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Without a doubt, 2011 was a big year for the smartphone industry. We had the iPhone 4S, two new Google Nexus Phones and Nokia took to Windows Phone 7 like a duck to a frozen like – it got in there eventually.

With so much change last year, I got to wondering where things might go from here. What can Apple, Google, Microsoft, even RIM come up with during the next twelve months?

As is so often the case when I find myself wondering such trivialities, I decided to put some thoughts down on digital. With that said, here are a few, generally incoherent paragraphs which explain both where I think the big players will go, along with a few things I hope they will get around to doing, too.

In the interests of trying to keep everyone awake to the end, this will be a series of four posts detailing where I think things will lead during the next twelve months. Day 1 will be Apple iPhone, with day 2 looking at Google Android. Day 3 takes in Microsoft Windows Phone and its resurgence in the mobile space, while day 4 looks at RIM BlackBerry, and whether it will be the same company it is today when we look back in one year’s time.

Apple iPhone

Apple’s release cadence appears to have changed with the arrival of the iPhone 4S. With all previous iPhone releases tending to come around the June/July timeframe, an October debut for the iPhone 4S was quite the departure for a company which likes to keep to a strict schedule.

This leaves us with two possibilities. Either Apple has decided that the iPhone will now be refreshed later in the year, giving the buying public time to recover from splashing out on a new iPad in the first quarter, or the iPhone 4S was a one-off.

I’d be inclined to go along with the idea that Apple will now be bringing new iPhones to market during the last quarter of the year, which means the company now has plenty of time to get things ready for the iPhone 5.

What that will entail is anybody’s guess. We will no doubt see plenty of rumors as we draw nearer the time, but a new A6 chip is a good bet, as is a new, redesigned chassis. With the iPhone 4S basically mimicking the iPhone 4, it is almost a certainty that the next release will see a new shape, possibly with a larger screen although that is by no means a guarantee.

The best predictor for what will be inside the iPhone 5? The iPad 3.

Software-wise, we will no doubt see iOS 6 alongside the new iPhone. If Siri is still not a system-wide solution to all our problems by that point, I sincerely hope that iOS 6 is the time that our digital friend finally fills its potential. If we are still waiting by iOS 5.3 or another release of the iOS 5 tree though, I will be very disappointed!

Beyond Siri’s eventual growth, I’m hopeful for a proper API being made available so developers can take advantage of Notification Center and its widgets – an opportunity which, at least thus far, Apple seems to be ignorant of. Just look at what the jailbreak community has come up with for an idea of what is possible when you let developers play with something like Notification Center!

iOS 5 Notification Center

Again though, if it takes Apple until iOS 6 to make this third-party Notification Center widgets a reality, then I’m going to be a very unhappy bunny!

Of course, what I think Apple will do and what I hope it will do are slightly different beasts. What I think it will do is just enough to stay one step ahead of Google, and with Ice Cream Sandwich taking to the field of late, it’s a whole new ball game ahead of us.

Check out tomorrow’s second post in this series, when I take a look at what Google could, and should do with Android during 2012.

See you all tomorrow!

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