13 Mobile Technology Predictions for 2011

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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