The Art of Smart

Sharp, quick and bright – that cer­tainly de­scribes this lat­est gen­er­a­tion of mo­bile de­vices

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE - By Steve Din­neen

Sharp, quick and bright – that cer­tainly de­scribes this lat­est gen­er­a­tion of mo­bile de­vices

Con­sumer elec­tron­ics is all about smart­phones. Where other stal­warts have floun­dered – tele­vi­sions and stereos are both ex­pected to see sales de­cline this year – the smart­phone con­tin­ues its as­cen­dancy. Last year, the mar­ket grew 38 per­cent and it is ex­pected to rise an­other 22 per­cent this year.

But even amidst this boom, 2013 looks set to be a land­mark year. Next-gen­er­a­tion 4G tech­nol­ogy al­lows down­load speeds up to ten times faster than 3G. This boost in net­work speed lets your phone to take full ad­van­tage of the in­sanely fast chips now pow­er­ing them. Last year saw quad-core pro­ces­sors be­come the norm – in 2013, ex­pect to see a dou­bling of that speed to the first octa-core chips, with Samsung one of the firms pre­par­ing to in­tro­duce them.

The holy grail of the pre-smart­phone hand­set era was size, or more pre­cisely, lack of it – squeez­ing as much hard­ware into as tiny a box as pos­si­ble. But the advent of touch­screen phones has her­alded the op­po­site trend – larger screens with higher res­o­lu­tion dis­plays.

HTC’s But­ter­fly, re­leased in Asia at the end of last year and mar­keted in the US as the Droid DNA, was the first to al­low full 1080p HD video play­back on its fiveinch screen. Now we can ex­pect to see this tech­nol­ogy launched across the mar­ket, with de­vices in­clud­ing Sony’s Xpe­ria Z, Huawei’s As­cend D2 and ZTE’s Grand S all ship­ping with five-inch, ul­tra-high res­o­lu­tion dis­plays.

The de­mand for larger screens has been fu­eled, in part, by the pop­u­lar­ity of tablets – al­though, some­what counter-in­tu­itively, their sizes have been head­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

The two col­lide in the much-vaunted “ph­ablet” seg­ment – hy­brid de­vices that fall be­tween the largest phones (with six-inch dis­plays) and small­est tablets (seven-inch screens). Ap­ple re­sisted this grav­i­ta­tion to­wards the cen­ter, but the iPad Mini (7.9-inch dis­play) ce­mented its place at the heart of the mar­ket, and an­a­lysts now ex­pect the iPhone 6 to fea­ture screen di­men­sions of at least 4.8 inches. The fight for the mid­dle ground is very much on.

It isn’t only the size of phones that is shift­ing – it’s how we use them. Ac­cord­ing to Shawn DuBravac, chief econ­o­mist and di­rec­tor of re­search for the Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics As­so­ci­a­tion, 65 per­cent of our smart­phone use is now for “non-

De­mand for larger phone screens has been fu­eled by the pop­u­lar­ity of tablets

- com­mu­ni­ca­tion” pur­poses – gam­ing, plan­ning, cre­at­ing or con­sum­ing me­dia. Coun­tries in­clud­ing South Korea (a good barom­e­ter for mo­bile trends) are even of­fer­ing data-only plans.

NFC – near field com­mu­ni­ca­tion, which al­lows for, among other things, mo­bile pay­ments at the touch of your hand­set – has been the “next big thing” in the smart­phone world for years now. But, largely thanks to Ap­ple’s dogged re­fusal to use it in its de­vices, it has never re­ally taken off.

This could fi­nally change this year with ru­mors that the next iPhone up­grade will jump on board – ru­mors which Tim Cook ve­he­mently de­nies. Ap­ple not­with­stand­ing, other man­u­fac­tur­ers are clearly on the band­wagon. A world in which you can pay for your cof­fee, new train­ers and the sub­way jour­ney home with your mo­bile phone is upon us and the shadow looms larger ev­ery day.

In the slightly longer term, sci­en­tists are de­vel­op­ing flex­i­ble bat­ter­ies that could even­tu­ally lead to phones you can fold up when you’re not us­ing them (and that won’t smash if you drop them). Ap­ple has patented a new type of “hap­tic feed­back, ”which will pro­vide lo­cal­ized vi­bra­tions from dif­fer­ent parts of the screen, mak­ing typ­ing a more in­tu­itive ex­pe­ri­ence. Mean­while, Nokia has spo­ken about a phone due for re­lease this year with a bat­tery life of a stag­ger­ing 330 hours.

We’re at the start of a golden age of mo­bile tech­nol­ogy – for now, though, here are some of the most ad­vanced phones you will be able to get your hands on this year.

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