What is the next big thing to rock the mobile world? Well, never mind one, we've got six of them, all likely to be finding their way onto real-world phones in the next 11 and a half months.
Unlike most emerging technologies, everyone already knows what 3D is, and that's helped the technology spread its wings to a surprisingly broad range of devices in next to no time. That smartphones should join that group in 2011 is a no-brainer to us.
The big advantage smaller screens have over the likes of HD TVs when it comes to 3D is that you don't need those dorky glasses to get the full 3D effect. That's what has everyone looking so forward to Nintendo 3D-capable 3DS handheld console, and it's what will make 3D on smartphones so desirable too.
HTC has already said it aims to have a 3D Android phone on the market by the end of 2011, while LG looks set to get there even sooner after showing off a 4.3in 3D panel at CES earlier this month. Apple, meanwhile, has patented a glasses-free 3D projection system that could find its way onto its iOS-powered stable before too long too. The big guns have spoken, so be ready.
Near field communications (NFC)
Sure, features like video calling stole the headlines when Android Gingerbread was announced, but give it 12 months and we'll bet NFC will have risen to be the real hero feature of Google's latest tasty morsel of OS goodness.
The technology itself is simple: as the name suggests, it allows your phone to communicate with other NFC-enabled devices at close range, kind of like a scanner. But the kicker is that those 'devices' can be virtually anything, from price tags and scannable codes on adverts to posters or even T-shirts.
The upshot is that your smartphone could soon replace your credit card for micro purchases, and could allow you to instantly respond to advert offers or get the latest trailers of upcoming movies just by waving your phone around. Yip, sounds great to us too.
Augmented reality (AR)
Just like 3D was once upon a time, until recently augmented reality came across like one of those day-after-tomorrow technologies struggling for practical application in the real world.
No longer. The latest version of Google Earth, for instance, blends Street View and 3D rendering so well you'll struggle to tell the difference, with over 80 million 3D 'trees' already having taken root on Google's servers.
AR is rapidly changing from science fiction to practical reality. Take the likes of the Word Lens app, for example – it allows you to see virtual translations of foreign street signs or notices just by pointing your phone at them. In-car application, meanwhile, sees real-time navigation info able to be projected onto your windscreen as a heads-up display.
Augmented reality opens up a level of versatility and convenience we've simply never seen before from our smartphones.
Windows Phone 7
Yes, Android is going to take over the world in 2011 (well, those parts it hasn't already conquered), but we can't help but be impressed that Microsoft is making a real go of Windows Phone 7.
Firstly, hats off to Redmond for admitting just how badly it lost its way with Windows Mobile, and, er, scarves off on top of that for being brave enough to say that in real terms Windows Phone 7 is still a year to two years behind Android and iOS.
That's not going to be an easy gap to bridge, of course, but of all the other mobile OSes we'd give Microsoft the best chance of at least getting close. We're expecting the first update to WP7 in February, and while the reality looks set to be less impressive than some were hoping, all signs are pointing to an even bigger update labelled 'Mango' coming in the second half of the year. That'll be the time to judge Microsoft's mobile OS.
It may seem odd for apps to make this list considering just how essential they are to the mobile experience already, but take it from us – you ain't seen nothing yet.
Maybe it's because of all the time we spend ogling high-end smartphones, but we sometimes overlook the fact that smartphone penetration is still under 50 per cent in the developed world, and far lower elsewhere. But the figure is rising rapidly, and combined with the ever-advancing spread of mobile broadband and the maturing of smartphone technology itself, that means the rise in the app ecosystem so far is nothing compared to the explosion that's coming.
From cloud-based productivity apps to augmented reality (see above), and console-standard gaming to real-time video streaming, apps are going to be big – very, very big – in 2011.
OK, this one has been coming up every year probably since 2008, but the mobile phone infrastructure really is ripe for a speed boost. The magical '4G' monikor has been bandied around fairly widely by all and sundry, but while faster networks have been desirable for a long time, for the first time they're now necessary.
All those smartphones downloading data by the bucketload over existing networks have placed huge strain on the existing infrastructure, and that – more than the ability to make an easy buck – has been behind the general trend to lock down mobile contracts to a monthly data cap.
The technologies are already there: LTE, WiMax and HSPA+ have been around for a while now – even if they've only officially been allowed to call themselves 4G now – but between bandwidth restrictions and the need for costly infrastructure upgrades, mobile networks have been slow to get on board. However, several manufacturers say they're planning on introducing 4G handsets in the US market over the coming months, which is a good sign and could finally be the herald of those much faster network speeds we've all been dreaming of for so long.
What technologies do you think will make big splashes in the technological waters in this coming year?