So much is a given in the smartphone business. Another product cycle begins, and we'll see new hardware. Refined software. Improved user interfaces. It'll happen, just like clockwork. Those are the broad strokes, though. It's tough to nail down individual features.

One of the items we're very much hoping to see adopted this year is Photo Sphere, the 360-degree (more or less) panorama feature that Google added to Android 4.2 on the Nexus 4 and Galaxy Nexus. It's not just a matter of Samsung or HTC or Motorola or LG slapping Android 4.2 onto its devices and calling it a day -- software and licensing usually don't work quite that easily. But if there's one feature from the latest version of Android on the latest "Pure Google" phone we want to see spread to the other hundreds of millions of Android smartphones that'll be sold this year, it's Photo Sphere. Not that we won't see it ported to other devices, though, but we're talking about official support here.

There's another side to this, of course. Viewing of Photo Sphere images is still fairly limited, with Google+ (both on the web and mobile) and Google Maps serving as the primary ways of viewing Photo Spheres. Google released an API in December 2012, but it's still in its infancy and will take a little time for anyone else to implement on the mobile side. At some point we'd expect the ability to embed a Photo Sphere onto a web page like any YouTube video. But for now, that's all Google's baby.

Work on this year's crop of Android smartphones is well under way, and we should start seeing the fruits of manufacturers' labor in the next month or so. Here's to hoping Photo Sphere manages to be a part of it.