January 16, 2019

Cellular phones were once bigger than a child’s head, often referred to as bricks and only reserved for use amongst the elite. Soon after, Nokia came along with a range of phones that would change how we perceived cellular phones; it was not for the niche market but for the masses. And, we have seen Nokia thrive, we have also witnessed its demise and its attempt to rise from the ashes, like a phoenix, well sort of. Why did Nokia fail, when it was once dominant across the globe? You will be quick to quip that Nokia failed to align itself with the axiom that innovation governs the cellular phone industry; Innovate or perish. You would be correct, partially.

Nokia never stopped innovating, be it the QWERTY phones, or the wildly popular C, E, and N-series. Where Nokia failed was that whatever limited innovation it had undertaken was in the realms of basic cellular phones and feature phones, while the rest of the world was slowly warming up to the idea of smartphones – a computer that fits in the palm of your hands. Nokia’s fate was sealed when Steve Jobs took the world of consumer electronics by storm. In one presentation, he announced a wide-screen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a breakthrough internet device. But it wasn’t three products. It was one product. It was the iPhone. Nokia tried its hand at manufacturing its Symbian powered smartphones to compete with Apple’s iPhone, but that never really gained traction and Nokia’s acquisition by Microsoft may have been the final nail in the coffin for the once goliath of the cellular phone manufacturing industry. Nokia running Microsoft failed to resonate with consumers.

We have all come to love the iPhone and its operating system iOS for what it stands for – Simplicity and Fluidity. Android enthusiasts on the other hand, love to hate it. Their argument being, Apple is aggressive about keeping users within its ecosystem and so it is painfully difficult and in most cases impossible to customize the iPhone or any other Apple product. You could think of this ecosystem as a garden of intricately intertwined flowers that blossom only when planted in conjunction. You pay your way to enter through the impregnable walls of the garden and are immediately mesmerized by the flowers. Apple aims to achieve exactly that with its wide array of products. Your iPhone seamlessly interacts with your MacBook, allowing you to sync data on your handheld with that on your laptop with the push of a button. But, this convenience comes with the caveat of limited cross-platform mobility. Have you ever tried moving a single photo from your iPhone to a laptop that runs Microsoft Windows and does not have iTunes installed? Pro tip: Just mail it. You’ll save yourself a whole lot of trouble.

Google’s Android is at the other end of the spectrum to Apple’s iOS. Android was developed to be an open-source software that was highly customizable and Google went all in by deciding to partner with every smartphone manufacturer in the world via Android. Samsung soon jumped on the bandwagon of adopting the Android operating system and has not really had to look back since. Android is yet to become the ideal operating software for smartphones though, because Android is far more fragmented. There are a whole host of phones and models that run on Android. Each smartphone manufacturer tweaks Android with its own features and UI enhancements. This is why it seems like Android updates never really roll out to most users or make it to them so late it almost doesn’t matter. This creates a lot of fragmentation between devices and makes it hard for developers to support every Android user out there.

This flashback is brought to you to think in retrospect of how far we have come along as 2018 came to an end. From screens that stretch edge to edge of your smartphone’s body, in-screen fingerprint scanners to sliding and foldable phones.

2018 has been a year of experiments for smartphone manufacturers, what were quantum leaps in innovation have turned to baby steps in 2018, leading to many experts speculating 2018 to be a bad year for the smartphone. But, 2018 was poised to give a jump start to smartphone makers in 2019 and it has already given us a glimpse of what trends we can expect to see in 2019.



5G, the next generation wireless technology is slated to offer faster speeds, better coverage with ultra-low latencies. And smartphones coming out in 2019 (at least, some of them) will have the ability to leverage the next-gen speed. The 5G-ready phones will have a dedicated 5G model along with a revamped antenna design along with faster processors. Samsung, OnePlus, Oppo, Huawei and other major smartphone manufacturers will all have a 5G-enabled smartphone in 2019. However, the 5G-ready phones may not be made available globally since 5G itself will roll out on to select markets like US, UK, Europe, South Korea, Japan, China and Australia in 2019.



Throughout 2018, we have seen manufacturers like Huawei, Vivo, Oppo, Xiaomi and OnePlus integrate in-display fingerprint scanners in order to increase screen real estate. Most of these sensors seemed like near-finish modules as opposed to the more faster tried and true capacitive fingerprint sensors.

However, in-display fingerprint scanners are set to reach critical mass in 2019. Apple may have paved its own path with its Face ID, but all its direct competitors like Samsung will be shipping their phones with the in-display fingerprint sensors in an attempt to give way to greater screen to body ratio. It also gives scope to free room for other components.



Let’s face it, the notch might have become mainstream in 2018, but people haven’t gotten used to it at all. All phone manufactures are striving to eliminate the notch completely and in that quest, Samsung launched the A8s with the what they call, the ‘Infinity-O Display’, Huawei has their Nova 4 with a similar laser-drilled hole in the display for the selfie camera to see through.



It’s all about the cameras. 2019 will possibly be the year for the most outrageous camera setups on smartphones. 2018 was the year when dual camera setups had become commonplace. This forced the hands of bigger players like Samsung and Huawei to come out with triple and quad-camera configurations for its smartphones which ranged from wide-angle, monochrome, telephoto lenses. However, Google’s Pixel has proven time and again that more number of cameras does not necessarily amount to better photos, but it will be interesting to see what Google does with the 2019 iteration of the Pixel; will it stay true to its single lens camera setup that leverages AI in ways Samsung or Apple are not.



At first thought this might seem like a blast from the past, but in no way will the foldable smartphones of 2019 resemble, let’s say a Motorola Razr. Samsung has all but confirmed it will launch a phone that can be opened up into a tablet and folded back to resemble a phone. Foldable phones will bring dual displays with dual batteries, and blur the line between an out-and-out tablet and a smartphone. Similar interests have been shown by LG, Huawei, Vivo and many more. But, don’t be surprised if the first generation of foldable phones don’t live up to the hype.

Come what may, 2019 will be just as exciting as 2018 for anyone planning on purchasing a new smartphone or smartphone aficionados in general!

By Syed Ahnaf Bakht

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