5 Trends to Watch at CTIA Wireless 2012

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Samsung just announced the Galaxy S III at its own event. RIM did the same thing with BlackBerry 10. And LG and Motorola told us they're not showing any new devices at CTIA Wireless 2012, which is expected to draw 40,000 people to New Orleans starting May 7.

So what's there to look forward to at the biggest wireless show in North America? Actually, plenty, but this year the emphasis is more on apps, services and accessories instead of just hardware. Here's five trends we see for CTIA.

1. Mobile Payments Get a Real Push from MasterCard, Visa

Since Google Wallet launched last year, we've seen a serious lull in meaningful mobile payment news. But it looks like MasterCard will be making some noise at CTIA.

The company has a press event planned for June 7 at 6 p.m. ET, and we'll be there live covering the big announcement. Meanwhile, Visa's president will hopefully have some exciting stuff to share during his day two keynote, and American Express will be at the show.

Perhaps we'll finally hear more from the carriers around their Isis initiative. Similar to Google Wallet, you'll be able to use NFC-capable phones like the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy SIII to make purchases at retailers.

AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile say Isis-ready phones are coming this summer, but there's a big difference between the hardware being ready and the service being live.

2. Smaller Smartphone Players Try to Steal Spotlight

There's a smartphone race to the bottom — in a good way. While the highest-end devices get most of the attention, there are plenty of companies trying to deliver value-priced phones and tablets. Kyocera, Huawei, PCD and ZTE will all be on the CTIA show floor showing off new wares, but we'll also see relative unknowns trying to stand out. For instance, Plum Mobile (which has a logo that looks a lot like Palm's) will have a booth as will Unnecto, which makes dual-SIM smartphones.

3. Security, Security, Security

AVG. Bitdefender. Lookout Mobile Security. These are just some of the companies we'll see in New Orleans at the MobileFocus event May 8. And what are all of these firms protecting? Android phones and tablets, which makes sense given the incessant reports of malware and other threats.

Just this week, Android users were targeted by drive-by-download attacks via hacked websites. It's a race to see who can stay one step ahead of the bad guys. NQ Mobile will demonstrate a different kind of protection, an app that can shield your photos and other content you don't want prying eyes to see.

4. Can Anyone One-Up Siri?

The iPhone 4S's voice-powered assistant has inspired a lot understandable envy in the industry, which is why a number of companies are looking to push voice recognition in innovative new directions. Sensory will be showing off its TrulyHandsfree speech recognition for phones with features such as speaker verification and identification, as well as personalized wake-up words for devices. We also hope to spend some quality time with the Galaxy S III, which has a powerful S Voice engine.

5. Sprint and T-Mobile Step Up to LTE Plate

As psyched as we are that Sprint will be keeping its 4G LTE data plans unlimited, it's hard to get too excited about devices like the Galaxy Nexus and HTC EVO 4G LTE when we only know about six launch markets for mid-2012. Hopefully we'll learn more about which cities will come next instead of a blanket target like reaching 123 million people by the end of the year.

T-Mobile is even further behind AT&T and Verizon Wireless, so the provider will have to shed some more light on its LTE efforts to prevent subscribers from jumping ship. Some have even speculated that Sprint and T-Mobile might partner for their next-generation networks, but we’re skeptical. We hope to learn more about what’s next from all the carriers—and gain a little more insight into what’s next for 4G—when T-Mobile’s president joins the CEOs of AT&T, Sprint and Verizon on stage of the Keynote Carrier Roundtable on May 8tat 5:30 p.m. ET.