Happy New Year from the team!
What a year it’s been, and now on the first day of 2016 it’s time to take a brief look at what developments and trends we can look forward to in the mobile industry during the coming year.
Mobile tech in 2016
First off, one of the first events of importance to the mobile industry is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016, taking place in Las Vegas between the 6th and 9th January. While it’s not dedicated to the mobile industry, there are always dozens of exciting product announcements, new technologies, and gadgets relevant to the mobile world in one form or another. This year, as ever, we can expect wearables and smartwatches, connected drones, mobile phones, as well as laptops, computers, 4K televisions, and much more.
Keep an eye out in the coming week on Mobile Industry Review for further coverage of CES.
This year of course the smartphone manufacturers will update their flagship devices, packing in more technology than ever before. Samsung is set to unveil its Galaxy S7 range of phones sometime before Mobile World Congress, and just about every other phone company will also be doing their best this year to compete for your cash. Expect new devices from the likes of LG, HTC, Microsoft and of course Apple later in the year. Mobile World Congress is set to be bigger and better than ever, and our very own Ewan may well be attending this year, as he has in years past.
But what advances will smartphones bring this year? We can expect all the usual raft of improvements: faster processors (mostly from the likes of Qualcomm) and GPUs, as well as higher-resolution screens (more 4K models are a given) and more RAM. The flagship devices are where all the really exciting innovations are typically shown first. Perhaps more truly bendable and curved models will launch in 2016, though we’d like to see some of the modular devices see a commercial launch and become more widespread.
As far as mobile networks go, we’re still years away from commercial 5G networks, though in the meantime major carriers around the world are continuing expand their 4G offerings.
In the UK, Three have said they will continue to roll out VoLTE (voice over LTE), made possible by the 800 MHz spectrum, delivering higher call quality and faster connection times. Three says it will ensure customers can use VoLTE at no extra cost, and that 7.5 million subscribers will have access to it (if they have a compatible phone) by 2016.
4G coverage in general will also improve across the UK this year. In December, Vodafone said it had a respectable 68 percent 4G population coverage across 679 towns and cities, but ultimately plan to provide 4G to 98 percent of the UK population “as soon as possible”. The other operators are also improving 4G availability across the UK, giving a much-needed boost to mobile data speeds.
We can also expect other operators around the world to offer more flexible and innovative tariffs. T-Mobile US has consistently been one of the most disruptive networks across the pond, with its “uncarrier” initiatives bringing better value to customers. Their recent Binge On service gives users unlimited streaming for a selection of popular sites, by optimising video for mobile transmission – hopefully achieving more stable playback (typically by sacrificing quality slightly).
T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere is also widely regarded as one of the most forward-thinking tech leaders in mobile – it’s great to have somebody with personality and great ideas at the helm: how many CEOs of the UK operators can you name after all?
Wearable devices have become one of the hot growth segments in mobile tech, including hardware such as smartwatches, fitness trackers, and smart clothing. While many such devices aren’t directly network-connected without a paired smartphone, smartwatches in particular will increasingly have built-in mobile and WiFi connectivity, making them much more independent from mobile phones.
Apple, Samsung, Motorola, LG, HTC, and many more companies will no doubt show off their latest wares as the year progresses. It’s an exciting category that just a few years ago was almost non-existent, and is already worth billions of dollars a year.
Even though many people think of wearables as just wrist-worn devices, there are many other applications, uses and form-factors. For example, the United States’ 2015 NFL season saw all players fitted with special RFID chips that could transmit stats on position, pace, and acceleration. The data can then be used by sports scientists and coaches to analyse player fitness and learn valuable insights about team performance. This year the technology could be used by the broadcasters to enhance their sports coverage and analysis.
That’s just one example in which wearables are set to have an even greater impact in 2016.
We’ve only covered a small selection of mobile tech developments and predictions for 2016.
As always, there will be a few surprises with startups developing unexpected new products and cool devices. Some of the smartphone manufacturers may even fold or merge as a result of difficulties in making profits in a cutthroat business, and there may be further consolidation across mobile operators especially in Europe.
But whatever 2016 has in store, it’s all set to be an incredibly exciting year…