Android, ahoy! 7 things you can count on in 2013

Sometimes, you don't need a crystal ball to see into the future.

Android 2013

When you spend enough time in the world of Android, you learn to read the tea leaves. Admittedly, they just say "Earl Grey" over and over again -- but once you've finished swishing around in your cup like a fool, you'll be ready to get some real thinking done.

Here are seven Android-related things that are practically guaranteed to happen over the course of 2013.

1. More 1080p displays

HTC threw down the gauntlet with its gorgeous 1920 x 1080 Droid DNA display, and you can bet other manufacturers will soon be following suit. Display technology -- pixels per inch, in particular -- are the showoff spec of the moment, despite the fact that there's really little visible difference to the naked eye between a 1080p screen like the DNA's and the 720p displays on other recent devices.

Regardless, with a new top-of-the-line standard now set, it won't be long before 1080p becomes the par for high-end Android phones.

2. A focus that increasingly extends beyond the basic specs

Specs are important, but as any seasoned smartphone user can tell you, they sure as hell don't mean everything. As the pace of mobile tech evolution starts to slow down, manufacturers will be forced to rely on other distinguishing factors to make their products pop.

After all, when every high-end device has a great display, a speedy processor, and oodles of RAM, what makes any one phone better than the next? Motorola seems to be leaning toward durable build quality and rock-solid battery life as its key differentiators. Samsung's edge appears to be in its "total package" experience -- a complete and unique ecosystem that's really more Samsung than Android. And HTC looks to be focusing on top-notch cameras and displays as the main source of its mobile mojo.

Only time will tell whether those specific concepts will stick, but one way or another, as basic hardware evolution reaches a plateau, the individual identities -- what it is that makes a Samsung phone or a Motorola phone different from the rest -- will become increasingly important to the various Android brands.

3. Something big from Motorola

Google may already own Motorola, but baby, we ain't seen nothin' yet. It hasn't even been a year since Google's acquisition of the company went through. Given the fact that new devices and philosophies take months or even years to develop, it's safe to say the fruits of Moto's newly Googlized management are anything but ripe.

To be sure, we started to see touches of Google influence in Motorola's late-2012 launches: The company's marketing efforts shifted to its products' hardware instead of gimmicky software elements. The company started to release hacker-friendly developer editions of its major handsets, too -- and it made it clear that it wants endless upgrade delays to become a thing of the past.

Rest assured, though: That's all just the tip of the iceberg. The rumors of an upcoming "Motorola X" phone give us a hint of the types of things that could be in store for Moto when the first harvest of its Google era begins. However it pans out, some interesting developments are almost certainly on the way.

4. More upgrade complaints

Much as I like to dream otherwise, the reality of the Android ecosystem is that software upgrades are an inconsistent art. They're actually like that by design: The open nature of Android allows manufacturers and carriers to make their own modifications to the software. As a result, the upgrade process falls squarely in those companies' hands -- and particularly with user interfaces that are modified heavily from the core Android OS, update timing ends up varying wildly from one device to the next.

While I'd hope the manufacturers can at least manage to keep to the promises they make, it's inevitable that the vast majority of Android devices -- i.e. those of the non-Nexus variety -- are going to be a step behind when it comes to the latest Android release.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: If fast and frequent upgrades are important to you, an unlocked Google Nexus device is the way to go. (That, or learning to root and take matters into your own hands.) Other phones and tablets have their own sets of advantages, but speedy ongoing upgrades simply aren't among them.

5. More baseless and mindlessly repeated rumors

It's a little something I like to call the blogosphere telephone-game effect: Some random person says something that probably has little basis in reality. Someone else reads it and repeats it, twisting a minor detail or two along the way. Before long, a dozen blogs are reporting a bastardized version of the comment as fact (attributing it to a "knowledgeable source," of course).

It happens all the time -- and with Android growing more popular and more mainstream by the day, it's only going to happen more often.

6. A series of ZOMG!-BREAKING-NEWS stories touting exclusive "evidence" that Google is working on a new version of Android

Let me go ahead and spoil it for you now: Yes, Google is working on a new version of Android. Yes, there's a decent chance it'll be numbered 5.0 and named Key Lime Pie. And yes, Googlers will be testing it extensively in the weeks leading up to its release.

This cycle happens every year, folks. It shouldn't be a surprise when we see some vague sign of a new Android release being tested in -- oh, I don't know -- March or April. But it will be. ZOMG. You heard it here first.

7. Apple "innovating" a bunch of features Android has offered for ages

It's practically become an annual tradition. Speaking of which, did you hear that Apple is working on a new iPhone and iOS release? I read some exclusive breaking news about it earlier this week.

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Hold onto your britches, boys and girls: To borrow a couple of all-too-familiar adjectives, 2013 promises to be both magical and -- yep, you guessed it -- revolutionary.

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