Smartphones 2012: 10 Essential Features Most Models Will Have

News Analysis: A host of new smartphones are hitting store shelves and, given the rapid advances in mobile technology and the intense market competition, they're coming with many of the same features to attract customers.

The smartphone market is heating up in a big way, now that summer is on its way and every company, from Samsung to Motorola, is trying to attract consumers before Apple announces its new iPhone 5. Which models will prove popular with consumers, however, is unknown at this point other than the one with the Apple logo on it. But chances are that consumers won't be able to tell too much difference between the many handsets that are expected to launch.

Unfortunately, the mobile market is becoming commoditized very rapidly. Nearly everywhere one turns, they'll find devices from different vendors that come with the same features.

One might say that it's the vendors responding to the market's demands, while others might claim that it's cheaper to follow the crowd. In either case, every major vendor€”even Apple€”will offer smartphones this year that will have a tough time breaking new ground.

Read on to find out what key features are sure to be common in this year's smartphone models.

1. 4G LTE

It's no secret that 4G LTE is the future of mobile connectivity, but this year, vendors are ensuring that customers think it's the present. Every major smartphone either available now or launching soon€” including the Samsung Galaxy S III and, according to rumors,the iPhone 5€”boasts 4G LTE service. Without it, smartphones will fall behind.

2. 4-inch-or-larger displays

There was a time when 3-inch displays were the norm in the mobile marketplace. But now that companies like HTC, LG and Samsung are launching new products this year, they're all but requiring competitors to come up with 4-inch-or-larger options. Even Apple is expected to give its iPhone screen a boost.

3. The latest OS flavors

There is simply no excuse for companies€”especially those in the Android sector€”launching devices without the latest version of a respective operating system. In the Android market, devices running Ice Cream Sandwich must reign supreme. In the Windows Phone 7 space, Mango is a must-have. At least so far, all of the vendors are realizing that and delivering products that come with the latest OS flavors.

4. Where are all the physical keyboards?

Although Research In Motion is one of the few holdouts, the idea of launching a smartphone with a physical keyboard nowadays just doesn't appeal to many consumers. So, the vast majority of companies in 2012 are ditching any and all plans to offer a physical keyboard and opting instead for touch screens.It's a good move.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...