Will mobile phones have more smart starts in the future?
Firms need to keep in step with both user demands and among themselves
The explosion of innovation in each year of the past 10 has, arguably, easily surpassed longer time frames in the past. This is because of the opportunities seen and pounced upon by tech firms; we haven't seen a wilder race that has taken all of us for the ride of our lives.
And without a doubt, the smartphone was the most valuable piece of technology that swept the past decade. With it, anything was possible, as it allowed us to do practically anything in our hands.
From a humble 296.65 million in 2010, the number of smartphones sold to end-users globally rocketed to 1.56 billion last year - a 426 per cent spike - according to Statista data; it forecasts, however, that this will drop to 1.52 billion by the end of 2019.
That decline, however, won't be new; the global smartphone market declined for the first time towards the end of the decade, which was really no surprise given what was said to be a lack of new offerings at that time.
Despite this, the smartphone is still poised to be the biggest beneficiary of the next wave of innovation: Technologies like the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and, of course, 5G, among several others, would, in one way or another, make the gadget a reborn one at certain points in the future.
"The collaboration of relevant industry partners into the construction of 5G networks surely will one of the main drivers of the market," Fadi A. Abu Shamat, director of strategy and planning at Oppo Middle East, said. "Connectivity, redefined by 5G, will bring tremendous changes to people's lives in all dimensions."
It won't only be the intangibles that will drive the future of the mobile market. Lest you forget, manufacturers - led by Samsung and Huawei - have already released smartphones with foldable screens, considered the next step in the evolution of the device.
But despite all the positives, it is indeed a tough challenge for device makers to keep in step with not just one another, but also with market demands. Apple, Samsung and Huawei have been lording it over the field, and with a slew of aggressive Chinese firms - Xiaomi, Oppo, Huawei's Honor and Vivo chief among them - some beloved brands have hit almost-dead-ends.
BlackBerry, the phone of choice for business people once, continues to make devices, although it's now outsourced. Sony and LG are still in the game, albeit to a lesser degree. HTC, the first company to use Google's Android OS, still has plans. And Nokia, the kingpin of mobile devices pre-2010, made a grand comeback in 2017.
Gartner, in its latest quarterly report on the smartphone industry, says competition between mobile phone manufacturers will increasingly focus on more intelligent smartphones.
"To deliver relevant personalised experiences, manufacturers will need to improve the integration of artificial intelligence in smartphones and make security capabilities and privacy key aspects of their brands," said Roberta Cozza, senior research director at Gartner.
Safe to say that smartphone makers have their work cut out in the future - and a lot of factors have to be considered.
"Amidst all these design and 5G developments, the challenge remains that consumer demands around smartphone functionality continue to expand while their tolerance for higher-priced products continues to drop," said Sangeetika Srivastava, senior research analyst at IDC's Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers.
"With 5G on the horizon as well as some interesting new form factors, it will be critical for vendors to continue to bring affordable products to market to reinvigourate the market's growth."
What to expect in 2020 - and beyond
. 2020 will be Year of 5G: Businesses will continue to roll out the next phase of 5G which will include private networks designed for manufacturing sites
. Foldable devices will reshape portability, productivity: Foldable displays will bring bigger screens and greater variety of form factors than ever before. To that end, business leaders will continue to provide smarter technology
. AI will go more mainstream: We'll see an increased focus on governance with organisations establishing departments that will be tasked with deploying AI responsibly so that society does indeed benefit from it.
. Consumers will continue to demand right to privacy: We will see a growing number of consumers take a stand on their personal data by responding positively to brands, products and features that protect their right to privacy. Technology companies will continue to be, rightfully, pressured by consumers to properly equip their software and devices to ensure their information is private and protected
. Gaming in the cloud: Consumer appetite for cloud gaming will explode with the desire to play games on-demand from virtually anywhere. As cloud gaming becomes more popular among professional gamers and amateurs alike, consumers will look to technology companies to produce hardware that offers high performance without the high price.
The decade's key points
Apple's iPhone has been in the business for three years now, and this year would see its fourth iteration, the iPhone 4, unleashed in June - and it was the first iPhone to have a front camera. Siri was also first heard (and spoken to) this year
But earlier that month, a new challenger emerged: Samsung launched the original Galaxy S - and that would be the start of a rivalry that would define the decade
HTC - considered a leader at this time - was still very much in the game back then, and this year would see it release the Droid Incredible. Another still-leading maker was BlackBerry, which rolled out the Torch, its first touch device with a slide-out keyboard.
And while Google already had the Android OS in the market since 2007 - the HTC Dream being the first device to use it - 2010 was the year Google actually started making its own phones with the Nexus One
Meanwhile, Huawei launched the Ascend; it's not their first phone - that came back in 2004 - but it was a portent of things to come. Another Chinese manufacturer, Xiaomi, was founded
This was also the year that 'app' was chosen as the word of the year - for obvious reasons
With Apple following up with the iPhone 4S - legend has it that '4S' meant 'for Steve', coming to light following Steve Jobs' death this year - Samsung decided to raise the bar
The South Korean company unveiled not one, but two devices - the Galaxy S II and the original Galaxy Note, the latter of which had a huge - at that time - 5.3-inch display, making the iPhone's 3.5-inch screen look like an ice cube. Samsung also threw in another game-changer with the Note - the S Pen stylus
And while both the Galaxy SII and Note had 1GB of RAM, the device considered to be the first to have such a high spec at that time was the Motorola Atrix 4G - and it even came with a fingerprint scanner
Meanwhile, LG and HTC launched the Optimus 3D and Evo 3D, respectively, which came with two cameras - but it was meant to take, as its names suggest, 3D photos and videos
Apple, for the first time, raised the iPhone's display size to 4.3 inches with the iPhone 5 - the same size as the Samsung Galaxy S III. But Samsung threw a bone with the Galaxy Note II, which came with a 'whopping' 5.5-inch screen
Meanwhile, Google and LG teamed up to launch the Nexus 4, which came with wireless charging. And a similarly-designed device also came out: The LG Optimus G, which would be the start of the company's G series and the throwing of its hat into the fight
Huawei released the first P Series phone, the Ascend P1
Sony - which rebranded from Sony Ericsson in 2012 - released the Xperia Z1, which came with a huge 20.1MP camera. Samsung followed up with the Note 3, which came with a more premium look, and the Galaxy S4, the first smartphone to use the LTE Advanced standard
The Huawei Ascend Mate was launched, but it would take some more time before the brand
And Apple gave us a little surprise: It launched, for the first time, two iPhones, the 5S and 5C, the latter of which gave more colourful choices
Both LG and HTC had big years, with the LG G3, which came with a sleek 2560 x 1440, 5.5-inch display, and the HTC One M8, a critically-acclaimed device from the Taiwanese firm - which was also the first to have two actual sensors on its camera
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus was released, allowing Apple to go, so to speak, pixel-for-pixel with the rest of the pack as it once again raised its screen size to 5.5 inches on the latter
Samsung, meanwhile, launched the Galaxy S5 and Note 4. But the standout for them during the year was the Galaxy Note Edge, which featured a curved screen
And OnePlus joined the fray with the OnePlus One, another acclaimed device that was dubbed as the first 'flagship killer'
Apple had released the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, with a number of token upgrades. But Samsung got a hit with the Galaxy S6, which had a revamped design and featured not one, not two, but three variants - the S6, S6 Edge and S6 Edge+. The last one was released alongside the Galaxy Note5
Google, meanwhile, joined the multiple-launch party, with the LG-made Nexus 5X and the more premium Huawei-built Nexus 6P
Google released the original Pixel, marking its foray into making its own hardware and a challenge to the dominant players.
Apple launched the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the last of which now had a dual camera. But the bigger story was the release of the iPhone SE, a more affordable device that donned the throwback looks of the iPhone 5
Samsung rolled out the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. But the most talked-about - not on the good side, unfortunately - was the Galaxy Note7, which was pulled from shelves after a brief period and eventually discontinued because of fire issues, causing the company to lose tens of billions in revenue. Samsung didn't use 'Note6' to keep in step with the Galaxy S series
The LG G5, meanwhile, had a dual-camera in which one of them was a wide-angle lens. Huawei also released its first dual-lens system powered by Leica
Samsung came back with a vengeance this year with the Galaxy Note8, featuring improved battery and cooling features. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ featured a redesign that boasted the Infinity Display and the arrival of Bixby
Meanwhile, the sleeping giant Huawei - which had already been releasing three P Series phones a year since 2015 - released the P10, P10 Lite and P10 Plus, as well as the Mate 10.The launches further catapulted the company in the upper echelon of the mobile world
But this year's highlight was the iPhone X, Apple's 10th-anniversary flagship. It ditched the home button and introduced the notch up front, sparking a flurry of variations in the following years. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus were also launched
And, of course, 2017 marked the return of Nokia, whose handsets were now being produced by its Finnish neighbour, HMD Global
Apple released a similarly-designed iPhone XS, but this time with a bigger brother, the XS Max, up at 6.5 inches, its biggest to date. But the biggest hit for Apple was the more affordable and equally-powerful iPhone XR
Samsung launched the Galaxy S9 and S9 and Note9. Huawei followed up with the P20 Series, as well as the Mate 20, which came with something new: Triple-lens camera systems. Both companies received praise for their efforts
But Samsung won the more-snaps fight this year: It launched the Galaxy A9 in late-2018, the world's first device with four cameras
It was Samsung's turn to celebrate something with the Galaxy S10 and S10+, commemorating the series' 10th anniversary. It also launched the Galaxy Note10 and Note10+, marking the first time the Note series had a dual launch.
Huawei upped the ante in its AI game with the releases of the P30 Series and Mate 30. However, it ran into issues with its access to Google's services thanks to accusations from the US government questioning the company's practices. Huawei has denied all the allegations
This year would also feature the first 5G handsets out in the market, led by Samsung and Huawei
Apple released the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max - the last two of which have triple cameras.
Oppo, meanwhile, unveiled the first device with an under-screen camera. Nokia, however, won the more-is-better camera fight with the 9 PureView, which came with five lenses
But the biggest development was the release of the world's first smartphones with foldable displays, the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X. Several other firms also have their own versions
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