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By the end of this year, smart phone shipments are expected to surpass 1 billion units due to a 39 per cent year-over-year growth, according to analyst firm International Data Corp.

That number is expected to go down a bit though, IDC said, as growth slows down to 20 per cent in 2014.

Here are some of the trends to look out for next year as vendors work harder to encourage mobile users to upgrade their hand sets:

Phone as game console

Smart phones get their game on in 2014 as handsets become more powerful. For example, last month Qualcomm introduced the Snapdragon 805 processor with the Adreno 420 GPU. The 805 got a boost in graphics and compute performance by 40 per cent over the previous GPU. The 805 runs with four cores at up to 2.5 GHz. The enhancements make for better console gaming quality on Ultra HD or 4K displays.

Look out as well for smart phones that can be transformed into PC-like devices. These devices come with a second interface when used as a computer.

Higher screen resolutions

This year, we saw a lot of phones with bigger display screens. With bigger screens, come higher resolutions.

LG Electronics has developed a 5.5-inch screen for its next generation of smart phones and this display will have a resolution of 2560×1440 pixels. That comes up to a density of 538 pixels per inch (ppi).

Higher resolution enables users to see a full view of a PC version of a Web page without image distortion. That’s something that plays well with the move towards smart phones as a game console.

LTE advances

Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard for wireless communication of high speed data for mobile phones is still new in many parts of the world. Watch out for new LTE chipsets that will open the door for lower priced 4G phones.

Some mobile operators are also experimenting with a technology called carrier aggregation to speed up download speeds. Carrier aggregation allows networks to focus more resources to some users by treating two channels in the same or different frequency band as if they were one.

Cheaper devices

IDC expects price decreases to be the key driver behind rising smart phone growth in the future.

The average price of a smart phone in 2013 is US$337, down 13 per cent from last year’s $387. The analysts firm believes prices will go down further to $265 by 2017.

The Moto G appears to have set the benchmark for phones under $200. The handset has a quad-core processor and a 4.5-inch HD display.

In the near future, the difference between high-end and cheaper phones will shrink.

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