What 2011 Will Bring
LG and Motorola have had been playing an unusually high-stakes game of 'dueling leaks' this week. First, the LG Star was tipped to Engadget. It was said to have a dual-core Tegra 2 processor, an 8 MP camera and the ability to record in 1080p. The Google logo on the back means a stock version of Android...probably 2.3.
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The display is a healthy 4" and the launch date is some time "early 2011". That got the tech blogs salivating, and Motorola was quick to respond with these pictures of a dual-core Olympus smartphone with a giant screen. Rumors gave it Tegra 2, a 4.1" screen, 8 MP camera with 1080p recording, HDMI-out, a front-facing camera and Android 2.2.
Taken spec-by-spec, these phones don't differ much. A 4.1" display versus a 4.0" display. Identical processors and, presumably, RAM. Identical cameras (pending user reports) and front-facing cameras. Chances are, those are the specs we can look to see from most high-end smartphones through to the end of summer 2011. Next year's Evo and Galaxy equivalents may add in some RAM or larger/AMOLED screens, but the hardware will be broadly similar.
Both of these dual-core Superphones look like they will see multi-carrier launches. We can expect a wide spread of carriers for the Olympus. The Star's status as a With Google device makes me think we're unlikely to see it exclusive to any one network.
"4G" is going to become extremely common by the middle of 2011, especially among high-end devices. Which means that manufacturers will need to start looking towards new features to differentiate their products from a growing forest of nigh-identical handsets. Smartphone display size has continued to creep up past the 4" point. I think we'll see a healthy niche of "big" handsets at the 4.3-5" range.
It's worth considering Acer's smartphone/tablet. At 4.8", it is too large to fit in with the main file of smartphones. While most people probably won't want a phone that large, its other neat features (six-axis gyroscope!) and (likely) gaming focus will set it apart from the mass. It won't be the next Galaxy S, but it looks like one of those devices that could build a very loyal base of fans.