Here we take a look at the big events and releases of 2010 in the mobile phone world. Find out how far smartphones have come and what the future might hold.
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2010 Mobile Phones Market
It has been an exciting year in the mobile phone industry. Smartphones have well and truly captured the public imagination. Android has claimed the top spot in the mobile platform wars. There’s been a new iPhone release, several devices from BlackBerry and the launch of Windows Phone 7, as Microsoft tries to wade back into the battle. The big loser appears to have been Nokia, but they’ve continued to release new devices and still seem to have an iron grip on the cheap end of the mobile phone market.
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Ultimate Convergence Devices
As our mobile phones continue to develop in terms of hardware and software, they really are becoming the ultimate convergence devices. They can operate as cameras, MP3 players, satellite navigation systems, portable TVs, and handheld gaming devices. They offer access to browse the web, and send and receive email. They can give you access to thousands of books, magazines and all the latest news. With the explosion in apps, you can get dedicated software for even the most obscure of hobbies, and the choices for popular activities are endless. It might not be too long before our mobile phones can stand in for our credit and debit cards as mobile phone payment technology develops.
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Challenge for Manufacturers
The big challenge facing manufacturers now, is how to continue attracting new customers. The whole market tends towards homogenisation, and in truth the majority of high end smartphones offer much the same experience. This seems to be particularly clear with Windows Phone 7, because Microsoft have imposed strict hardware and software restrictions on the manufacturers, to ensure a solid experience for their users across the board. For manufacturers, this makes it pretty difficult to stand out from the crowd.
It’s easy enough for Apple to impose restrictions because they manufacture the iPhone too; it’s not so clear how it will work out for Microsoft. In any case, the fears about fragmentation seem to be overblown, when you consider the success of Android this year. They now offer devices at all price points, running different versions of the software, and fragmentation doesn’t seem to have stopped them from grabbing a bigger market share.
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Smartphone Battery Life
From a consumer point of view, the biggest single complaint from users has to be battery life. As we add more functionality we need more power to run it, but no-one wants a brick in their pocket. We need smaller and more efficient batteries and more convenient methods of recharging our phones. There are some wireless charging mats appearing on the market now, and also pocket solar chargers that you can carry around with you, but there needs to be some further developments here.
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What's Next for Smartphones?
The fact that you can have a mobile phone now, that is more powerful than your PC was just ten years ago, shows you how far they’ve come. Touchscreen technology, video calls and GPS have become standard expectations. However, as our expectations rise the manufacturers continue to push forward new ideas. There will be handsets in the New Year capable of playing 3D movies. They need to constantly seek out new hooks to pull us in (though you have to wonder if 3D on a phone is a good hook).
Of course with wireless network speeds improving all the time and 4G coming in, we could see a move away from ever more powerful hardware. There are plenty of companies trying to create services in the gaming industry right now, that will allow you to play the latest games on remote hardware. This means you can have a lightweight system, or even just a TV and a controller, and play the latest release on a high spec machine, which you are effectively renting and remote controlling for the night. Why make phones more powerful, and more power hungry, when you could just stream the latest functionality from remote hardware?
We’ll just have to wait and see what comes along next.
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2010 Smartphone War
The big winners in the 2010 mobile phones market are the main Android phone manufacturers, HTC, Samsung and, to a lesser extent LG, who have all shifted huge numbers of Android handsets. As the platform matures it seems to be offering more and more, and as a consequence it is attracting more and more consumers.
Apple continues to do well with the iPhone 4 but there is no longer much of a gap between their innovative devices and the other smartphones on the market. Powerful touchscreen smartphones are flooding the market, and numbers of apps and games on other platforms are growing fast. They’ll have to work hard to maintain that edge in terms of desirability.
RIM seems to be dropping behind the competition a little, as both iPhone and Android get better at handling business needs. The new BlackBerry releases seem a bit underpowered compared to the latest smartphones from other manufacturers.
Nokia has definitely lost market share and seems slow to target the high end smartphone sector. Their new releases also seem a little underpowered when compared to some of the latest offerings from other companies. They may be down but they aren’t out, and it would be a mistake to underestimate such a successful player; they’re also still dominating the cheaper end of the market.
The new kids on the block are Microsoft with Windows Phone 7. They’ve ditched the Windows Mobile OS and designed an all new shiny platform aimed at the mass market. The integration of Zune and Xbox Live for media and gaming looks to be a smart move, and Windows Phone 7 could take off. HTC, Samsung and LG have all been quick to release new WP7 handsets.
We take a look at the main battles in the smartphone market in 2010, speculate about what the future might hold for mobile phones and then run through the biggest releases of 2010 in search of the best smartphone out there.