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2009: A Bright Year for Smartphones and Storage?

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Pull up a comfortable chair to the fireplace and grab a huge cup of eggnog. We’re looking ahead into 2009 and predicting what’s to come, given the rapid stream of smartphones that shows no signs of slowing, as well as new approaches in storing increasing data piles, the reality of 4G advancements and whether some longtime tech market players will weather ongoing turbulent economics.

And, of course, we have to predict what Apple will do with its ever-popular iPhone next year.

What the next iPhone could offer

No doubt Apple’s iPhone 3G was “the” smartphone story of 2008. The iPhone caught fire since its arrival in June 2007 and its popularity is surging with the second generation 3G pushed out this past summer.

Why? It’s simple. It’s an iPod, a Web device, an entertainment box and a decent mobile phone all rolled into one shiny package.

And it’s cool — still way cool after 19 months in market.

So the big question is what’s going to come with its third generation? It’s Apple after all. Steve Jobs and his company don’t do anything that isn’t slick, creative or pricey.

Will Apple surprise us by making a HUGE form factor change — giving us an iPhone that’s easy to hold and house in a pocket? Will it push in a QWERTY keyboard for those of us stalwarts who do like keyboards?

Will it solve the battery issue that’s plagued the iPhone since day one? Will Apple head down the applications path and emerge with Star Trek-like presence technologies (though Nokia’s clearly ahead of them on that road.)? Heck, Apple could do a clamshell, flip-top design as that’s a popular handset factor these days.

At this point only Apple knows what may be coming, and it’s not telling anyone, even the Wall Street Journal. But it sure is fun to list out the many possibilities.

Will WiMAX users flock or flee?

Sprint, and some fellow tech titans, are all gung-ho that WiMAX, a 4G technology, is what the mobile masses that cruise the Internet want. But it might very well be a hard sell as turbulent economics will only tighten consumer purse strings in 2009.

Right now there are no handsets on the horizon to take advantage of the enhanced network connectivity, just the promise of a swatch of Internet devices on drawing boards and connectivity pieces, like Sprint’s new 3G-4G modem that arrived this week.

Will consumers fork over $50 or $100 bucks for an Internet device, and possible additional rate plan fees, in addition to the smartphone bills they’re already paying for better Internet connectivity?

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