January 2, 2012 12:20 pm

What will 2012 bring to mobile?

Ian Delaney pulls out his Crystal ball

GLOBAL – If there’s one thing for sure, everything will be faster in 2012. That’s a pretty safe bet for anything in the technology space. But Moore’s Law is even more likely to hold true in (still) emerging spaces like wireless communications. The processor in your phone at the end of 2012 will be faster than the one in the phone you’re holding today. It will also receive and transmit data a lot faster.

Speed on it’s own isn’t very interesting, though. It’s what greater speed allows you to do that makes it important.

Does it really matter if your apps open a few milliseconds faster? Or that games deliver a few more frames per second? I’d suggest not.

The need for speed

There’s even a perfectly reasonable argument that we’ve already gone too far with processor speeds.

If we could make the software more efficient, then it might be more sensible to slow down the clock and claw back some of those lost hours of battery life that have disappeared over the last two-three years.

Or maybe we can put the limited battery life of our phones to better use. A brighter flash for our photographs might be a better cause. Or higher frame rates in video recording. Or perhaps a personal projector?

To me, better data rates through the realisation of technologies like LTE are the most exciting. I want “proper” streaming video, and to be able to transmit live video from events. I want my email now, together with attachments.

Can't you just see yourself?

Cloud cover

The promise of cloud services has yet to be fully realised on mobile phones, too, because data rates have been too slow. The whole concept of attachments ought to wither away once access to the real documents, pictures and videos on a cloud server is feasible.

I’d suggest apps, too, are reaching the end of their day of glory. Why run a program on your phone when you could run a better, bigger one in the cloud that puts less strain on your phone’s battery and processor? The battle between thin  and fat clients on our laptops and desktop computers continues to rage, because there, power and battery life aren’t such an issue.

Mobile phones are natural thin clients, though: we will always want them to be light and long-lasting. Cloud services are actually a more apt fit for mobile than they have ever been for desktops.

The start of location

The second area that’s ripe for a rethink in 2012 is location-based services. It’s here that I think there will be more surprises.

At present, the most useful location service is still navigation. Public transport solutions are starting to get better. The others – checking in to places, restaurant reviews and so forth – don’t get a lot of use from me. If I want to find a restaurant, then I ask people. As for the game-style accumulation of points and badges, I’m not interested.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think interesting and very useful location services won’t happen, though. It means I don’t know what they are.

We’re always surprised when the future happens, though.

No-one thought SMS would catch on – “why type on a tiny keyboard when I can just phone them up?” No one believed in MMS – now the third most valuable mobile phone service (in terms of revenue). No one saw the point of cameras on a mobile phone when they first appeared.

The real winners of the mobile technology future are probably already with us, it’s just that they lack the final piece of polish or aren’t yet being used in the really clever way that will seem totally obvious once someone has actually thought of it.

It’s this unexpectedness; the strange tangents that the future takes, that keeps technology fresh and exciting.

So here’s to a surprising 2012.

image credits: Frogman!, klynslis