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TECHNOLOGY

5 Innovations That Will Make Your Smartphone Smarter

Mobile devices have come a long way in the last few years, but big advancements are coming soon.

Next time you glance at your Android device or iPhone, pause for a moment and think about how far smartphones have come in the last few years. Bluetooth connects you to stereo speakers across the room, wireless hotspots are everywhere, and apps like Evernote help you jot down daily reminders wherever you are.

Yet, in the next few years, several innovations will bring even bigger changes to how you do business—particularly when you're on the road. Here are just a few of the most interesting advancements—and how you'll make the most of them.

1. Bluetooth Health Device Protocol
Bluetooth has been around for years, but it is also the wireless protocol that seems to be changing the fastest. The Apple iPhone 4S supports Bluetooth 4.0, a more stable and secure version of the standard. One of the most interesting new flavors of Bluetooth, though, is called Bluetooth Health Device Protocol, or HDP. The idea is that your phone can connect to a heart-rate monitor, a workout machine at the gym, or even your running shoes without the need for a snap-on adapter. Few Bluetooth HDP products exist right now, but that will change with upcoming Android models that use HDP.

2. InfraRed
That faint red light on your TV remote is coming to a portable device. In fact, the Motorola Droid Xyboard already has an IR port that can be used for controlling your home entertainment gear. Oddly, smartphone makers have been slow to adopt this older technology, hoping that more devices would support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Motorola insists that a phone and tablet can use the short-range signal in your living room and then rely on those other wireless standards for other purposes. For business, infrared could become a way to control a projector in the office or an HDTV for sales demos.

3. Wi-Fi Direct
Wi-Fi is now a standard offering at most libraries, coffee shops, and even gas stations. In some malls, there are 10-15 competing signals all in one seating area. Yet, connecting devices directly is still a challenge. Wi-Fi Direct is one way to connect two devices together without a hotspot or router. Once connected, you can share files, contacts, and even large video files. Searching for another device works the same as finding a hotspot, although you’ll need a security code from your associate.

4. Extreme Battery Life
Battery technology is one of the slowest evolving markets around. Each new Android phone seems to make claims for better battery life, but they still don’t last more than one business day. Apps like Juice Defender for Android show how battery life problems may be something that can be resolved using software. The app automatically dims the screen, disables a data connection, and turns off Wi-Fi.

5. 5G Connections
Just when your city is finally hooked up for LTE or Wi-Max... so-called 5G service will be the next evolution of wireless communication with speeds over 100Mbps. But the real breakthrough will come with 5G networks that can transmit and receive a signal at the same time, at the same speeds. That means, your phone could be uploading a massive HD movie to DropBox while downloading a large collection of photos from the Web, with no loss of bandwidth.

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Last updated: Jan 20, 2012

JOHN BRANDON | Columnist

John Brandon is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine covering technology. He writes the Tech Report column for Inc.com.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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