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2010 Wrap-Up. 2011 Predictions, Part I.

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31st December 2010

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2010 was a difficult year for the mobile phone industry, this is our take on what happened this year.. and a look at what might happen next year. You can see our predictions for last year here.

2011 Predictions

2010 was a year where black slabby smartphones again dominated the market, and smartphones will again dominate the market in 2011 becoming more powerful at the top end and basic models will continue to be increasingly affordable. Devices such as the Nokia N8 show that not all smartphones need to look the same, and we expect manufacturers to work harder on product differentiation this year.

The two platforms to watch in 2011 will be Android and whatever Apple does next with the iPhone.. just as was the case in 2010. No other platforms have really caught public attention in the same way, but other OSes will continue to battle it out for customers with interesting devices, especially in the midrange market.

Smartphones are bringing GPS to more users than ever before, and Google's continually improving Navigation offering is attracting more customers to this platform. Standalone GPS makers are fighting back though, and there still seems to be a significant market for dedicated personal navigation devices. What the long term future is for companies like TomTom and Garmin is unclear.

We said last year that cameras would start to emphasise video capture quality instead of stills megapixels, and it certainly seems to be the case that most high-end devices include some sort of HD video capture as standard. Video is going to be a strong driver, especially as many handsets make it much easier to upload videos to sharing services than a standalone camera does. Expect more of the same, with almost all high-end devices backing HD video capture in 2011.

The battle in 2010 was between different touchscreen technologies. Cheaper resistive displays are being replaced with higher performance capacitive panels. In 2010, handsets such as the Sony Ericsson Vivaz flopped partly because of their reliance on older resistive panels, and customers simply don't want them any more. Another battle between LCD and OLED displays will continue throughout 2011 with both technologies improving and no clear winners in sight.

Mobile bandwidth speeds were again a news item in 2010, with a handful of manufacturers and networks promoting what they call "4G" technologies. This will continue though 2011, but is likely to generate very little consumer demand. WiFi will continue to be more common, and we think that 802.11n should be available on almost all WiFi phones very soon.

 Predictions for 2011 The massive growth of services such as Facebook are driving the inclusion of Social Networking Services (SNS) in many phones, to the extent that some "new" models launched in 2010 are simply old ones with new software. Manufacturers will continue to look at SNS support as being a way to give a boost to older (and cheaper) hardware during 2011.

Smartphones are also making people more interested in the hardware specifications of their devices, with processor speeds, RAM and internal flash storage becoming increasingly important. 2011 will see the launch of the first dual-core smartphones, with 1GHz CPUs becoming the standard for any decently specified smartphone during 2011, although just how fast clock speeds will be is questionable due to the power requirements of faster processors.

Mobile multimedia will continue to evolve with manufacturers such as LG heavily investing in DLNA support. Familiar services like YouTube and the BBC iPlayer will continue to push into the mobile sector, but there needs to be improve support for high-speed downloads globally either through cheaper data rates or more flexible WiFi hotspots. Don't expect to see anything great from free-to-air TV using DVB-H though as there seems to be little consumer interest.

The inclusion of NFC support in some Nokia and Samsung handsets will start to encourage the achingly slow development of these technologies, but we don't expect to see anything significant until 2012.

2010 was a year of retrenchment when it comes to new product releases. Manufacturers announced far fewer handsets in 2010 then 2009, and we expect that 2011 will have similar levels of activity due to a still depressed market.

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