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2019 Outlook for the Smartphone Industry: Nitin Mathur

Authored by Nitin Mathur, Co-founder, 91mobiles.com

Smartphone tech usually sees significant progress as time goes by, and 2018 turned out to be a marquee year for this space. This was the year that witnessed the emergence and growth of some strong smartphone trends, such as the widespread adoption of notch displays, the appearance of phones with more than two rear cameras, and manufacturers trying newer designs and form factors to make their handsets truly bezel-less. At 91mobiles, my team and I track smartphone technology very closely, and we think that 2019 is going to be the year when this industry will take a generational leap. Here are my predictions for trends that will define the smartphone arena in 2019. I will also be highlighting the aspects that I think will specifically impact advertisers and marketers.

5G is finally here

The smartphone and telecom sectors have been using 5G as a buzzword for a while now, but 2019 will finally see commercial deployment of these networks in various countries around the globe. 5G implementation will not just improve download speeds and video streaming on mobile devices in a big way, but also promises a more far reaching impact on consumers as well as businesses. Just as an example, Internet of Things (IoT) platforms like autonomous cars will see a big boost, while virtual presence and gaming will also benefit greatly from these next-gen networks. Specifically for marketing and advertising professionals, the implementation and mass availability of 5G will present an opportunity to target consumers hungry for rich visual content, apart from offering several other benefits. Unfortunately though, one can’t expect commercial availability of 5G in India before 2020, as the networks and devices capable of using this technology will only roll out in the country then.

Newer smartphone designs

I mentioned notch displays as one of the key smartphone trends we saw in 2018, but the year also witnessed manufacturers going to great lengths to reduce bezel sizes in other ways. The notched design itself evolved from big, unsightly cut-outs to more elegant ‘waterdrop’ notches and the so-called punch-hole displays. Pop-up cameras, as seen on the likes of the Vivo NEX and the OPPO Find X, marked a big departure from conventional smartphone design. Slider phones like the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 and the Honor Magic 2 took this to the next level, and this year, we’re bound to see more widespread adoption of these new form factors. And I still haven’t mentioned the emergence of devices with dual screens (similar to the recently-announced Vivo NEX 2)… and 2019 is when all these will proliferate.

Foldable phones

Another long-awaited innovation will finally see fruition in 2019. I’m referring to foldable phones, and if there’s one brand you should keep an eye on for these, it’s Samsung. While there are rumors and speculations about other brands like Google, Xiaomi, LG and Lenovo working on foldable phones and devices, Samsung has already showcased a prototype that will go into mass production this year. The key benefit offered by a foldable phone is that users can take advantage of large-screened devices that can easily fit into a pocket or handbag. On the other hand, advertising professionals will get larger screen real estate to beam their campaigns on.

Advancements in AI, computational photography and machine learning

Smartphones like the Google Pixel 3 and the Apple iPhone XR prove what computational photography can do, as these smartphones offer amazing imaging prowess even with single camera sensors. Using AI and machine learning (ML) as the key drivers, computational photography promises to finally mark the coming of age of smartphone cameras as true DSLR challengers. In layman terms, these technologies will allow one to capture great photos using their smartphones, regardless of shooting conditions and without fiddling around with any settings… with the cameras and software handling optimization on their own. AI-enabled features like real-time language translation will also go mainstream, and with vernacular being the next big thing, us Indians will reap the benefits. Marketing professionals also stand to gain, as they will get the chance to address audiences without worrying about language barriers.

XR to go mainstream

Extended Reality, or XR, covers both Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR) domains, and this year, this technology should reach the masses via phones and other devices in a much bigger way than before. Gaming and entertainment, among other aspects, stand to benefit greatly from this, giving users access to richer and more interactive content, while advertisers can utilize the same as vehicles for campaigns that are more engaging than ever before.

I’ve just covered the tip of the iceberg here, but the above are some of the key trends we can look forward to this year. Apart from these, I also expect quite a few other trends in 2019, such as more innovation around the battery and fast charging technologies, and virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa becoming an inseparable part of our daily lives. While it may be a clichéd statement, I can safely say that the future is finally here, and with so much innovation expected to happen, you might just miss something really important if you so much as blink your eyes.

Nitin Mathur co-founded 91mobiles with Bharanidharan Vishwanathan in 2012 and together they have built India’s No. 1 Gadget Discovery Site that enables advertisers and consumers to take smarter decisions. As co-founder, Nitin adorns multiple hats, leading long-term growth strategies and has crucial involvement in sales, marketing and product development.

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