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Top smartphone trends of 2011

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:smartphone technologies? mobile market? phone trends?

Keeping track of the big innovations in smartphones may seem a futile task. Smartphone technology has become more ubiquitous and the speed of mobile innovation increases every month. The changes, once recorded seem almost incremental when looked at through the year's rear view mirror.

As we begin the new year, it is worth recording some of the more significant episodes that left their mark on the mobile market in 2011, even at the risk of them falling flat as New Year's champagne come the morning of Jan 1st.

It also is not terribly easy to define what is and what is not a "big innovation" in mobile. Is it, for instance, a technology that is just beginning to emerge, and to wow people with its concept, or one that really found its feet this year? Does it have to be utterly revolutionary to make the cut, or simply point the way toward an interesting trend?

For the purpose of this highly subjective list, I've opted for a pick and mix variety; from processors to operating systems, to disruptive pricing models and increased network speeds.

It does not pretend to be comprehensive, nor does it aim to be definitive, and comments regarding your own selections areas evermost welcome.

Thus, without further ado, I'll begin this list with the smallest of components which arguably has the biggest effect on every generation of smartphones, the mobile application processor.

Early 2011 saw the introduction of the world's first dual-core phones and tablets, with Google Inc.'s Android leading the charge, as Nvidia Corp.'s Tegra 2 battled it out with Samsung Electronic's Hummingbird SoC, while Qualcomm Inc.'s Snapdragon and Texas Instrument Inc.'s Omap 4 soon closed the gap.

Indeed, according to Strategy Analytics, multicore smartphone processors accounted for almost 25 percent of all smartphone processors shipped in Q3 2011.

Tegra 2

Nvidia claims to have released the first mobile dual-core CPU.

Each manufacturer managed to put its own differentiating spin on its chip-ware, with some like TI and Samsung sticking closely to the ARM reference design while building up feature functionality around the chip, while Qualcomm significantly customized its chip architecture while integrating its own specialty features like baseband connectivity, and Nvidia focused heavily on its GPU.

Nvidia's Tegra 2 sported two ARM Cortex-A9 cores clocked at 1GHz, coming complete with an ARMv7 instruction set, made on a 40nm process technology.

TI's Omap 4 also uses dual Cortex-A9s, as well as two other ARM Cortex-M3s work to offload all real-time control processing, freeing up the main CPU. The platform was recently singled out by Google as the flagship chip to run its Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) operating system and believe it can hold its own even as rivals Nvidia and Qualcomm look toward quad core processing.

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