Falling data prices have led to a surge in video consumption, driving data demand across the globe. Smartphone manufacturers are also rethinking the design and software elements of their devices to enhance the viewing experience of users and improve the overall productivity of such devices. With the impending launch of 5G, a new device ecosystem is shaping up. A look at the key smartphone features that have been doing the rounds…
The year 2019 is already witnessing 5G networks being switched on in certain parts of the globe. Many more 5G launches are being planned for the next few months. Leading smartphone manufacturers have launched 5G-enabled smartphones while others are in the process of launching these devices. According to Qualcomm, more than 30 5G devices will be launched in 2019, most of which will be smartphones.
The MWC Barcelona 2019 saw prototypes of several 5G smartphones, a few of which are now commercially available. Samsung launched the first 5G smartphone, Galaxy S10 5G, on April 5, 2019 in South Korea. The phone is now set to be launched in the US with mobile carrier Verizon already taking pre-orders. Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G features a 6.7 inch display with an aspect ratio of 19:9. It is powered by the 1.9 GHz octa-core Samsung Exynos 9820 processor. Huawei too has announced its series of 5G smartphones. The Chinese smartphone manufacturer launched the Mate X, a foldable 5G smartphone, at MWC Barcelona 2019. The Mate X comes with a high-end Kirin 980 chipset, 8 GB RAM and 512 GB of storage.
ZTE has launched the Axon 10 Pro 5G smartphone. It features a 6.47 inch AMOLED FHD+ display with a 1440x 2560 pixel resolution and is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor with a Snapdragon X50 5G modem and an artificial intelligence (AI) performance engine. Xiaomi too has forayed into the space with Mi Mix 3, which features a 1536×2152 pixels in the front and a 4.6 inch display with a resolution of 840×1960 pixels at the back. The screen on the inside can be opened out like a book for watching videos, browsing the web or multitasking. The device features an octa-core processor, 12 GB RAM and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset. The Mate X, on the other hand, features two full view display panels, one in the front and the other at the back. The front screen is 6.6 inches wide with a resolution of 1148×2480 pixels and an aspect ratio of 19.5:9, while the back screen is 6.38 inches wide with a resolution of 892×2480 pixels and an aspect ratio of 25:9. When unfolded, the dual screen system offers a seamless, 8 inch OLED full view display with a resolution of 2480×2200 pixels and an aspect ratio of 8.7:1.
As an alternative to foldable phones, LG has launched a screen accessory for its V50 ThinQ 5G smartphone. The accessory works as a clip-on clamshell case that doubles as an additional full-sized screen. It is, effectively, a second display in the form of a detachable accessory. This accessory not only reduces the price as compared to foldable phones but is also better suited for gaming and durability.
As per CCS Insight, foldable phones will remain a niche category until 2022. Device durability and life expectancy of such phones are major concerns for potential customers at the moment. Currently, the costs of research and development and manufacturing are extremely high. As the technology matures, foldable phones will be launched at more palatable price points. Research firm, Strategy Analytics estimates that while foldable phones will see global sales of 1.2 million units in 2019, they have the potential to increase to 64.9 million units by 2023.
With increasing instances of data theft and security compromises, there is a renewed thrust on enhancing the security capabilities of smartphones. A number of smartphone manufacturers have introduced secure face unlock methods to verify online payments and transactions, log into apps, etc. For instance, Apple’s Face ID projects more than 30,000 invisible dots on the user’s face to build a unique facial map, which is then read by an infrared camera sent to the Secure Enclave in the A12 Bionic chip to confirm a match. A number of other companies such as Huawei, LG and Samsung have also incorporated such security features in their flagship devices. Eventually, such features will percolate to mid-range and low-range devices.
Pop-up and rotating cameras
To provide a bezel-less edge-to-edge screen to consumers, pop-up, rotating and slider camera mechanisms have been introduced. This trend is being driven by Chinese smartphone manufacturers such as Huawei, Oppo and Vivo. These companies have installed such cameras in multiple smartphones, ranging from flagship to mid-range.
Samsung has launched the Galaxy A80 smartphone with a rotating camera and a slider mechanism. The phone has a triple lens camera set-up at the back, which is used both as the primary as well as secondary camera. The user simply has to switch on the selfie mode and within a split second the camera module slides up and the camera rotates to the front for a selfie.
That said, all manufacturers are using motors that are susceptible to damage, raising concerns regarding their durability. Another concern is the accumulation of dust particles.
So far, AI has been used in smartphones largely for voice assistants such as Google Assistant and Siri. Now, it is also being implemented to enhance the quality of cameras through software processing of images and enable features such as portrait mode, beauty filters through facial recognition and artificial enhancements. Such post-processing of images is being implemented by Google quite effectively in the Pixel range of devices, which have a single rear camera but leverage AI capabilities to deliver on par performance.
Currently, the smartphone industry is experimenting with a number of features and technologies. Some companies are betting big on new features such as pop-up cameras and foldable screens while others are waiting for these trends to find their own level. A number of questions are being raised with respect to the new features. For instance, foldable screens and pop-up cameras face durability and longevity issues. Samsung’s launch of the Galaxy Fold has been met with unexpected durability issues. The long-run impact of dust accumulation on these implementations also remains to be seen. The impact on battery life is yet another consideration.
That said, there is an increasing focus on the security of these devices. We can expect to see enhanced security features for logging in and verifying payments. The use of AI to deliver a better and more seamless user experience is also a positive. Net, net, the smartphone industry is making every effort to enhance the content consumption experience and prepare for 5G simultaneously.