By Stephen Schenck | November 6, 2012 10:05 AM
Let’s play a little game of make-believe: pretend you’re not tied down to any one carrier, pretend you don’t have to wait for a specific time until you can upgrade to a new device, and pretend your current phone is working just fine for the moment. Should you think about picking up a new smartphone now, with all the hot models either already available or set to arrive before the end of the year, or should you stick with your current handset in the hopes that something better comes along? From where I stand, I think your best bet is to wait, and I’d like to explain why.
When dealing with an open-ended opportunity to move to a brand new smartphone, like I’m talking about here, it’s very easy to get stuck in a “just around the corner” rut. Sure, there’s good stuff today, but won’t tomorrow’s stuff always be just a little bit better? Spend too much time in this mindset, and you never end up buying another phone again. While acknowledging that risk, I really think that holding-off a purchase until the early months of 2013 could be a smart move.
So, what’s so great that it’s worth ignoring the iPhone 5, Lumia 920 and Windows Phone 8X, and any number of high-end Androids? Don’t get me wrong; there’s no one überphone I’m expecting for next year that’s going to put everything else to shame, but we’re seeing the start of a whole lot of new things that I feel are still going to take a little time to fully mature. Let’s take a look at a few of them that I’m expecting to see take the spotlight in 2013:
Good, Getting Better
We’re right on the cusp of seeing smartphones adopt some impressive new architectures. Apple’s already started branching out on its own with the development of the A6 chip, and the lessons it’s learned from working on this silicon are only going to make its future offerings all the better.
While Apple heads down that road, we’re going to see Cortex A15-based SoCs start to dominate the high-end of the Android market, as they’ve begun to with the Nexus 10. NVIDIA should have its Tegra 4 platform arriving early next year, and offerings from TI should follow.
When you look at that early benchmark data that’s available for the Nexus 10, though, it’s clear that while its SoC has some definite strengths, it’s still not the all-around powerhouse that it has the potential to be. The move to A15 is going to be a big deal for smartphones, but it might take a little time still before we see really optimized implementations that show off the architecture’s full potential.
I don’t think that it will make as big of an impact on the smartphone landscape as A15 cores, but I’m still very curious to see how the arrival of 1080p displays is received. Already, there’s a lot of backlash, some of it arguably well-deserved, but we’ve yet to see just how these phones look, what impact such screens will have on battery life, and how developers might seek to take full advantage of displays with 2.25 times the pixels of today’s 720p models.
Phones like the HTC Droid DNA could hook you up with this kind of tech before the year’s out, but I wouldn’t recommend jumping on one just yet; by the time spring’s rolling around, we should see not only the second wave of 1080p smartphones looming over the horizon, but have a much better sense for just how important (or not) these kind of displays really are.
It’s not just having better choices when it comes to hardware that I think make waiting until 2013 a smart move; there’s a lot that’s set to happen on the software side, as well, with some big developments for mobile platforms in our future.
Sure, there are things like Firefox OS coming up that sound really interesting, but I don’t think anyone’s going to put off a phone purchase just to see how that project ends up coming together. As I see it, the big one to watch is going to be RIM with BlackBerry 10.
I know, it can seem like RIM’s beating a dead horse by now, but there’s still the potential that BB10 could really end up wowing users, maybe even in a way that Android, Windows Phone, and iOS have failed to. I’m not holding my breath or anything, but between some of what we’ve heard about the hardware, enthusiasm from the carriers, and RIM having more than enough time to work out all the kinks, there’s a very real possibility that RIM could end up with something worth getting excited about. If you can wait until the start of Q2 to buy a new phone, RIM might have some options that demand serious consideration.
I’m also very interested in seeing what’s next from Windows Phone. For all the changes coming to the platform with Windows Phone 8, I can’t help but find myself asking, “that’s it?”. We’ve already heard that the release of the OS was a bit rushed, and Microsoft didn’t get a chance to address everything that it would’ve like to. Maybe by when we’re seeing the next Mango, WP8 will be able to attract some users who just aren’t considering the platform at the present.
While I’m on the subject of WP8, there’s still hope that Microsoft might end up introducing its own Windows Phone handset, and it could be as big for WP8 as Nexus models are for Android. If Microsoft channels all of its experience with OEMs into this project, doing things right where all those other guys might have missed the mark, that could be the smartphone to finally draw mainstream attention to the platform.
It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
Let’s not forget about what the early months of the year mean for smartphones: it’s expo season! Between the Consumer Electronics Show in January and the Mobile World Congress in February, we’re going to see a lot of great hardware set for release during the first half of 2013 revealed for the first time. Sure, it could still be a significant wait before you’re able to purchase much of the gear demoed at these events, but at least waiting for all the announcements they’ll bring will leave you with a much better picture of what to expect in the near future; even if you end up not wanting to wait much past then, you’d still end up making your next phone purchase as a much more informed consumer.
Of course, you don’t have to take my advice on this. Even if you want to pick up a new phone this holiday season, there are still a lot of fantastic choices. Heck, get one now and then sell it six months down the line, moving on up to the new hottness. Just don’t let all my warnings of great new things over the horizon get the better of you; sooner or later, you’re still going to have to decide to take the plunge. For my money, though, that time just isn’t now.