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Like it or hate it, 2016 was a turbulent year that provided a clear message: Our phones enable fantastic and fast communication. Here are 10 predictions about mobile technology trends in 2017, counting down to the most significant change to look out for.
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10. Apple carries on
Unfortunately, Apple has become boringly predictable. Expect iPad refreshes in March, and with the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference coming in late May or early June, expect new versions of iOS 11, watchOS, macOS and tvOS. There should be new phones in September and a final product release in October. Don't expect updates to Macs, but do expect an update to Apple TV with better hardware and possibly some new virtual reality (VR) features.
Will Apple release a surprise in 2017? Probably not. But what Apple could do -- though it would go against every fiber in Apple's DNA -- is buy an expensive company such as Netflix, Tesla or Medtronic to enter the media creation, automotive and medical worlds.
9. Google pushes mobile
Google will release a new version of Android 8 (code-named Android O) at Google I/O in May, and the company will continue to up the ante on mobile services offered through Firebase. Expect more hardware from Google in 2017 with follow ups to Pixel phones, Google Home and Chromecast.
One area of interest amongst these mobile technology trends is Google's push into new consumer goods markets. Will we see a Google TV or game system? It's plausible, as Google likes to use consumers as a sounding board for what works and what does not.
8. Facebook makes moves under the radar
Expect Facebook to watch and acquire technology that may not have immediate relevance to the current mobile market, but will set the company up for big gains in the future. The acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp may have been the deals of the century.
7. Microsoft matters
Microsoft did something in 2016 that most thought would be impossible: It became relevant. Microsoft will continue to invest in the mobile market and cloud in 2017 and build on its solid foundation of Azure and Office 365 services. Like Google, Microsoft now delivers services that are both unexpected and delightful.
Two things that would be nice to see amongst these mobile technology trends in 2017 are an affordable HoloLens for consumers and a premium Windows phone that runs the full OS and raises the bar for power in a compact device.
6. Amazon flies off the shelves
Amazon will continue to push the barrier between digital and physical shopping experiences as they launch concept stores such as Amazon Go. Its cloud business will continue to grow as demand for cloud services continues to grow. Watch for new devices similar to Amazon Echo to hit the streets. Also, expect Amazon to experiment with new consumer devices leveraging the Echo brand.
5. Bluetooth 5 gains momentum
Most of our wireless devices have one thing in common: Bluetooth. The Bluetooth 5 will reportedly improve data-sharing abilities and reach through solid walls. Expect many premium devices to support Bluetooth 5 by the end of the year.
4. Death of the smart watch
Whether it is Apple Watch, Android Wear or Samsung Gear is irrelevant. Buyers are voting with their wallets, and they are voting not to buy smart watches. Apple leads the pack of smartwatches with its Apple Watch series, but even this mighty company is selling just over a million wrist devices per year. Expect the smartwatch fad to die down in 2017. Maybe it is time to pull out your old Casio Watch Calculator for that retro look.
VR is not new. Nintendo was playing around with it in the '90s with the Virtual Boy. But a key component of the technology is likely to be resolved in 2017: the uncanny valley. This term refers to a feeling people are watching something and it seems too perfect to be real. In 2017, expect virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality products that blend digital projections and reality so seamlessly that you will not know the difference.
2. IoT takes off
The promise of the internet of things (IoT) has been hot for many years, but 2017 is going to see it go gangbusters. The price for sensors, services, communication protocols and infrastructure for analyzing data is hitting a perfect storm. Companies are lining up their first generation IoT products and pushing them out to market. Be prepared to have data on every part of your life.
1. Social commerce is the new primary platform
Mobile technology trends in 2016 set the foundation for what will be the massive success of 2017: social commerce. Social commerce is still new as a concept in the Western world, but Asian countries, especially China, are rapidly adopting the idea of buying while texting on platforms such as WeChat. The idea of social sharing leading to social buying will push platforms such as Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Apple's messenger program to be the top drivers of smartphone use. Social commerce is not only mobile first, but it also puts a priority on true one-to-one engagement.
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