2018 is completed and 2019 has begun. And while most of the final posts usually and rightly look back on what has happened before, we can't always move on with our heads facing backwards. 2019 will be an interesting year for the mobile industry, smartphones in particular, not because of how many new things it is going to be. Instead, it will be interesting just because there are not enough of these news. Here are some of the things we expect to see, or in some cases not see, in smartphones in 2019 and later.
It doesn't come out of the hype. Given the substantial investments made by network operators and equipment manufacturers, they cannot but help push 5G hard enough. On paper, the next gene cell technology will definitely sing to consumers. Who doesn't want latency-free games or storage-free streaming anyway? In practice, however, there are still a few critical pieces that are still not in place or unknown, such as how much more expensive a 5G smartphone will be. With phone manufacturers like Apple not quite in the game, 5G players can find it more difficult to sell their points.
Foldable, not affordable
2019 is also expected to be the year of the collapsible smartphone. It's both a yes and a no. Yes, Samsung and perhaps Huawei will launch their own versions of the unorthodox mobile device in 2019, but they may find themselves alone for at least the first half of the year.
Despite the hype and interest, these phones are nothing other OEM can pull off easily. Regardless of engineering and production considerations, the cost alone is insurmountable for most phone manufacturers. And that cost will naturally be put on users, which can make this first batch of collapsible smartphones more like extremely expensive prototypes than polished end products.
Rising prices, flatlining sales
Talking about prices, there are no signs that the smartphone prices will go down. Thanks to the increasing sophistication of devices and consumers' willingness to pay the price, smartphone manufacturers are pushing boldly into the envelope of how much smartphones cost at all levels. It will bite them back, but as buyers will try to keep their expensive phones longer than they do now, which would translate into lower sales figures. The good news, mid-range phones go up and we can see a significant spike in their numbers because of it.
Notches in Lots
The hacks have unfortunately won. There has been no lack of attempts to ban carvings, but they come at a high price to pay, both literally and figuratively. From lifting cameras to sliders to dual monitors, cutouts still provide a more economical option, especially when display panel makers make them hundreds. What happens to the crack hole cutout? Minimal, yes, but it also leaves other sensors facing forward, which makes things like 3D face detection possible. So you either notch or you don't, and most component suppliers say you should.
Three cameras, no more
There has been an explosion in the number of cameras on a smartphone, with Nokia 9 PureView's penta-lens system expected to really push the limits. It may be interesting for a while, but it is unlikely to stick. More is not always better, especially when it comes to several digits on the price tag. Even four cameras can stretch it, especially if the fourth is a 3D sensor (ToF) that doesn't have much practical use beyond stickers. There may be a few quad camera phones in 2019, but most will settle on three. Google, of course, will still only have one.
External Face Detection
Unless you are using an iPhone, fingerprint scanners will remain a fact of life in 2019. Most will still use traditional optical scanners while many in higher end will switch to fingerprint-on-display (FoD) sensors . However, they can be unexciting compared to how OEMs will try to sell face recognition as the better and safer technology. Apple still has it in the bag, and without the same formidable hardware, Android OEMs will struggle to continue.
Slower updates again
Again, which will defeat Android phones more than the iPhone, which never really had this problem. With Stagefright far behind them, the telephone builders have begun to return to their old ways, fortunately with some exceptions. However, the majority have begun to lower their monthly updates or clump them into less common batches. And forget to quickly major Android updates. We have not yet seen Project Treble prove its worth.
Some analysts claim that the smartphone market has the plateau. Even Apple is affected, at least in some markets like India. The mobile industry is investing heavily on 5G to rejuvenate the market and smartphone manufacturers overload their products with cameras and other features to make a sale. 2019 will be the year that will really test if smartphones are actually the strongest and fastest growing technology market, or if it has finally settled down and become too common.