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The mobile world can finally be exciting again in 2019


Samsung's collapsible phone can be among the more interesting developments in the mobile world of 2019.


When one of the biggest "innovations" in smartphones in 201

8 was the addition of a notch on the screen, you know the industry has hit a route.

With fewer major technical leaps between generations, there is enough evidence that consumers are starting to hit the snooze button when they are upgrading their phones. A year ago, smart phone sales fell for the first time and they still have to go down. Consumers do not include Samsung's latest flagship smartphones, which only have modest updates, and Apple has ceased reporting its iPhone sales numbers.

It is clear to change in 2019. There are probably big upgrades worth talking about, from the advent to the 5G (finally) to the debut of flexible, collapsible smartphones. The implementation of the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint – still not a guaranteed agreement yet – could also create price plans and dynamics between carriers. Finally, the ultimate fate of Huawei, who was thrown into the air when Wangzhou Meng, the company's chief financial officer and daughter of his founder, was arrested by Canadian authorities.

"Next year will be different," said Gartner analysts Mark Hung.

Here's an overview of what we expect in the coming year, including tons of buzz at CES .


In a discussion about mobile, how can you not talk about 5G? The technology will get a decent kickoff at CES 2019, but you can expect speed to build through the year as the carriers change and more and more advanced mobile towers go up.

Ever since Verizon said three years ago that it should launch Field Test 5G, the term has been one of the hottest buzzwords in tech history. The enormous bandwidth gain, response, and ability to handle multiple devices with varying connection speeds are ready to change our lives – one day.

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Although carriers have all committed themselves to a healthy number of launch markets, it will be a race to see who will be the fastest. T-Mobile said it was committing to a nationwide network development by 2020.

Before expanding its early development, Verizon has to move beyond its proprietary broadband service standard and adopt the industry standard 5G specifications. The company has refused to provide more details on deployment.

On the product page you see that giants like Samsung are going to go big with 5G, which is expected to roll out on multiple devices, including a version of the company's flagship Galaxy S10. OnePlus also said it expects to be among the first with a 5G smartphone, and Sprint and LG have promised to launch the first 5G smartphone in the United States.

Collapsible phones

Collapsible phones are either a gimmick or the next wave of mobile device design. But if nothing else, they add a new wrinkle and shake the standard glass or metal plate.

Samsung offered a brief glimpse on its prototype folding phone, and it's likely we'll see the real deal early next year. The folding mechanism may be a little more than a novelty at first, but it was also the curved screen introduced in the Galaxy Round smartphone five years ago.

Samsung gave a brief glimpse of its next big innovative phone.

Finally, the curved display technology turned to Samsung's flagship Galaxy Note line, and is standard on all Galaxy S phones.

The key would be if developers decide to take advantage of the fold-out screen – therefore Samsung first showed the phone at its developer conference.

"Every time you have a significant deviation on form factor, it gives many different products," Hung said. "There will be a lot of experimentation."

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights, hopes that experimentation involves larger collapsible devices that move from a tablet to a full-fledged laptop.

Samsung probably won't be alone. FlexPai from startup Royole is the first foldable phone to hit the market, but it's unlikely you'll ever see it outside of China. Huawei and Lenovo are also working on folding phone technology, and more companies are likely to jump on the bandwagon.


The will-the-won-de-romance of the wireless world continues into 2019. Ever since the T-Mobile agreement to buy Sprint was announced in April, companies, especially T-Mobile executives, have worked hard to sell the prospect of the combination.

They have tried to push the term cheaper, more comprehensive 5G services and more coverage across the United States as benefits of the deal.

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T-Mobile is waiting for the decision can buy Sprint.


But it's not a slam dunk. Consumer groups oppose the agreement, as are the trade union workers' unions. The government under former President Barack Obama killed the last attempt at a deal, but governors under President Donald Trump could be more receptive.

The companies maintain the agreement will close in early 2019.

If so, consumers will see significant changes, with one of the four largest carriers disappearing. Moorhead believes it will be good for consumers, potentially reducing prices as the combined company saves on infrastructure costs. T-Mobile has promised to hire more employees and open more stores, but local Sprint stores are likely to disappear.

"It puts AT&T and Verizon on notice," he said.

It is clear that all eyes will be on this combination.

"We look at this merger, like everyone else, and have no comments," an AT&T spokeswoman said.

A Verizon spokesman was not available for comment.

Huawei drama

The world's largest telecommunications provider and second largest smartphone maker have had a hard start and end of the year thanks to the United States.

At the beginning of 2018, Verizon and AT & T beat the prospect of selling phones made by Huawei, which have been considered too cozy with the Chinese government, and Best Buy simply banned all its products.

Earlier this month, on behalf of the US government, Canada arrested Huawei CFO Wanzhou Meng, who is also the daughter of the founder Zhengfei Ren.

Meng is facing charges of using US banks to help sell equipment to Iran in violation of US sanctions. She was released on bail 11 December.

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Huawei Mate 20 is a top-tier phone . Too bad you can't buy it from any American carrier or Best Buy.

Angela Lang / CNET

Huawei claims she is innocent. A company spokesman refused to comment further.

How does all this inhibit Huawei's momentum in the phone industry? The company this year took over Apple as the number 2 smartphone player, but the controversy could damage its potential customers with consumers.

"It's going to be a challenging year for Huawei," Hung said.

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