The mobile features that could succeed in 2009

Summary:2008 already proved the success of open mobile operating systems, GPS and touchscreens, but next year's recession-hit scene is likely to show only incremental advances

... soon include such technology. Adding a compass to GPS, browsers and inbuilt cameras makes it possible to really exploit geotagging by pointing at, say, a statue, photographing it and automatically finding out what it is. The potential for targeted advertising is huge, which may be one reason why a compass is included inside the Google Android T-Mobile G1 phone.

Economy aside, the biggest wildcard in mobile technology in 2009 will be the browser. Gone are the days where you take what comes with the phone — except, perhaps, on the iPhone. Opera is fast becoming, for the mobile, what Firefox is for the desktop: the de-facto upstart — although it would be worthwhile to keep an eye on a new entrant, Skyfire. However, Google's Chrome is likely to go mobile soon, under the auspices of Android, and Firefox itself will attack the smallest screen in the form of Fennec. Assuming Mozilla has overcome the memory footprint issues that plagued early iterations of mobile Firefox, Fennec could do very well on the back of its desktop cousin's reputation.

The applications that run through those browsers will also evolve during the coming year. The beauty of the cloud is that the access device is becoming increasingly irrelevant, so serious, browser-based business tools are likely to mushroom during 2009.

Another area to watch will be that of the touchscreen. It is fair enough, by this point, to see the touchscreen as the way forward for all mobile devices — although there is something to be said for avoiding a touchscreen so as to save battery life — but it is the winning type that will be interesting to see. We are already very used to resistive touchscreens, as used in countless Windows Mobile phones over the past six or seven years, but the success of the iPhone has shown the world how much fun can be had with the capacitive variety.

Touchscreen evolution
Each type has its own strength — resistive screens are very useful for functions such as cut-and-paste, for example, but capacitive screens, which rely on the electrical charge of the user's fingers rather than pressure, make multi-touch functionality possible. Not many phones currently use capacitive touchscreens — the most prominent at the moment are the iPhone and the G1 — but others may appear in the coming year.

There is now even a third type of touchscreen, in the form of that used by RIM in its BlackBerry Storm handset. This variant uses a central pivot to allow proper tactile, audible clicks, but presents potential problems such as slowing down the user's typing speed. The success of the Storm, and RIM's decisions next year as to whether this clickable screen should find its way into further devices, will tell whether this flavour of the technology has a future.

Overall, 2009 will be the year of building on what we already have, with few new ideas finding the funding for exploitation.

Topics: Networking


David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't be paying many bills. His early journalistic career was spent in general news, working behind the scenes for BBC radio and on-air as a newsreader for independent stations. David's main focus is on communications, of both... Full Bio

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