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TrendForce:Affordable, High-Spec Smart Devices Becoming the Standard in 2013

5 February 2013 Consumer Electronics

It’s 2013, and now more than ever changes in technology occur in the blink of an eye. But which anticipated trends will take hold this year? Global market research firm TrendForce has organized the following summary of upcoming trends in the technology industry. Since the end of last year, two main concepts have taken the market by storm, from televisions to smartphones and tablets to PCs: higher specifications and lower prices. One thing is certain – the cornucopia of smart devices on the market will provide great market potential for software developers.

1. Television Displays Grow, Frames Shrink

By mid-year, digital LCD TV display sizes will increase noticeably. According to TrendForce research, panel shipments sized at 40, 50, and 60 inches will see greater visibility in the second quarter, with an increase to 12%, compared to 6-8% in 2012. While retail prices are expected to fall, large display televisions are not expected to become universal overnight, mainly due to the fact that larger devices may not be practical for some households. For those that do have the space though, a larger screen at a lower price is undoubtedly attractive. Additionally, televisions with smaller frames and thinner bodies are becoming increasingly popular. According to TrendForce research, in 2013 televisions with ultra-thin frames will see a surge in 2013 – 6 to 8mm products will account for 17.8% of the market, while sub-6mm products will take an even larger 22.2% share.

2. LED Penetration Rate Increases

As the use of LED backlight modules in LCD televisions is already an established trend, penetration rate is expected to reach 90% in 2013. In other words, there are very few LCD televisions that still use CCFL backlights, which renders the term “LED TV” more or less superfluous. OLED televisions still have a low penetration rate, with only 0.2% of the market. It is unlikely OLED TVs will pose a threat to its LED counterparts, as its penetration rate is expected to reach a mere 1.15% by 2015.

3. Increased Visibility for 4K Ultra HD Resolution

Going along with the expanding television display trend is 4K resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels, vertical resolution approximately 4K2K). 4K provides twice as much resolution as FHD (1920 x 1080 pixels), but in reality, due to high panel cost and a lack of quality viewing material, it is too early to say whether 4K is here to stay. Like the 3D TVs that caused a commotion last year, 4K may be out of most consumers’ range. Regardless, manufacturers are sure to heavily promote 4K products, but it will be a while before the new spec becomes commonplace.

4. Limited Growth for Touch PCs

While the smartphone’s distinguishing touch screen has made its way to PCs and notebooks, and the new Windows 8 supports touch functions, there is a US$150-250 price gap between notebooks with touch displays and those without. As notebook prices are plummeting and touch-compatible software is still lacking, the trendy devices have so far only been popular amongst high-end users and consumers that want the latest and greatest. TrendForce expects touch notebook penetration rate will only reach 7.3% in 2013, although an increase is possible if either software improves or touch module supply changes result in lower device prices.

5. Prismatic Batteries to Boost Momentum for Mid-end Ultrabook

The relatively high cost of ultrabooks has caused the new product to fall short of expectations, but prismatic batteries may boost ultrabook popularity in 2013. The li-polymer batteries originally used are more suitable to the ultrabook’s ultraslim body, but li-poly comes at a high cost, and cheaper cylindrical batteries are too large. Enter the prismatic battery – cheaper than li-polymer and smaller than cylindrical, prismatic batteries will enable mid-range ultrabooks to hit the market in 2013. TrendForce expects more than 30 million ultrabooks may ship in 2013, representing 17% of the notebook market, of which 5-8% will carry prismatic batteries.

6. PC Brands Struggling on Cutthroat Tablet Market

The tablet market will continue to expand in 2013, with brand shipments expected to reach 1.5 million for the year. After the wave of Amazon and Google’s affordably priced tablets, it is likely the world will see more of such devices this year. PC makers especially will be focusing efforts on the production of low-priced tablets with lower specification displays. If such devices are popular, Amazon, Google, and other major makers are sure to follow suit, and traditional PC makers will likely have a hard time keeping up with the competition.

7. Portable Devices Head Towards Four, Eight Cores

As smartphones and tablets need fast processing power, quad-core and eight-core processors are a necessity. Mobile processor manufacturers like Qualcomm, NVIDIA, Lenovo are all producing quad-core processors, while Samsung has unveiled the eight-core Exynos 5 Octa. Although technically a dual quad-core processor, the introduction still produced plenty of excitement, and Apple’s next-gen processor will surely be on par. As for Intel, due to architectural differences, Merrifield is a dual-core processor.

8. More Smartphones with Large Displays and High Resolution

Samsung’s Galaxy Note led the way into the phablet market, but demand has kept brand manufacturers on the phablet trend, producing bigger phones with higher resolution. However, phablets are not quite universal, as they are dependent on user habits and preferences. Also, there is a limit to display size – 5 inches is about right, while 6 inches appears too large. 5 inches and 1080 pixels is the current mix that strikes the best balance between portability and usability.

9. NFC Technology Gains Ground

The NFC (near field communication) standard has been out for a while now. While there is still room for improvement in terms of actual use, the percentage of smartphones equipped with NFC technology is expected to rise in 2013. Apple’s next-gen iPhone may very well have NFC, while Google has paired with Mastercard, Citibank, and Sprint on Google Wallet.

10. Wireless Charging to Continue Improving

Although wireless charging is not new technology, fast, powerful wireless chargers are still lacking. There are three major brands when it comes to wireless mobile device chargers, but each has their weaknesses. TrendForce expects 2013 will see an increase in wireless charging products.

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