What can we see in the Android ecosystem in 2014?
This is a Guest post by Harish J.
The growth of Android as an ecosystem has been steady, with 2013 bringing in a lot of technological advances. The year saw a lot of innovations, like full-HD screens, better cameras, devices with better battery life and faster hardware. What’s in store for Android this year?
Quad-HD and flexible screens
Full-HD screens were the norm for high-end devices in 2013, and this year, we should see quad-HD screens with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 being offered on flagship devices. Devices like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and LG G3 are rumoured to feature a quad-HD screen, with more high-devices sure to follow. More pixels on the screen naturally means that manufacturers can make larger screens without a noticeable loss in quality, and this year should see high-end devices with even bigger screens.
We could even see devices with flexible screens sometime later this year. Samsung and LG have launched their curved screen offerings with the Galaxy round and the G Flex, but this year should see the advent of flexible screens, now that Corning has figured out how to manufacture 3D Gorilla Glass.
Mobile hardware in the Android segment runs on ARM’s architecture. With ARM launching the 64-bit Cortex A53 and Cortex A57 cores, it should not be long before manufacturers tweak these cores and come out with their own versions.
Qualcomm has already launched its first 64-bit offering in the Snapdragon 410. The entry-level SoC is designed for emerging markets, and comes with LTE radios to take full advantage of burgeoning LTE services in countries like India. Qualcomm is set to launch high-end 64-bit offerings in the coming months.
And Qualcomm isn’t the only manufacturer toiling away at 64-bit hardware. Intel is set to launch its Bay Trail offerings, and Samsung is set to follow suit with the 64-bit Exynos 6 line. Even LG is getting into the SoC segment, and is set to debut its Odin line in the LG G3. While MediaTek has been content with providing hardware for low-budget devices until now, it has also signified its interest in taking market share away from Qualcomm by launching octa-core hardware.
Although hardware manufacturers launch 64-bit hardware, we will have to wait until there is a 64-bit version of Android to make full utilization of the hardware. Till then, the benefits of using 64-bit hardware will be minimal.
Technologies like optical image stabilisation and back illuminated sensor found their way onto mobiles last year, and 2014 should see more enhancements in this segment. Samsung is said to launch its first ISOCELL sensor on the Galaxy S5, and Sony is also said to be working on the next-gen Exmor sensor that will be used in its 2014 handsets.
Better low-end devices
Devices like the Moto G from Motorola were nothing short of revolutionary. The device is slightly slower than the Moto X, and comes with features that are found in a device that costs twice as much. This year should see more such devices making their way into the market.
2014 will also be the year Chinese manufacturers enter the global stage. Vendors like Gionee have ventured into other Asian territories, with others, like Xiaomi and Meizu, set to begin their global plans later this year. Gionee has gotten a head-start by offering devices like the Elife E6 and Elife E7 in countries like India. The Gionee Elife E6 is priced at $320, and for this amount, the device offers the same set of features as a Galaxy S4, which costs twice as much.
On the software side of things, Google has introduced the ART runtime with Android 4.4 KitKat, and this will greatly benefit low-end devices with as low as 512 MB RAM in running future versions of Android without any lag. With the next billion users set to come from countries like China and India, this makes a lot of sense. The low system requirements of Android 4.4 KitKat should see more manufacturers bringing devices to the low-end segment that are better than what is on offer today.
Wearable technology is the buzzword for this year, and like we have seen with tablets a few years ago, there is a sudden interest from every manufacturer in this segment. Samsung failed to find any success with its Galaxy Gear, and while Sony’s Smartwatch 2 was a far sight better than its predecessor, it has similarly failed to attract any significant consumer attention.
LG’s Life Band fitness tracker was leaked a few days ago, and it should be officially announced later this week. We should also see a consumer version of Google Glass later this year. Interestingly, Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia devices division included a smartglass device that will likely be launched under the Microsoft name.
2013 was a significant year for Android, and from the look of things, the year ahead will be just as fruitful.