In 2013, a high-end smartphone should have a full-HD 5-inch screen and a 13-megapixel camera to remain competitive, if products launched at International CES in Las Vegas this week are an indication of the state of the art for mobile devices.
CES may not be a mecca for new smartphones, but this year's show offered interesting products from Sony, ZTE, and Huawei, which underlined some of the hardware trends from the end of last year, including the move to full-HD 5-inch screens.
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Even though the smartphones introduced at CES are similar in many respects, vendors are trying to find ways to differentiate their products. For example, Huawei's Ascend D2 has a 3000 mAh battery; Sony's Xperia Z uses HDR (High Dynamic Range) for video as well as photography, and ZTE's Grand S is only 6.9 millimeters thick.
Here are five of the main trends:
1. Full-HD 5-inch screens
Following the footsteps of the HTC Droid DNA, also known as Butterfly, Sony's Xperia Z, Huawei's Ascend D2, and ZTE's Grand S all have 5-inch screens with a 1,920-by-1,080-pixel resolution. In addition, Alcatel One Touch and Vizio also presented full-HD 5-inch smartphones in Las Vegas.
Bigger screens and higher resolutions have been among the main features highlighted by vendors to convince consumers to buy a new device, and the success of the Samsung Electronics Galaxy Note family has shown that there is users interest. The original Galaxy Note has a 5.3-inch screen and its successor, the Note II, has a 5.5-inch screen.
At CES, Huawei also launched the Ascend Mate, which has a 6.1-inch display. But the screen's resolution is only 1,280-by-720 pixels.
The one worry with a bigger screen and more pixels is shorter battery life, and the Droid DNA has been getting mixed reviews in that regard. The Xperia Z and the Ascend D2 both have bigger batteries than the HTC smartphone, at 2,330 mAh and 3,000 mAh compared to the Droid DNA's 2020 mAh.
2. Quad-core processors
Smartphone vendors appear to be going all-in with quad-core processors this year. The Xperia Z and the Grand S are both powered by a Snapdragon S4 Pro processor from Qualcomm, while Huawei chose to rely on a quad-core processor developed in-house for the Ascend D2.
The processor makers were also busy at CES: Qualcomm, Nvidia, and ST-Ericsson all launched quad-core processors. Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 processors will offer up to 75 percent better performance than the Snapdragon S4 Pro. The processors also have integrated support for LTE and 802.11ac, the company said. The first smartphones based on the processors will start shipping during the second half of the year.
Qualcomm's processor will compete with Nvidia's Tegra 4, which is the first quad-core processor to use ARM's Cortex-A15 design. The Cortex-A15 is already used in the Nexus 10 tablet, in a version with two cores.