Last year the market was overwhelmed with a flood of new smartphones – all of which had very little distinguishing features from one another. At the top of the list, the smartphones that gained attention sported stunning photography capabilities and slimmed down bezel designs. And one of the consumers favorite features was software innovations – a much needed improvement as hardware innovation slows.
However as the race to stand out in the market continues, performance is becoming increasingly irrelevant, with $1,000 phones matched in the processing department by devices at 75 or even 50 percent of the price. In fact, the gap between the best low-cost phone and the higher-end models is steadily closing – which is what we saw with the introduction of the iPhone XR. In order to help newer models (possible the launch of a foldable device included) capture the attention of consumers, experts say that manufacturers will be focusing on a set of specific mobile capabilities over the next 12 months.
The most anticipated design feature of 2019 will be hole-punch displays. Many mobile consumers are ready to happily wave goodbye to the “notch,” which is that strip of unusable screen at the top of your phone that houses the front camera. This is the most logical move for all manufactures moving forward since most consumers want as much usable display as possible. While we probably won’t see a completely bezel-free model just yet, there is no doubt that that is the goal for most manufacturers. Anything that accelerates the death of the notch is to be celebrated, but we desperately need a better name for the replacement design than “display holes” or “hole-punch display.”
While the hardware race seems to be running out of steam in some respects, smartphone photography has come on in leaps and bounds over the last few years. For example, Samsung’s A9 model will have not one, not two, but four rear camera. It also seems unlikely that the race to add more lenses is over. Not content with five lenses in the LG V40 ThinQ, the South Korean manufacturer has a patent for a 16-lens design. Whether that will ever appear as a fully formed product is impossible to know right now, but we think the contest to add more lenses is set to continue as a trend.
Another issue the next 12 months will focus on is the introduction of efficient mobile batteries. Consumers are still finding ways to live with Apple’s 2018 “batterygate” admission and with battery technology at an impasse, any potential increases in capacity are quickly shrugged off in the pursuit of slimmer, sleeker designs or larger, power-hungry displays. In 2019, Qualcomm is introducing a new triple charge system that will offer up to 32W for wired charging and 15W for wireless charging. To give that some context the iPhone charger that ships in the box puts out 5W. However, uptake of the current Quick Charge 4+ system has been slow, with some manufacturers, like Google, preferring USB-PD, and others sticking with proprietary charging technology.
It is also likely that we will see the end of the dated fingerprint sensor. Mobile is likely to embrace face unlocking technology as it allows for less bezels. In-screen fingerprint sensors made an appearance this year, but the experience of using them left us underwhelmed. We’re not convinced that’s the answer, though there’s hope Qualcomm’s next flagship chip, the Snapdragon 855, will help to improve them significantly with ultrasonic support.
And of course we can’t forget to discuss foldable devices – a device that will shake up the mobile scene. However, like most revolutionary first generation devices, it won’t have a perfect introduction. Many experts are expecting the first wave of foldable devices to be chunky, glitchy and incredibly expensive. But needless to say, the following months will be chalked full of mobile advancement.