continue to rely on network offload solutions such as femtocells and more public Wi-Fi zones, at least one carrier will supplement current data plans with a truly metered trial option.
  11. The Return of WebOS. HP (s hpq) will debut a half-dozen new webOS products: mostly phones, but at least one tablet too. Even though I expect a compelling interface and feature set, webOS still won’t see a market share higher than 6 percent in 2011 as developer mindshare is focused on Android and iOS.
  12. Samsung Galaxy. Samsung will continue to leverage the Galaxy brand and approach with fewer new smartphone models in 2011. Instead, the company will take the lesson learned from 2010: design one base handset and tweak slightly for carrier customization. The company will sell 17 million or more such handsets as a result. The effort will carry over to the tablet space as well; I expect 5 million Samsung tablets to sell next year, both in 7-inch and 10-inch sizes. And while Apple will continue its digital audio player dominance, Samsung will grab a 5 percent chunk of the market currently held by Apple’s iPod: even more if Google Music is available in dozens of countries.
  13. Motorola Mobility. Motorola Mobility (s mot) will have a solid first year due to Android phones and tablets, but won’t see huge growth until it can gain additional large carrier partners and the backing they provide. And Verizon Wireless (s vz) will still have the best Motorola devices with some exclusivity.

As far as my seven favorite devices from 2010, I’m sure to swap my Samsung Galaxy Tab for a Honeycomb tablet, but not for a few months. Most such tablets will be 10 inches in size, and I prefer the portability of a smaller tablet. I think we’ll see more 7-inch tablets with support for cellular voice too. I’ll still use my Kinect, Canon S95 camera and 13-inch MacBook Air, however and I’ll keep my current iPad while continuing to upgrade my smart home.

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15 Responses to “13 Mobile Technology Predictions for 2011”

  1. My mobile tech predictions:

    1) A net neutrality on mobile networks debate will kick off some in 2011. It won’t actually get to the point of Congress debating it, but its going to be one of those “everybody is talking about it” issues. As more people use their phones for the internet, mobile networks will be heavily monitoring their data usage, and they’ll be doing a lot of priortizing.

    2) A major copyright bust. More people are going to be using their smart phones to illegally download music and movies (eg: dumb criminals), and because these networks will be monitored more closely, they’re all going to get slapped with $100 to $500 fines in the mail. The smart downloaders will stick to traditional broadband.

    3) Once 4G rolls around nationwide for all 4 carriers, poorer people will ditch their “traditional” broadband internet and figure its cheaper to just get the internet + cell phone service through their cell phones. They’ll just tether to their laptops.

    4) Traditional broadband internet in the US will start to get just as fast as in Europe and Japan in order to justify people still having it, when they can just get the internet from their mobile phones. Otherwise they’ll become what happened to landlines.

  2. Couldn’t resist! Some predictions of my own.

    On issue 6: Kinnect
    By supporting the kinnect in 2011 for windows 7 Microsoft will stimulate all sorts of companies to bring out innovative applications of this device. Also in 2011: Kevin’s son will come to a conclusion that he can beat his dad just by watching his dad knocking himself out with a mindblowing kinnect move :P.

    On issue 9: Tablets
    Well said. An additional prediction: Mobility, portability and battery life will be the next keywords for tablets, as these devices will get more powerful in 2011. The price of a tablets will go down when more big players start selling their tablets. More people will get a tablet and will make it part of their daily accessoires. At the end of 2011 tablet applications/solutions have grown.

    To all: Happy New Year!

  3. Chuck Devlin


    I have read several of your reviews and have a question. What do you think is the best phone verizon has on the market today? I really like the voyager I have now, but the battery keeps failing. I am thinking of making the transition to Android since everyone else is doing it. :) Currently all I do is text and voice. I really like the full Keyboard with my Voyager. Social Media is not a major issue for me, its nice to have, but not a deal breaker. I have been shopping for a few weeks now, but looking for some commision free feedback. Thanks!

    • Chuck, if texting and voice are your main current activities, you may not need an Android device and the accompanying data plan. However, you might enjoy the world of smartphones and the apps / web experience it brings. In light of that, I’d recommend hitting the Verizon store for some hands on time. Personally, I’d look at the Droid X, Droid Incredible and Samsung Fascinate. Of course, none of these have a hardware keyboard like your Voyager, so if you want a keyboard, the Droid 2 or Droid Pro are worth the look and could be more attractive to you, based on your needs.

      Bear in mind that a number of new phones are likely to be announced at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show and there are ongoing rumors of the iPhone coming to Verizon in 2011. As a result, I’m not sure I’d recommend anyone rush out and buy a phone this week, but that’s just me. ;)

  4. I’m really looking forward to seeing Samsung Galaxy’s forecast coming true. I also hope that tablets get even more popular than they are now. In my opinion, they are considered interesting gadgets but people in general are not much aware of their multiple possibilities.

  5. Zack Lee Wright

    What about that huge billion-dollar data center that Apple built (and is already expanding again) ?
    Certainly they will start leveraging this place in 2011.

    Does Apple have another secret we don’t know about in North Carolina ?

  6. On Issue 1, do you think a Verizon iPhone would also lead to selling unlocked iPhones in the USA and how many T-Mobile subscribers would jump at that. And could the iPhone 5 be pentaband 3G so T-Mobile users get full benefit? Or could the iPad 2 also be pentaband 3G?

    On Issue 2, would an iPhone on Verizon reduce the need for them to push the Droid brand so much?

    On Issue 7, do you really think Nokia will push out 6 MeeGo devices when they only released 3 Symbian^3 devices in 2010? The E7 won’t be out until next month at the earliest? I can see a qwerty and non-qwerty and perhaps a tablet coming out but I can’t see them releasing 2 qwerty and 2 non-querty MeeGo phones.

    • Good questions, Stuart. I don’t think the iPhone will be sold unlocked in the U.S. based on the launch of a Verizon iPhone. If T-Mobile were to work a deal with Apple to carry the iPhone, then maybe, but of course that would mean Apple would have to add support for T-Mobile’s 3G frequencies since they differ from AT&T’s.

      Verizon invested hundreds of millions to push Android, so I don’t think they’ll walk away from that. Besides, most people see an Android phone these days and call it a Droid: but Droid is a brand specific to Verizon. That’s marketing power they won’t want to lose, IMO.

      My MeeGo device estimate might be high, but I think it’s what Nokia needs. Put another way: if they come out with just one or two MeeGo devices after all of the talk buildup, it may not go over well. I realize this is a marathon, not a sprint, but taking too long to get MeeGo going just gives competitors more time.