5. The Rebirth of Windows on Phones
Microsoft has been making phones running on a mobile version of Windows for a long time, much longer than Apple has been making phones, but Microsoft has never made much of a splash, and once the iPhone came out, Windows-based phones were toast. Microsoft tore up its plans and started all over again with Windows Phone. Version 7 was released about two years ago and 7.5 the next year.
The new Windows Phone version 8 attempts to redefine, as does Windows 8 on tablets, the app landscape. Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 share a substantial code base, and therefore the programming differences between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are small, compared (for example) to the differences between a Mac program and an iOS program. The idea is that developers writing Windows 8 software, of which you can expect many, will find it appealing to write a Windows Phone 8 app.
In the meantime, the best of the Windows Phone 8 phones, such the Nokia Lumia 920, have gotten glowing reviews from users. Consequently, this has helped Nokia sales to bounce back. The once-dominant company had been ignominiously dying off as the market rejected its smartphone strategy and its feature (not smart) phones stopped selling. Then Nokia took money from Microsoft and hitched its wagon to the Windows Phone 8 engine.
The new Nokia phones are relatively new on the market, but all the major carriers have them, so it's possible that within a few months Windows Phone and Nokia will be major players on the phone market.
6. 4G Phones In, Unlimited Data Plans Out
A year ago we were just beginning to see phones arrive claiming to support 4G mobile data connections. Now almost everything does. AT&T even decided to re-brand HSPA+, which is its network standard for the iPhone 4S and other popular phones, as 4G. But most new phones we see now support LTE, a high-speed mobile data standard.
Carriers are pushing 4G and data-hogging services in order to get you to use more data. At the same time, they couldn't very well just let you have better service and not pay for it, so AT&T and Verizon have stopped writing new unlimited data contracts. They are pushing customers into shared family plans, in which you pay a flat amount per month for each device you have on the network, and all those devices share a data allotment that you buy separately.
For families that are already heavy users this may turn out to be a better deal than buying a series of plans for each device, even if they are unlimited. But many customers will end up paying more and not using up their data allotment. If you still have an unlimited data plan you're grandfathered in, but if you upgrade your device you have to change plans.
T-Mobile and Sprint still sell unlimited data plans.
7. The Downfall and Possible Rebirth of RIM
How the mighty have fallen. As 2012 ends, the bleeding of RIM market share has slowed, largely because the Canadian company, known for its once-dominant Blackberry, doesn't have much blood left. Blackberries still a big presence abroad, especially in developing countries, but in the U.S. they are a minor player.
The company's hopes for revival rest on BlackBerry 10, a new version of the operating system and new phones to run it. Unconfirmed reports place the release date for these products at the end of January, 2013.
Can RIM recover and, once again, be a major player? It's possible that BB10 will make everyone go "wow, I've got to get one of those." All kinds of things are possible. Perhaps the main goal of a successful BB10 launch will be to give the company leverage in an effort to sell itself to a company that can do better with the BlackBerry portfolio.