As a persistent iPhone user, it is hard for me to really keep up with the latest and greatest in smartphones. A handful of writers — Dieter Bohn at The Verge, for example — are quite smart about the Android ecosystem. However, in aggregate, it is a big giant information swamp. Sometimes, I find it easier and preferable to watch videos on YouTube as opposed to plowing through reams of online articles that don’t say much.
The Mobile World Congress is usually a good place to get all the relevant data, but now that it is canceled, one can’t expect a lot of round-ups. So, here are some of the “trends” in the smartphones:
- Foldable smartphones are the new new thing these days. The Samsung Z Flip is out, as are the Huawei MateXs, and TCL and Xiaomi are going to introduce these to the market. Most of the designs leave me cold.
- 5G Phones. This is a bit like putting the cart before the horse. The networks are pretty non-existent. And when they are there, one is left struggling for a reason to upgrade to 5G. In the future, things might be different — but hey, phone industry professionals need something to market. (1)
- Hole-Punch Selfie Cameras instead of the notch design.
- More megapixels and more cameras mean that we should not be surprised to see phones continue to kill the standalone point-and-shoot. Quad cameras are likely to be standard in 2020 high-end Chinese-brand Android devices it seems. Samsung and Xiaomi are launching 108-megapixel cameras on their flagship models. Oy vey! The whole megapixel count thing is definitely going to turn up the heat on Apple, which still delivers great camera-software-package.
- More wireless charging in more places.
- 6.5+-inch screens with a 120Hz refresh rate.
- Snapdragon 865 chipset is going to be the chip of choice for 5G and high-end phones. This chipset doesn’t have an LTE modem and requires a separate chip for 5G & 4G. That is going to push the power consumption on the phones, not to mention the heat. So, now you know why the 5G phones are much bigger. (2)
In other words, expect even more expensive high-end phones. I am personally looking for better battery management, better screens, and more quality (not more megapixels) in cameras on my iPhone. This not much to ask, especially considering that Apple does deliver on those asks every so often.
1. 5G in the US is a joke. AT&T is the biggest bullshit artist. They have relabeled their entire 4G network as 5G without any upgrades. Verizon’s 5G network is as skinny as my wallet. T-Mobile is talking a big game, but don’t expect much magic, because it will be a while before that Sprint merger is going to really have a big impact on their quality and their network penetration.
2. 5G’s Waveform is a battery vampire. And it is not just on the handsets, but on the base stations, as well. As this report points out: “A 5G base station is generally expected to consume roughly three times as much power as a 4G base station,” and you need more “5G base stations are needed to cover the same area.” The reason why 5G is going to be a power hog is that it uses Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) technology — which is essentially a way to splice up data into tiny bits and then send them simultaneously at different frequencies that do not interfere with each other.