What are the next big things in mobile? Our mission was to answer that question at CTIA Wireless 2012, where more than 40,000 attendees and more than 1,000 exhibitors gathered in New Orleans this week. After meeting with dozens of companies, several products rose to the top, from a smartphone that sends sound directly through to your ear drum to a security service that can protect a family full of phones. Here are the best products that made our list in seven categories--Smartphone, App, Security Service, Enabling Technology, Accessory, Car Tech and Mobile Payment Service.
Best Smartphone: Samsung Galaxy S III
The Samsung Galaxy S III is the kind of device that reminds you that someone is still taking the "smart" part of the word "smartphone" seriously. Yes, this sequel to the hugely popular Galaxy S II steps things up in the specs department with a bigger and sharper 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display and a swift, quad-core Samsung Exynos processor. But it's what you can do with all that power that has us excited about this device, which made its U.S. debut at CTIA Wireless 2012. The Galaxy S III can respond to spoken commands with S Voice (watch your back, Siri), keep the screen lit by tracking your eyes and switch between texting and calling someone just by lifting the phone to your ear. And that’s just scratching the surface of what this Android 4.0 handset can do, which will be heading to U.S. carriers starting this summer.
Best App: QuickOffice Connect
Connect by QuickOffice is both an app and a cloud service that lets users collaborate, share and sync important documents across all their mobile devices and favorite third-party cloud services. The Connect solution lets you pull down any document and edit it on the go and supports Box, Dropbox, SugarSync, Google Drive and even Evernote. Need to make changes to a report right now? An extremely handy search feature sifts through every device and cloud service you use to track down that rogue file instantly.
Best Mobile Security Sevice: Sprint Guardian
Sprint Guardian is a bundle tailor-made for harried parents who want to help keep their kids safe and their phones protected. For $15 per month, this service combines two apps that cover up to five phones. Family Safety lets you locate your child on an interactive map, automatically lock a phone while driving and review who your child has been calling or texting. Meanwhile, Lookout Mobile Security shields Android phones from malware and helps you locate a lost device while providing critical backup storage.
Best Enabling Technology: Kyocera Tissue Conduction Audio Technology
It’s the pretty rare technology that makes you say “wow,” but Kyocera’s Tissue Conduction Audio Technology is definitely one of them. This innovative approach to combating ambient noise utilizes a ceramic transducer beneath the screen to deliver audio straight into your ear canal. It works so well we could even hear callers while wearing a large pair of headphones.
Best Accessory: Moshi iGlaze with Versacover
Apple’s Smart Cover is great, but it leaves the back of your iPad naked. The Moshi iGlaze has you covered with a hard shell case in the back that prevents damage from scratches. But the most compelling part of this case is its origami-style folding design that allows you to position your tablet multiple ways, including portrait mode for viewing content and landscape for typing. Playing with this accessory is actually kind of addictive.
Best Car Tech: Clarion Next GATE
Clarion’s Next GATE is a compelling choice for drivers who want to access vehicle-friendly apps at an affordable price. The $269 7-inch touchscreen device connects to your iPhone 4 or 4S and easily mounts to your windshield. Once set up, you can get INRIX traffic, listen to your favorite tunes on Pandora and and use Vlingo to send emails or use text-to-speech to get your Facebook and Twitter updates.
Best Mobile Payment Service: MasterCard Paypass Online
MasterCard’s Paypass Online takes all of the tedium out of making online purchases from your laptop, tablet or smartphone. The service, which will soon be an option across many sites’ shopping carts, allows users to create a single online wallet for all of their debit and credit cards. Once signed up, you can choose which saved card you want to use to pay for purchases on participating sites. MasterCard is also providing developers with APIs for the service, meaning users will get the same convenience out of their favorite apps.