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Three Great Innovations from 2008

Despite the credit crisis and all the problems that seem to have afflicted just about every industry on the planet, mobile technology still managed to come forward with several fantastic innovations. This moves the industry in the right direction and offers us plenty of promise and new toys in the future.

The three great innovations from 2008 listed below may not have been particularly fascinating or special on their own, but they did open up huge windows of opportunity for what may come in the very near future.

First, we have the Apple iPhone 3G. This may appear to be quite the obvious choice considering just how popular the touchscreen cell phone has become, but it’s not so much about the phone itself for why it made this list of three great innovations. The iPhone 3G, for most intents and purposes, was a natural progression from the first iPhone. It still has the accelerometer, a similar camera, a similar touchscreen and so on.

The reason why the iPhone 3G is included in this current discussion is more because of the introduction of the App Store. Finding new applications for smartphones is nothing too out of the ordinary, but never before has it been so seamless and so easy to acquire new applications. You don’t need to sync with a computer to get these new programs either, because they can be downloaded directly to the iPhone. This greatly improves the user experience and makes it easier for developers to distribute their goods.

Even without mention of the wireless downloads, it’s good to see a one-stop-shop for applications. When you look at competing platforms like Symbian and Windows Mobile, there are a few popular sites online where you can buy apps for those smartphones, but they’re still quite scattered. The Apple App Store brings all the developers into the same marketplace, making it easier for consumers to browse and buy.

Second, we have the T-Mobile G1. Again, the phone itself isn’t terribly innovative. It’s got a touchscreen, a trackball, and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The raw specs are nothing to write home about, because they largely fall in line with other HTC-sourced smartphones. Where the G1 sets itself apart, of course, is with the Google Android platform.

For now, Android hasn’t picked up all that much steam, but 2009 will see the introduction of several more Android-powered smartphones. Given the open source nature of the mobile OS, we could see a rapid maturation of the platform, ushering in new and improved functionality in just about every way imaginable. It’s arguable that this is already the case with Mobile Linux, but Linux doesn’t have the same industry backing as the Open Handset Alliance and Google Android.

Will Android be able to overtake the likes of Research in Motion’s BlackBerry line or Apple’s iPhone? Maybe, maybe not, but it could prove to be a very viable alternative.

Third on the list may sound like a bit of a surprise, but it’s the XOHM network from Sprint. This is the first 4G wireless network in North America. The WiMAX network has data speeds that far exceed what is capable with 3G and 3.5G technology and while the Sprint implementation leaves something to be desired, it has overcome the first hurdle of being the first to market.

Moving forward, we will start seeing other 4G technologies, like LTE, being pushed out by other mobile operators. We need more data and we want faster data speeds. As fun as HSPA may be, it’s not really enough for all that multimedia streaming that we desire on our laptops and smartphones.

Sprint’s XOHM took a little longer than expected, but at least it made it. Now we just have to wait for some great phones and other devices to take advantage of the more robust network and data transfer speeds offered by WiMAX and other 4G technologies.

About Michael Kwan

A freelance writer and tech geek from Vancouver. Find me at michaelkwan.com and follow me on Twitter @michaelkwan.

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