2013 review: Smartphones round-up

We take a look at the ups and downs in the world of mobility handsets

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  • E-Mail 2013 review: Smartphones round-up The smartphone industry has see a lot of upheaval in 2013.
By  Stephen McBride Published  December 29, 2013

Smartphones are increasingly the norm. In the Middle East alone, 40% of handsets are smartphones. The fact that the market gave a collective shrug over Apple's swanky new operating system and fingerprint-unlocking feature for the iPhone 5S, stands as testament to the attitude of mobility consumers. "Impress us," is the implied message and vendors are struggling to do so.

Apple's first-generation iPhones were eye-catching because they were something the electronics-buying public had not seen before. Vendors that were slow to react to new hardware trends suffered for it. Just ask BlackBerry.

Once capacitive touch, location suites, multimedia apps and imaging technology became standard the mobility battleground shrunk. Everything had been done. Coming up with models that would get attention now revolved around content. This is the hurdle Microsoft has had trouble with; criticism for its weak app ecosystem has come from analysts and vendor partners alike.

As 2014 approaches, the smartphone category is a two-horse race. Samsung looks unlikely to lose its comfortable lead on Apple and Microsoft's purchase of Nokia's devices business is an uncertain gambit, as the Redmond software giant's mobility gaps are not instantly plugged by the new property.

Chief among competitors' concerns next year will be emerging markets. Already several vendors can be seen tailoring their models to the budget pocket. Wearable tech has also emerged this year, but will need to do more and appeal to the budget-conscious consumer. The only innovations that seem likely are in this area, as it is a fledgling arena that is still discovering its limits.

In smartphones, the next step will be in flexible screens. Curved, rigid displays have already made an appearance but have proved little more than an aesthetic novelty. To stand out, vendors must now go further and figure out ways to make flexible handsets useful. If all that emerges is ornamental gadgetry, the market will shrug once more and it will be back to the drawing board for vendors.

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