So, here we are, the end of 2012. With 2013 ahead of us, what can we expect from our mobile devices in the coming year?

What key functionalities will make our lives that little bit easier? Where will it all end? Will it ever end?

Flexible mobile screens, mobiles that can unlock the front door of your home — and then pay for your favourite Starbucks coffee. With all this, plus widespread 4G (fourth generation) networks that offer lightning speed access, the future landscape is shaping up faster than we can sometimes imagine.

I have taken this end-of-year timing to glimpse into our world over the next 12 months. If we in news media understand and grasp the developments, we can truly begin to shape our world around this rapid market change.

As INMA CEO Earl Wilkinson said in his Outlook 2013 report, we are living in “exponential times.” Never before have we seen a period in our lives where (mobile) technologies have been so entwined in our lifestyles.

The famous, futuristic movie, “Minority Report,” starring Hollywood actor Tom Cruise, is perhaps not that much of a fantasy anymore?

So, what areas should we observe in the next stage of our mobile-focused world?

  1. Smartphone screens: In 2013, our smartphone screens will feel very different than at present. Apple has patented a technology called “haptic feedback.” Up to now, haptic feedback has meant a vibration as you touch the screen. Next year’s  variation will make you actually feel each individual “key” on your touchscreen keyboard, in effect, pushing upwards as you touch.

    Screens will also go high definition (HD). Witness, for example, Amazon’s excellent Kindle Fire HD mini tablet. And the new HTC Android DNA smartphone, one of the first phones with a full HD screen (just out in December 2012 in the United States). Samsung’s Galaxy S4 (rumoured to be released in April 2013) is predicted to follow suit with a 5-inch, full-HD screen.

    Meanwhile, Samsung, Apple, and LG all have been granted patents for fully flexible smartphone screens. These are OLEDs (active-matrix, organic, light-emitting diodes) and can display technology now used in the high-end TVs, which is so thin it can be placed on plastic (instead of glass).

    The new year could actually bring an end to the nightmare of a smashed phone screen, as plastic OLED screens can be hit repeatedly (even with a hammer) without causing any real damage. Many industry experts say that eventually they may even feel like real glass.

    These screens can also be totally folded and rolled up. Manufacturers are currently working out how to make flexible, internal components too before the entirely flexible phone arrives, but with the pace of change we are seeing, it won’t be too far off.

  2. “Under the bonnet.” On the exterior, Microsoft’s Windows 8 introduced us all to a new range of phones in bright colours (from both HTC and Nokia). Industry rumours around the next iPhone suggest it may go this multi-coloured way too (i.e. the same way of the iPod touch).

    We’re already seeing surround phone cases that turn phones into essentially another device. The “i.am +” case turns your iPhone into an interchangeable-lens camera, and the “AliveCor” changes it into a human heart monitor! Bizarre, but true.

    In addition, there are various projects on the go with the aim of turning the iPhone into a proper games console. Rumours also abound of a case that gives the iPhone a second screen on the back (potentially very useful for multi-tasking) and one that turns the phone into a stun gun (police forces across the globe, take note!).

    Social media will accelerate in 2013. For example, to keep up with Instagram, Yahoo has just updated its Flickr iPhone app so that users can upload photographs to Twitter. Meanwhile, Instagram itself is developing a range of cameras for easy photo taking and editing. They also have a built-in printer and connect to WiFi, so your photos can be instantly posted to Facebook and Twitter.

  3. Power tools. 2013 will be about more power. We’ve already seen quad-core processors (i.e. four “brains” instead of one, in a single device) in smartphones like the HTC One X + and the Google LG Nexus 4. Essentially, these processors allow you to do much more, i.e. run an Angry Birds game while sending emails at the same time.

    Again, in a (mobile) industry where rumours and counter rumours abound, Samsung is said to be set to deliver a device with a staggering 8-core (“octo-core”) processor in February. We shall see! (That, of course, will no doubt need much more battery power, so many manufacturers are focusing on improving their mobiles’ battery life).

    Nokia’s Lumia devices have started a new wave of wireless charging (they sit on a “charging plate,” instead of being plugged in via a cable). This is an interesting development. Maybe wires could be a thing of the past? 

    Finally, back to 4G. This will also roll out across the networks in the UK and many other countries next year (some countries indeed have it already), so expect a new, bigger range of 4G phones to come, too.

  4. Paying for stuff. Credit cards, debit cards, flight tickets, your gym membership card, and your office access pass could all be stored on your smartphone in 2013.

    In the United States, Google’s Wallet has now been available for about a year. It allows consumers to connect their smartphone to their bank or their plastic cards. Users then simply swipe their device across a reader.

    The iPhone 5 doesn’t have contactless payment, i.e. Near Field Communications (NFC), but there are (more) industry rumours that it might be included in the iPhone 6 in 2013. iOS6 software, however, does have “Passbook,” which allows for bar codes to be scanned at airport, train stations, stores etc. So, another way of paying for “stuff” via your smartphone and replacing tradiitonal paper/plastic ticketing.

    Unlike a real wallet, your smartphone can be locked and Google’s Wallet requires a PIN code for payments. If your phone is stolen, you can simply disable the payment function from a remote location.

    A new technology, Lockitron, even allows you to unlock the front door of your home via your smartphone. Again, due for release in 2013. A sensor fitted to your door works with NFC, Bluetooth and WiFi. It can be unlocked remotely, allowing, should you choose, friends access to your property without having to give them a physical set of keys. The mobile app even tells you if someone has knocked at the door while you were out.

These are all incredible technological advancements, and they’re coming to a town near you, very soon. Embrace it, and just begin to imagine how all these new tools can help news-media companies in the new era of “print + digital.”

So, I hope 2013 is a prosperous year for you. And with the relentlessness of what is happening in the market — newer and more advanced “mobile moments” — please don’t have nightmares!

2013 is yours to exploit. Exciting times for all!