What to expect from the wireless industry in 2013

January 2, 2013

Staff Report

Faster data speeds. Rapid-fire communication. Bigger screens. The wireless industry is creeping ever closer to instantaneous interaction all the time, according to mobile experts.

Noah Kravitz, a mobile expert and founder of the new consumer buyer’s guide FutureSmarter.com, believes the wireless industry is going to see a boom in convenience and speed over the next year.

Wireless providers, device manufacturers, app developers and network service providers are all working to offer consumers a greater range of flexibility than ever before, whether it is in the form of payment, upgraded devices or network connectivity.

Society dictates a need for convenient technology,” Kravitz said. “What is particularly exciting about the wireless industry is the cross-section between technology as entertainment and technology as communication, and how to accommodate for both.”

Heading into 2013, Kravitz, in partnership with U.S. Cellular, anticipates the following five trends that will pulse through the wireless industry over the next year:

1. 4G LTE — Next-generation 4G LTE networks are bringing broadband speeds to mobile device users in more parts of the country every day. As smartphones and tablets take the place of computers, access to high-speed downloads and uploads via 4G LTE allows users to stream music, movies and TV shows, share and upload photos and video clips, and access websites, social networks and important documents on-the-go. More and more carriers are rolling out 4G LTE. For example, U.S. Cellular announced that more than 58 percent of their customers across the country will have access to 4G LTE by the end of 2012 and 87 percent will have access by the end of 2013.

2. Unlimited data — That old saying, “Talk is cheap”? It’s never been truer. Over the past five years, we’ve seen mobile voice minutes become a near-free commodity, while consumer demand for more and faster mobile data has been on the rise. While truly unlimited data plans are going the way of the dinosaur, most consumers don’t actually need unlimited data. Look for carriers to experiment with ways to offer tiered data plans that base value on the number of bits customers are actually using.

3. Screen size — Not five years ago, a 3.5-inch display on a smartphone was considered very big. Over the past three months, Samsung has sold 3 million units of the Samsung Galaxy Note II, which has a 5.5-inch display and is widely available from carriers like U.S. Cellular. What is happening to smartphone screen size, and when will “huge” become “big enough”?

4. Social networking integration — Calling begat e-mailing. E-mailing begat texting. Texting begat instant messaging. And now, Facebook and Twitter messaging are threatening to usurp them all. Facebook, like AOL in the late 1990s, is almost as big as the rest of the web itself. Twitter breaks news faster than live TV. Social networking on smartphones is more than apps and links — it’s about system level integration that keeps tweets, tags, alerts and uploads at your fingertips.

5. Tablets — PCs, as we know them, may not be dead just yet, but tablets are hot. Consumers are embracing the intuitiveness and portability that tablets offer, and manufacturers are finding ways to pack dual and quad-core processing power into touch-based computers selling for less than $200, in some cases.

For more about Kravitz’s 2013 mobile trend predictions, visit Twitter.com/noahkravitz.

From the Jan. 2-8, 2013, issue

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