The end of one year only means we look forward to the beginning of the next. This is always an exciting time for technology. Every year it seems we see new gadgets and new breakthroughs. In 2012 we could see a number of them. In fact, given the pace of smartphone adoption, we could be in for a huge 2012 in technology. More buyers means a bigger market, which means more products and research. That could lead to big changes. Here are a few things we might look forward to in the new year.
1. Tablets as powerful as laptops
Asus is actually getting a head start on this front. The Transformer Prime is a quad-core tablet, and it will start to approach the power of a laptop — it even comes with a keyboard dock that makes it seem more like a laptop. With Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich operating system ready to go, more and more tablet manufacturers could create high-powered devices running Android.
That’s not even to mention the iPad. We’ll likely see at least one new iPad in 2012, and it figures to make some big improvements over the iPad 2. We’re talking faster processor, better screen, and in general a device that starts to resemble a flat MacBook. With all of the accessories and docks available for these tablets, it’s easy to see them turning into primary devices for some people.
By the end of 2012, we very well might see an emerging trend of people writing at Starbucks on tablet devices, rather than laptops.
2. Smartphones as powerful as tablets
Here’s where things get even more exciting. While the tablet market is just growing, the smartphone market is hitting its stride in a major way. A recent Nielsen report noted enormous growth in smartphone adoption in the past few years. We’re getting to the point where the trailing demographics will start to catch up, which will mean even more smartphones on the market. On the high end will be smartphones that will rival tablets for computing power.
Already we’ve seen quad-core smartphones. While those will be the outliers in 2012, the dual-core smartphone will become the standard. Even the BlackBerry will feature at least one dual-core model in 2012. These devices will pack plenty of power and will be able to accomplish even more tasks. In fact, the only real difference between tablets now and smartphones in 2012 is screen size. Though, again, that will become less of an obstacle with the increased processing power.
Of course, with these more powerful devices comes a cost. We’ll need another development to go along with these.
3. More efficient battery life
If there is any downside to the recent advancements in smartphone and cellular technology, it’s the incredible strain put on batteries. The first LTE smartphones, launched commercially this year, faced battery issues from the get-go. The 4G signal simply rips through battery life. Combine that with ever-increasing processor speeds and screen resolution, and you have a tough situation. Extended batteries might suit some, but they take away from the smartphone’s main advantage: its size.
As smartphones become more powerful, energy efficiency will become an important issue. Perhaps some of this breakthrough can come through software. That is, there’s a chance that we can create software that better manages battery life using current technology. But chances are we’re due for another upgrade in hardware. This will be huge for smartphones. Longer battery life means many more possibilities. Imagine being a developer, either of hardware or software, and no longer facing the limitations of the current lithium-ion batteries. It certainly opens up a world of possibilities.
While it might not be as sexy as more powerful smartphones and tablets, more efficient batteries will help power future progress. In other words, it will make those more powerful devices possible.
4. The great unknown
The great part about technological advancement is that we often cannot see where it’s going. Who knew that the iPhone would spur an entire smartphone market? Who knew that people deeply wanted tablet computers to go along with their desktops and laptops? Surely we’ll see new developments such as this in 2012: things we didn’t even imagine previously.
Even on a device level we’ll see plenty of the unknown. Apple loves revealing one big new feature with every new iPhone. The iPhone 5 will certainly change the game in one way or another. Google doesn’t like playing second fiddle, so you can be sure they’ll add plenty of new features to Android handsets. The competition will keep them all fresh, and we the consumer will benefit.
This makes for a great discussion question. Which potential technological developments are you most excited about in 2012?