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It seems like only yesterday we were planning for the Mayan apocalypse, but like so many other products, the 14th b’ak’tun (next era) has been delayed due to bugs and lack of pre-orders. Yet if you talked to some pundits back in 2011, they’d have told you that the end of days was coming out in Q4 of 2012, along with its competitor, BlackBerry 10.
No doubt, in 2013, several long-rumored products will come to market. However, next year won’t be the year for these 13 gadgets and technologies.
The Speculation: After its success selling Amazon-branded Android tablets, the company will launch a smartphone that puts its content front and center and encouraging you to shop wherever you go. Some have even suggested that the company will make it easy to scan prices when you're in a retail store, just so you can see if Amazon sells the item cheaper. Taiwan Economic News recently reported that Foxconn will be manufacturing the handset, which will launch in Q3 or 2013 for $100 to $200.
Why It Won't Happen in 2013: Breaking into the U.S. smartphone market with any hope of success is extremely difficult for new players. The four major carriers rule their networks with an iron fist, either forcing phone vendors to go along with their software strategies or outright rejecting products that don't meet their immediate business goals. Just ask Google, which decided to release the Nexus 4 as an unlocked device rather than deal with AT&T and Verizon. (A subsidized version is available for T-Mobile.)
From a business perspective, playing in the smartphone space makes little sense for Amazon as the company's goal is not to sell phones but to sell media and dry goods through its online store. The company already has its shopping app preloaded as crapware on many Android devices, and the company could leverage these placements in 2013 by finally bringing Amazon instant video to Android devices and adding a price scanning app to the mix. Why spend money building and supporting a smartphone when you can just get users of other phones to buy the all the same products from you?
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The Speculation: Microsoft will launch the next major version of Windows, codenamed "Windows Blue," as soon as spring 2013. The new OS will get at least annual updates over the air so consumers and businesses with Blue always have the latest verison of the OS.
Why it Won't Happen in 2013: If the rumors are true, a company which usually releases operating systemson a three-year cadence will suddenly start selling a new mainstream operating system less than a year after Windows 8 launched. And before Microsoft starts selilng its next OS, it will no doubt go through months of public and developer previews as it has with Windows 7 and 8.
So, for Windows Blue to launch even as late as Q4 of 2013, Microsoft would have to announce a developer preview or public beta at the beginning of the year. With all the controversy surrounding Windows 8, news of another new Windows OS would convince users who were on the fence about upgrading to delay their purchases. Talk about Osborning yourself.
The Speculation: When Google released its Nexus 4 phone, users were shocked to learn that the device did not support 4G LTE, the fastest type of mobile network. To avoid dealing with carriers and building carrier-specific versions of its handset, the company decided to go with simple HSPA support, a decision Android head Andy Rubin called a "tactical issue.". Despite Rubin's comments, some believe that Google will eventually offer an LTE version of the Nexus 4, because it provided carrier-specific LTE versions of its prior-gen phone, the Galaxy Nexus. The Nexus 4 even has a disabled LTE radio inside of it, though this radio can only support a handful of bands that most areas of the U.S. don't use.
Why It Won't Happen: With the Nexus 4, Google is trying to make a point about its independence from carriers. Users who want a nearly-identical phone with LTE can already buy the LG Optimus G. However, not including LTE on phones is a poor long-term strategy. I wouldn't be surprised if Google's next handset, rumored to be the Motorola X, had LTE that worked with at least a couple of the major U.S. carriers' networks.
The Speculation: If you've been following the news lately you might expect to see wireless charging stations appear at all your favorite haunts in 2013. This past fall, Nokia, HTC and others released phones with Qi-standard wireless charging support built-in while. At the same time, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf announced its plan to install compatible charging pads in its tables and Virgin Atlantic said it will offer the same in its airport lounges. Jay Z also announced a partnership with Duracell to bring that company's charging mats to several New York hotspots, including his own 40/40 club. Could Starbucks, McDonald's, 7-11 and Chucky Cheese be next? Not in 2013.
Why it Won't Happen in 2013: While many new phones this fall support the Qi wireless charging standard, Samsung and Qualcomm have loaned their support to the competing Alliance for Wireless Power (AW4P) standard. There's nothing like a standards war to make restaurant chains invest millions in upgrading their infrastructure to support half a dozen phones, none of which is an iPhone. Don't expect to see many more public places with wireless charging until Apple picks a standard and builds support into its products.
The Speculation: Two years have passed since Nokia has jumped off the "burning platform" of developing its own phone OS and fully embraced Windows Phone. So what does former Microsoft exec Stephen Elop do for a follow-up? How about releasing a tablet.
After all, Elop said the following when speaking with analysts: "From an ecosystem perspective, there are benefits and synergies that exist between Windows and Windows Phone," Elop said. "We see that opportunity. We'll certainly consider those opportunities going forward." According to one popular rumor, the company plans to release a Windows RT slate with a battery-powered keyboard cover early in 2013. The tablet will allegedly come with wireless 4G service from carriers such as AT&T.
Why it Won't Happen in 2013: Nokia has had enough difficulty gaining market share in the smartphone space and, though things seem to be looking up for the Finnish company, its Devices and Services division lost 683 million Euros in Q3. Windows RT devices like the Microsoft Surface are by no means a proven commodity so Nokia would be jumping onto a whole new burning platform at a time when it needs to show stability and success. I think they'll pass.
More: 10 Best Tablets of 2012
The Speculation: If you have certain Sprint phones, today you can use Google Wallet to tap and pay at a handful of stores. On AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, you will soon be able to use a competing service called ISIS to turn your phone into a credit card. With all this activity, you might expect that, in 2013, all the major stores would support mobile payments. Not so fast there, Ms. Kardashian.
Why it Won't Happen in 2013: You may see a few more stores add support for one or both payment standards, but many phones, including the iPhone, don't have the NFC chip necessary to support them. Even worse, consumers have few incentives to switch from old fashioned credit and debit cards. Forrester Research Analyst Denee Carrington recently told us that mobile payments won't catch on until at least 2015.
The Speculation: Rumors of an Apple large-screen TV (aka the iTV) have been floating around for years. In late 2011, these rumors gained more credibility when Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs mentioned that the late Apple founder had plans for a TV set. In 2012, Apple CEO Tim Cook told NBC's Brian Williams that TV is "an area of intense interest" for his company. Now, many believe 2013 will be the year that Apple stops dropping hints and finally drop ships a product.
Why it Won't Happen in 2013: There's nothing stopping Apple from manufacturing an ordinary HDTV with iTunes and maybe some additional smart TV functions built-in. However, the company won't be content to ship that. It needs to partner with cable providers and TV networks, two very conservative groups, to offer a complete end-to-end service. It must also provide a better display than its competitors, perhaps an OLED screen that would push the price way up.
With the cable and display markets unlikely to change in the next 12 months, Apple will decide that it's better off pushing its services through an improved Apple TV set-top box, rather than getting into the TV business in 2013.
More: Best Smart TVs of 2012
The Speculation: Google has been working on a self-driving car for a couple of years now but it's not alone. Big automakers such as Ford, Cadillac and Volvo are developing their own autonomous vehicles. In the past two years, both Nevada and California have made the self-drivers street legal. Will we finally see someone selling them to the public in 2013? No.
Why it Won't Happen in 2013: Google's self-driving car technology is probably the closet to being ready, but the company is not an automaker and isn't likely to sell autos directly to the public. Even if one of the automakers felt it had a finished product, there are only a couple of states where drivers could use the car in its autonomous mode. With so much potential liability -- just imagine the lawsuit if one of these cars caused an accident -- we'll be reading about new testing and legal certifications for years before the first model hits a dealership.
The Speculation: Motorola is the king of the keyboard slider, having launched the original Droid with keyboard and then releasing three different sequels. The company's most recent entry, the Droid 4, came out last February on Verizon and launched on Sprint as the Photon 4G this past summer. If Motorola plans to continue offering keyboarded phones, it will need to release a Droid 5 some time in early 2013.
Why it Won't Happen in 2013: The other leading phone vendors have moved away from QWERTY phones in recent years, either giving up on them altogether or releasing them as under-featured budget phones such as the Samsung Stratosphere. Motorola's new owner Google hasn't put keyboards on its phones and, when the company launched its flagship devices this fall, it didn't even mention physical keyboards. Sadly, it looks like Motorola won't come out with another high-end keyboard slider.
The Speculation: BlackBerry's PlayBook was first released in 2011, an eternity in tablet years. With the company's new BlackBerry 10 OS coming in January, some speculate that RIM will update its slate. Though the old Playbook is still for sale, it has ancient specs like a 1024 x 600 screen and a dated design. If RIM wants to stay in this space, it needs to release a new model. A leaked roadmap even mentions a 10-inch Playbook code named "Blackforest."
Why it Won't Happen in 2013: Though the company shipped a surprisingly-high 255,000 Playbooks in Q3 of 2012, the tablet has never been a considered a success by anyone's standards. Meanwhile, RIM is losing market share in he smartphone space and needs to buckle down and focus on its core audience: smartphone users. If the company turns its fortunes around with BlackBerry 10 phones, we may see another tablet, but not in 2013.
The Speculation: For years, we've been hearing that Facebook would release a phone of its very own. In 2011, HTC even released the super-lame Status, a budget phone with the Facebook logo on it and some added Facebook integration. Could Facebook be planning to enter the market with a truly revolutionary handset in 2013?
Why it Won't Happen in 2013: Back in July, Mark Zuckerberg himself said that creating a phone "wouldn't make sense." To be fair, companies sometimes deny working on products that later turn out to be very real. However, in this case, you should take Zuck at his word. There's no real selling point to a Facebook phone when every phone on the market has Facebook integration. By making its own phone, Facebook might even alienate some of its partners.
The Speculation: CNET recently reported that Samsung Electronics will be showing off bendable displays at CES 2013. With the rumored Galaxy S IV phone expected to launch this spring and the inevitable Galaxy Note III, some believe we'll see the first phones to deploy this technology.
Why it Won't Happen in 2013: If Samsung's electronics division is first demoing the screen at CES 2013, it won't hit commercial products for at least another year. Also, in order for the phone itself to be flexible, the entire body must bend, something that may never happen. Samsung may use the flexible displays to create phones with slightly curved screens, but that won't happen in 2013.
Google Project Glass for Consumers
The Speculation: Google's Project Glass augmented reality goggles will be available as a developers kit in early 2013. If developers get their hands on the product in January or February, a full-fledged product release can't be too far behind, right?
Why it Won't Happen in 2013: Google co-founder Sergey Brin told Bloomberg in June that he would like to have a consumer version of Project Glass "within a year" after releasing the kit to developers. While it's always possible that the kit will come out in January and the product will ship in December, it seems unlikely that such a unique product will make its way from prototype to final that quickly. Don't expect to get your headset until 2014.