Could These New Smartphones and Phablets Spell Trouble For Apple?
CES 2013 and Mobile World Congress, the premier smartphone and tablet show in Barcelona, have come and gone. Some announcements like the HTC One were made outside of these events but we now have a good snapshot of the hottest smartphones and phablets (cross between a phone and a tablet) that will emerge in 2013. Of course, at some point this year all eyes will be on Apple to see what the next versions of the iPad and iPhone look like. Here are the devices we think stand out from the crowd along with some trends we’re watching.
The Galaxy S IV Could Be the Smartphone of the YearThe successor to the current strongest iPhone competitor (Samsung Galaxy S III) is called the Samsung Galaxy S IV and will be announced on March 14th. This could be the hottest smartphone of the year at least until Apple comes out with the iPhone 6. The rumored specs are very impressive from the 8-core processor to the big 5-inch, 450 ppi display:

  Galaxy S IV (rumored)

  • 5.0-inch, 1080 x 1920, 450 ppi display
  • Exynos 5 2 GHz A15 octo-core processor
  • 1.9 Ghz Snapdragon 600 GPU
  • 13 MP camera
  • 2600 mAh battery
  • 2 GB SD RAM
Galaxy S III

  • 4.8-inch 720 x 1280, 306 ppi display
  • Exynos 4 1.4 GHz A9 quad-core processor
  • ARM’s Mali-400/MP4 GPU
  • 8 MP camera
  • 2100 mAh battery
  • 1 GB SD RAM

As impressive as the specs for the Galaxy S IV hardware are, there are a bunch of cool new software features rumored to be included like one Samsung is calling Eye Scrolling. This feature track’s a user’s eyes so when you get to the bottom of the page the phone will automatically scroll the page up.

The Amazing New HTC One Was Announced Just Before MWCOne of the coolest phones we’ve seen this year, the HTC One was announced before MWC. It’s powered by the super-fast new Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor, has a new “UltraPixel” camera, which claims to have better sensitivity in low light, and has a large 4.7-inch super high resolution LCD display with 468 ppi (iPhone Retina is 326 ppi). It’s a nice looking and feeling phone due to a “zero gap” machined aluminum shell that mates seamlessly with polycarbonate pieces and the Gorilla Glass 2 display. The HTC One also includes a feature called BoomSound that uses Beats Audio technology to produce high quality audio
The New Super-Sized Galaxy Note 8 Is PhabulousWe’ve never been crazy about the name for this new category of smartphones but phablets appear to be sticking around for a while with new entrants from companies like Huawei and ZTE. We’re not sure if Samsung’s new 8-inch tablet-thing, the Galaxy Note 8, is a tablet or a phablet but it’s definitely one of the coolest products to come out recently. The Galaxy Note 8 has a 1280 x 800 screen, which just beats out the iPad Mini’s 1024 x 768 that is, until Apple releases the iPad Mini Retina (some day). The Note 8 includes a stylus that uses Wacom licensed pressure sensitive tablet technology along with Samsung’s own Touch Wiz UI. We understand it can come with HSPA+ or LTE, which turns this into a very large phablet. No word on price, carriers, or availability but this could be a competitor to both the iPad Mini and Nexus 7 tablet.
LG Optimus G Pro Competes Well With Samsung’s Note 2Another phablet to watch this year is the recently announced LG Optimus G Pro that sports a large 5.5-inch, 400 ppi IPS LCD display, which we actually prefer to AMOLED, a quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor, 13 MP camera and a large 3,140 mAh battery. One interesting feature, which seems a little like a novelty to us allows you to record from the front and rear camera at the same time in sort of a picture-in-picture presentation. It comes with lots of memory; 2 GB RAM, 32GB storage and even a microSD card slot for even more storage
Lenovo Introduces Intel to the Phablet MarketLenovo who is on a roll with their excellent laptops like the ThinkPad X1 Caron Touch, which we have tried ourselves and think is the most perfect laptop we’ve ever used, has introduced a phablet product called the IdeaPhone K900. It has the requisite 5.5-inch, 1080p display but unlike other phablets is not powered by an ARM processor rather a 2 GHz dual-core Z2580 Intel Atom processor code named Clover Trail+, which is the brand new successor to Intel’s Medfield mobile Atom processor.
  Intel Could Be on the Right Path With Bay TrailAlthough Clover Trail+ could prove to be an able competitor to ARM processors in the tablet or phablet space it’s still based on some older technology. The real contender in the “ARM race” may come later when Intel brings out its 22nm quad-core Bay Trail processor. It remains to be seen how Intel’s determination to shun ARM processors in favor of Atom x86 compatible processors will help them or hurt them.  
Two Chinese Manufacturers Are Making Moves in the Mobile MarketThese two Chinese companies may have a hard time competing with the established players like Apple and Samsung and but they are offering some compelling technology, which will most likely be priced very competitively. We’ll be watching them.
Take a ZTE Grand Memo Phablet They are not exactly household names, at least in this part of the world but expect to see more of ZTE (formerly Zhongxing Telecommunication Equipment Corporation) and Huawei in the future. At MWC, ZTE introduced their Grand Memo 5.7-inch phablets, which is powered by the brand new 1.7 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor. Unlike the similarly sized Samsung Galaxy Note 2, the Grand Memo doesn’t include a stylus. The Grand Memo includes some new fast charging technology that should help recharge its sizeable 3200 mAh battery. You’ll have to travel to China if you want to buy one anytime soon as there is no word yet on availability in the U.S.
Hurray for Huawei’s New Smartphone and PhabletHuawei had a big presence at this year’s CES showing off HDTV sets and what could be the world’s largest phablet, the Ascend Mate with a 6.1-inch screen and high capacity 4050 mAh battery. At MWC Huawei rolled out an Android smartphone called Ascend P2, which they are calling the “world’s fastest smartphone,” because it is the first one to incorporate an LTE Cat 4 chip, which can theoretically boost 4G speeds to 150mbps. The Ascend 2 has 4.5-inch display, a quad-core 1.8GHz processor, a 2,420 mAh battery and claims to be water and dust resistant.
  Smartphone Trend to Watch; Phones That Can Survive a Drop in the ToiletWe saw a Fujitsu phone at CES a couple of years ago that was unaffected by an immersion in a tub of water and we have seen the new nano-tech vaporization water proof coating from companies like liquipel so it doesn’t surprise us when we see more smartphone vendors like Sony and ZTE offer water resistant phones. It’s probably just a matter of time before all gadgets go through the vaporization machine to make them waterproof.  
Can These New Mobile Operating Systems Compete With Android and Apple?With Microsoft struggling to make a dent in the Android/iOS duopoly, you have to wonder how Mozilla with a new Firefox OS for smartphones, Tizen, and even Ubuntu plan on breaking up the reigning kings of the smartphone OS hill. Intel and Samsung are the driving force behind the Tizen OS, which incorporates Intel’s MeeGO and LiMo platforms as well as Samsung’s Badu OS. Other phone manufacturers in the Tizen Association include Huawei and Fujitsu. We suspect the first Tizen smartphones will come from Samsung and will be powered by an Intel Atom Medfield or Clover Trail processor. It remains to be seen if Intel can best ARM-based phones in performance and battery life. There were a couple of phones running the new Firefox OS including one from ZTE and Alcatel. While we suspect manufacturers hope to be able offer rock-bottom priced phones that run on virtually free operating systems there are still more questions than answers on these new operating and while we really love to see the competition especially in the form of open source operating systems, we still say it’s about apps and ecosystems, which are not easy to build up to a significant level to create demand.
Here’s One New Tablet That Caught Our EyeSony’s Xperia smartphone was well received at this year’s CES and at MWC Sony unveiled a tablet version. The 1920 x 1200, 10.1-inch Xperia Z Android tablet claims to be the world’s thinnest tablet at 6.9 mm beating the iPad’s 9.4 mm. It could also be the lightest at 495 grams including a 6,000 mAh battery compared to the iPad’s 652 grams but the iPad beats it in battery capacity at 11,666 mAh. A 16 GB, 1.5 GHz Qualcomm quad-core powered Xperia Z tablet goes on sale this spring for $499. Oh yeah, this tablet is also waterproof and able to be submerged for up to 30 minutes; that’s pretty cool

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