Mobile Tech Predictions for 2015
1.Fitness Sensors Everywhere
Fitness devices are exploding, and companies like Fitbit, Jawbone, Samsung and others are capitalizing on the craze. So in 2015, expect a ton of mobile devices to come with fitness hardware and sensors built in. You can bank on Samsung including another two or three in the Galaxy S6, but other manufacturers will look to cash in through low-power step and calorie counting, heart rate monitors and newer sensors like pulse oximeters and UV sensors.
With so many sensors in our phones and on our wrists, expect developers to harness this data in new, innovative ways. Tighter integration with wearables is also guaranteed, and I’m hoping we’ll see some new hardware features as well. Skin temperature sensors maybe? Perhaps a sweat level meter?
2.Quad HD with a Dash of 4K
Last year we saw the emergence of Quad HD (2560 x 1440) displays in devices like the Motorola Droid Turbo and samsung galaxy note 4. In 2015, we can expect that to become the norm across most flagships released in the year, especially those with larger displays. While I’m still not convinced of the benefits, upcoming more efficient displays and more powerful SoCs, should translate in less performance and battery life trade-offs compared to current-gen Quad HD devices.
I also expect Ultra HD displays to become a feature of high-end tablets and convertibles, especially in the 10 to 13″ size range. With 4K TVs and monitors becoming cheaper, and content more readily available, it wouldn’t surprise me to see flagship devices packing high-density 4K panels.
3.Optical Image Stabilization
Flagship smartphones dating back to 2012’s Nokia Lumia 920 have included OIS, which improves photography in lower light environments. But now that the iphone 6 plus has included the feature, alongside other flagships such as the LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4, expect it to become a mainstay in the feature set of 2015’s high-end phones, especially as companies look to improve their smartphone cameras in less than ideal lighting conditions.
As for other camera improvements, I’d expect most to fall on the software side. Companies have already hit a sensible sensor-size-to-resolution ratio, so we’re not going to see many changes on that front. But features like automatic HDR, simulated bokeh, and slow motion video could all use work, and adding new features wouldn’t go astray.
4.Insanely Fast LTE
In Australia, cellular network providers are busy rolling out Category 6 LTE Advanced with speeds up to 300 Mbps downstream. While these are well above what many nations around the globe can achieve with standard Category 3 (100 Mbps) deployments, it’s going to get faster in 2015. Several countries in Europe are trialing Category 9 LTE Advanced deployments with 3×20 MHz carrier aggregation for 450 Mpbs of downstream bandwidth. If Qualcomm can get Cat.9 modems on the market in 2015, we’ll be able to download apps on our phones significantly faster than most fixed-line home connections.
5.x86 to Take the Efficiency Crown
While ARM architectures have largely dominated the smartphone scene, one of the big battles to unleash in the mobile space is x86 versus ARM, and specifically which architecture and implementation can deliver the best performance vs. battery life. In 2014 this was slightly in favor of ARM, especially with Qualcomm’s high-end chips, but in 2015 I can see the tide turning to favor x86.
Intel’s Broadwell chips, while not as impressive as I would have liked in the yoga3 pro, are more energy efficient than Haswell while delivering performance above a high-end ARM processor. With Core M leading the way, and Cherry Trail around the corner, energy efficiency is a major strength of x86. Now that Android natively supports x86 through ART and Android 5.0, I’ll bet on most top-end tablets being powered by x86 internals, whether that’s Intel or even AMD, the latter of which is also focusing on efficiency with their 2015 releases.
However, x86 isn’t quite ready to push into the smartphone market, with most chips focusing on >4W devices. Intel recently released Moorefield and Merrifield chips for smartphones, but being based on Silvermont cores they’re not ready to fully compete with the best ARM has to offer. Watch this space though, because Intel can very quickly come to dominate a market.