TechWeekEurope’s Crystal Balls: Please Make Mobile Interesting!

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Peter Judge

Facebook will buy RIM, Firefox OS will rule the world and Apple will launch the same iPhone over and over again, says Peter Judge

The mobile phone industry is fast-moving, and full of change, right? Wrong! In 2012, pretty much nothing has happened.

We started the year with Apple’s iPhone looking faded, and Android overtaking it. RIM was on its last legs, and Windows Phone was an also-ran. We end the year in exactly the same place.

iPhone 5 FeaturedAmong the “highlights”: Apple launched a dull quasi-facsimile of the iPhone 4 in the shape of the iPhone 5 in September, Android overhauled it, Microsoft/Nokia spent all year talking about how great Windows Phone is as version 8 arrives, and RIM spent all year talking about how great BB10 will be.

iPhone – a celebrity,not a phone

Apple’s iPhone is not a phone, it is a celebrity. Few are interested in it for what it is capable of. They simply queue up to see it or buy it, and rip it apart when it fails. This year’s failure was minor compared with the Antennagate of previous versions – Apple Maps didn’t work very well, and the Cupertino crew had to reluctantly slink back to Google.

Android phones, meanwhile, made gains in performance and market share, as Samsung took the lead in the number of phones sold. Leading Android makers all had an appointment in court with Apple in the most tiresome game of legal Risk ever

Every one who has used Windows Phone (myself included) acknowledges it is a really well-designed and useful system, which deserves a decent share of the market. No one is completely convinced though, and a bunch of adverts emphasising that Windows Phone users are all little individuals seems unlikely to change that.

Microsoft’s budget to promote Windows Phone 8 is still rather full – and its tie-in with the laptop-and-tablet OS,Windows 8, will ensure we spend all of next year in the same status of wondering whether this system will achieve its potential.

Perhaps the biggest surprise  of 2012 was the fact that RIM is still alive at the end of it, even having failed to deliver the new system BB10, or make any other significant changes at all to its business.

So what will happen in 2013? Frankly, after this year, we wouldn’t bet on anything happening at all.

But predictions are all about spurious excitement, so let’s go for it. Here are three:

Facebook buys RIM   

Facebook  still needs some mobile strength. You might say it would be stupid for it to actually own a phone maker and compete in hardware. But then, you’d have said something similar about it buying Instagram. Facebook and RIM have the same customer base: kids, and aspire to the same – grown-ups  They may try to avoid it, but this match made in heaven has to be inevitable, doesn’t it?

Apple’s next iPhone is a different colour  

Apple has long since run out of inspiration, and with each successive iPhone it becomes harder to spot any discernible improvement. But this makes no difference to the level of frenzy that arrives with each iteration. So, next time round, the company is just going to go with it, making a new iPhone identical to the old one in every way except for a small cosmetic change, and the world still goes mental.  We’ve had black and white though – so what colour will be next?  Oh come on, don’t expect us to second-guess the design genius of the world’s largest privately held corporation. Besides, it would spoil the, erm, excitement.

Firefox OS becomes top phone

No one else seems to have new ideas, so let’s ring in the new with a different operating system. Firefox OS is designed to run HTML5 apps, and run on cheap hardware, so it could have a bigger market to address than the others. Firefox has been talking about deals with operators in emerging markets, which the other players don’t really address properly, and 2013 should see actual phones arrive.

Please, Santa, can you make this happen? Anything to alleviate the crushing boredom of mobile phones in 2012.

Try our Christmas quiz! It’s more interesting than mobile phones!

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