Yes, we know. The iPhone is the best selling smartphone in history. Does that make it the best? Does it have the latest and greatest technological innovations inside? Sure, it’s a beautifully crafted device for people that love what technology can do, but perhaps don’t necessarily want it to be too technical. It’s difficult to sum up why it is so popular without being offensive or obtuse, but really, it boils down to marketing, ease of use, and these two things contribute to its overall appeal. That being said, it won’t remain like this forever. Apple has a knack for adding technologies to their portfolio in a way that makes it seem like they are the ones that came up with it. This, however, isn’t the case. For anyone that knows what is inside today’s smartphones, they know that many, many researchers and companies are hard at work coming up with new designs, new technologies, and are working at a furious pace to improve the overall technological landscape. With this in mind, what sort of technological innovations can we look forward to in the months and years ahead? Let’s take a peak, shall we?

Waterproof Devices

Several Japanese manufacturers including Panasonic and Fujitsu are pioneers in this space, and are bringing to market Android devices that are not just water resistant, but actually waterproof. For anyone that has ever lost a $500+ device because of the rain, or because they accidentally dropped it into a toilet, this will come as a huge step forward!


Self Charging Technologies

Dual cores, quad cores – so what? Aside from the absolutely massive battery (3300mAh) in the RAZR MAXX, most devices can run out of juice pretty quickly when put under ultra heavy loads. That being said, a brilliant team of researchers at the University of Cambridge is hard at work on a variety of technologies designed to curtail excessive energy waste and to extend and contribute to overall battery life.

To extend the time between charges, the research group created a prototype device that converts ambient light into electricity using an array of  solar cells made up of super thin film “hydrogenated amorphous” silicon that fits within the phones display. Essentially you can think of it as a solar cell inserted in between the display that collect residual light in between charges. It’s smart because it’s currently an unused venue for harvesting additional power, and because it takes advantage of the smartphone display’s large footprint. The research team went on to say that in a typical organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display, most of the light generated actually escapes out of the sides, with only about 36% actually being projected onto the front of the screen. That means that 64% escapes out of the sides. They wanted to take it a step further and harness this wasted light by putting thin-film photo voltaic cells around the display’s edges as well.

 More on this here

Ultra Rapid Charging

Researchers have long aspired to create a battery that is both long lasting, and fast charging. With significant applications for the medical, military, and commercial sectors, battery research is finally yielding some breakthroughs. Findings recently published in the March 20 online edition of the journal Nature Nanotechnology featured a group that developed a three-dimensional nanostructure for battery cathodes that enables significantly faster charging and discharging without giving up energy storage capacity.

“This system that we have gives you capacitor-like power with battery-like energy,” said Braun, a professor of materials science and engineering. “Most capacitors store very little energy. They can release it very fast, but they can’t hold much. Most batteries store a reasonably large amount of energy, but they can’t provide or receive energy rapidly. This does both.”

The performance of typical nickel metal hydride (NiMH) or lithium-ion (Li-ion) rechargeable batteries typically degrades substantially when they are either charged rapidly or discharged. The research group, led by Professor Braun, wrapped a very thin film into three-dimensional structure, which enable the battery to achieve the holy grail of battery achievement: high active volume (high capacity) and large current. They demonstrated that the battery electrodes can charge or discharge in a few seconds, 10 to 100 times faster than equivalent bulk electrodes, but can can still perform normally in existing consumer devices, like smartphones and tablets, and much more.

Remarkably, this kind of battery technology could soon lead to our smartphones, tablets, and notebooks being able to charge in minutes or even one day, seconds, thus removing the necessity for overnight charging. As our devices get more and more powerful, improvements in the area of battery technology such as this will likely be a very welcome addition, wouldn’t you agree?

More on this here, here, and here

Quad-Core, Octo-Core & More

Over the next few months, there’s going to be a ton of Quad (5 core, actually) Tegra 3 devices hitting the market. We’ve got the Lenovo K2010, with its 2GB of RAM and 1080p display, we’ve got the ASUS Transformer Prime, and the 700T variant with its 1080p display, and the ASUS Memo 370T, which comes in a 7 inch form factor, but is said to launch at the $249 price point. And there’s lots more coming too! In our discussion with NVIDIA and ARM, both are already actively working on octo (8) core SoC’s, which should be arriving in devices sometime in 2013. The thing to remember is that both companies have already demonstrated that they are increasing performance beyond that of Moore’s law, and that the trend is accelerating.

Not too long ago, Samsung disclosed that they were actively working on a dual core 2 Ghz Cortex A15 chip called Exynos 5250.  Despite not being quad or even eight core, this dual core 2 Ghz Cortex A15 chip is reputed to be at least 2.5x as powerful as the current dual core 1.2 Ghz Cortex A9 chip in the Galaxy S2.

Furthermore, Samsung demoed a 10 inch display that featured a resolution of 2560×1600, which blows away current resolution on tablets not even released yet. Our writer Lucian Armasu tracked down some intel on this beast in this post here.

We should all look forward to insanely powerful devices in the years ahead, with this trend unlikely to ever stop. Of course, necessity is the mother of innovation, and in this case, I am confident that display technologies will continually improve, as will the batteries that continue to power the devices we know and love. More on this to come.

Ultra HD Displays – Beyond 1080p

Not too long ago, Toshiba demonstrated what many consider to be the highest resolution display ever created for a mobile device.

Here’s the specs: 

  • 6.1-inch LCD (to be further miniaturized to 4.65inch, and increase up to 10.1 inches, too)
  • 2560×1600 resolution
  • an extremely high density of 498 pixels per inch
  • dubbed “photographic quality,” Toshiba said it even adds a sense of depth in 2D.
  • 1000:1 contrast ratio and wide 176-degree viewing angles.
  • Its color accuracy at 61 percent of the NTSC color range, which is substantially better than any mobile display on the market
  • 3D capable

People always ask me, why do we need quad-core? Why do we need that much power? The truth is, with such extremely high resolution displays coming to our mobile devices in the near future, extremely powerful and responsive hardware will be required to maintain the 60 frames per second we demand as consumers, for smooth performance. Imagine how many pixels need to be changed simultaneously, even with a quick flick of the finger, as the screen has to redraw absolutely everything – at 60 frames per second. That’s a lot of calculations folks.  This particular display created by Toshiba has a resolution four times that of the iPad 1 & 2.

Rumors are persisting that Apple is aggressively courting Toshiba, as they’ve essentially burned a lot of bridges with their largest component supplier, Samsung, and many companies are actually actively withholding their latest and greatest from Apple in the hopes that they can bring their own devices to market, with their own technologies on board. That being said, companies love money, and that’s something Apple has a lot of.

Either way, we can all look forward to glorious HD filled futures, whether the displays are in our smartphones or tablets!

More on this here.

Biometric Authentication Technology

Here we have another design win out of Fujitsu, which looks to radically improve the security of our devices. To any of you that have followed the incorporation of Face Unlock in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, first featured in the Galaxy Nexus, this will likely be something that you are interested in.

Fujitsu has worked very hard to develop a “contactless palm vein pattern authentication technology” that uses our highly unique vascular patterns as personal identification data. Vein recognition technology is pretty much as secure as it gets because the authentication data exists inside the body itself, and is therefore almost impossible to forge. In their tests, they also showed that it is also highly accurate — in testing over 140,000 palm profiles of 70,000 individuals, it had a false acceptance rate of less than 0.00008% and a false rejection rate of 0.01%. Not bad eh? Maybe time to bust out the tinfoil hats, people. Either way, it’s way more secure than Face Unlock, which can be duped by a photo. Finger prints can be read and replicated, thus foiling finger print readers like the one in the Motorola Atrix. Do you feel like your device is already secure enough? Would you welcome this additional security feature on your Android device?

More on this here.

 Ultra Fast Wireless File Transfer Between Devices 

Toshiba has come up with a wireless transfer protocol, called Transfer Jet, which looks like it has potential to revolutionize the way we transfer data in between devices. Got a 1GB 720p movie? Good luck Bluetoothing that. How about Wifi then? No thanks, still too long. Transfer Jet is a 360Mbps wireless transfer protocol that is able to send large files lightning quick.

More on Transfer Jet here!

Smudge Proof Displays

We know, we know. You’ve got a beautiful device, but you’ve got greasy hands, right? Well, everyone does. It’s always a nuisance to to have to rub it clean, but it’s looking like this won’t always be the case. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research have released some findings on an inexpensive way to coat displays with a “liquid-droplet” repellent. Check out the video below.

They discovered that by collecting soot from a burning candle that they could further heat the soot to enable calcination to occur, thus making the soot transparent. After testing this surface, the researchers found out that it was extremely durable, and could even withstand sandblasting. Most importantly though, they realized it had other unique properties, and when the surface was sprayed with different liquids and water, the droplets “bounced up and down on the surface, became spherical, rolled off and left absolutely nothing behind”. Pretty cool, right? Hopefully, we can all look forward to touchscreen displays that are water resistant, oil resistant, and soon – smudge proof!

What Are You Most Excited About? 

We’ve got a lot to look forward to, folks. Whether it’s faster processing, more intuitive software with Android 5.0 Jelly Bean, brighter and more astonishing displays, more RAM, increased storage, self charging devices, thinner devices, waterproof, dust proof, smudge proof, you name it, it’s coming. It’s a lot to take in, I know. IF we know one thing about the pace of innovation is that it’s not slowing down any time soon. Which Android device manufacturer is best positioned to take advantage of all of these amazing technological developments? Which one are you most excited about?

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