New Year. New Decade. We saw smartphones being announced right before and during this years CES – with most of them being concept phones and smartphone manufacturers assuring users that they’ll be refined more before shipping to the public.
Google took an authoritarian stance on how Android 10, their latest mobile operating system will be rolled out before publicly launching Android 11. Most smartphone companies have updated some of their devices to Android 10. Google is even requiring all new devices to launch with Android 10 already baked in if approved after this month(January 2020). This means smartphone manufacturers planning to release new phones this year will have to launch with Android 10 instead of Android 9 Pie out of the box.
Samsung has been swift – they launched the Samsung A51 and A71, the Galaxy Note 10 Lite and S10 Lite with Android 10 baked in. Hopefully, this trend follows through with other smartphone manufacturers such as TECNO and Infinix.
Punch hole Displays
So far we’ve seen devices being launched with punch hole displays from Samsung’s S10 and Note 10 series that other smartphones have copied such as the Infinix S5, the TECNO Camon 12 Air, Redmi K30, Vivo V17, Vivo Z1 Pro and Vivo X30, Samsung Galaxy M40, A8s A51, A71, A91, Huawei Nova 6, Honor 20 series, Motorola One Action, Nokia X71 and the OPPO Reno 3.
The punch-hole displays are not perfect as for some you lose space for notifications and useful information. Other people have issues with the asymmetry preferring the centred punch hole instead of the left or right corner option. Vivo has also patented a total of three different designs that all sport multiple camera cutouts on the display.
The future looks bright as smartphone companies like OPPO and Xiaomi have been working to bring under-display cameras that work just like optical under-display fingerprint sensors with a CMOS chip placed under a transparent section of the display that will peer through the pixels to see the outside world. When not in use, te display pixels will work normally and when you want to shoot selfies, the pixels around the camera turn off and allow the camera to see through the display.
Higher Refresh Rate Displays
Higher refresh rate displays are now going mainstream and are not reseved for gaming phones. The OnePlus 7 Pro and the Pixel 4 brought it to non-gamer phones. Other non-gaming phones that have high refresh rate include the OPPO Reno Ace(90Hz), OnePlus 7T Pro and OnePlus 7 Pro and Realme X2 Pro(90Hz).
OnePlus has said it is bringing 120Hz refresh rate screen to its upcoming phone this year touting that it will be “the best smartphone display in 2020.”
The state of foldables in 2020 is on to a rising path as showcased at this year’s CES especially foldable PC’s. For foldable phones, we expect the Samsung Galaxy Fold 2(Galaxy Z Flip), TCL’s foldable, Motorola Razr 2019, Huawei Mate X 2, OPPO folding phone, LG’s folding phones and Xiaomi’s folding phones among others. The prices are still going to be high and probably be affordable to the mass by next year which will also have OEMs perfect their tech and address concerns raised by first-generation foldables.
Expect a wider variety of foldable designs this year.
The 5G race in Kenya has begun. Safaricom, Kenya’s leading telo in terms of revenue and subscribers was spotted testing 5G. This comes just in time when we are starting to see affordable 5G phones being announced from companies like TCL and CoolPad Legacy which means that by the time 5G is rolling out everywhere in Kenya sometime next year or in 2022, 5G phones will just be as affordable as 4G phones without the tradeoffs.
Chip companies are now making processors for mobile gaming such as the Snapdragon 765G. Gaming phones now feature even higher refresh rate screens(up to 144Hz) for smoother gaming experiences. Expect 5G gaming phones to take advantage of the fast data delivery.
More Cameras and Ugly layouts
We’ve now come to seeing triple or quad setups from the rear cameras but the way they are being placed raises strong opinions. The iPhone 11 series started the rectangular cluster which got copied by the new Pixel 4 series and now the S11(S20) is slated to use the same layout.
— Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) January 12, 2020
To counter the ugliness of more camera lens, OnePlus showcased the OnePlus Concept One that features “disappearing cameras” which use electrochromic technology that’s available in the McLaren 720S supercar glass roof that protects passengers from the sun but on a smaller scale using organic particles to create changes in transparency so that the glass covering the camera lenses can shift in an instant from opaque black to entirely clear.
Most smartphones will be picky about what to go with for their extra cameras with some opting for a depth sensor, a monochrome sensor, ultra-wide lens or a telephoto lens.
Vivo Apex Full View brought the elevating selfie camera in 2018 that now features in most devices in the following years such as the OPPO Reno 10X Zoom, OPPO F11 series, OPPO F15 and the OPPO Reno 2F. In 2020, we expect to see budget devices get this feature such as TECNO and Infinix devices.
In early January, OPPO patented side pop-up camera design for selfies which is motorized camera module is placed on the right-hand side of the phone. From the patent, we can see that the back includes two more cameras below the pop-up mechanism.
More Megapixels for better photos
The good thing of having more lenses and more megapixels will be better photos thanks to computational photography. In 2019, we saw 48MP and 108MP cameras that utilised pixel binning and algorithms to process the extra sensor data for better photos and not necessarily higher megapixel photos.
Ultra-fast charging and big batteries.
100W. Xiaomi is already working to have its 2020 phones feature 100W fast charging that’ll charge a 4000mAh battery to 100% in 17 minutes. OPPO already boasts of having 65W(OPPO Reno Ace) and 50W fast charging through VOOC(Voltage Open Loop Multi-step Constant-Current Charging) by pushing more amperage to the phone, unlike Qualcomm’s Quick Charge who use high voltages(Samsung’s S10 uses Adapative Fast Charging- 25W).
We expect fast charging capabilities from OnePlus’s Warp Charge, Huawei’s SuperCharge, MediaTek Pump Express, Motorola Turbocharging among others.
Smartphones have now started shipping bigger batteries from 4000mAh, 5000mAh and even 6000mAh. Vivo ships most of their phones with 5000mAh, Samsung’s S20 is slated to feature a battery with similar capacity.
More RAM and Storage
Most phones come with a minimum of 3 or 4GB of RAM and that’s sufficient for most people. Others go the extreme shipping with 6, 8, 12GB of RAM like the upcoming Galaxy S20 series. Most flagship do 512GB of onboard storage but expect to see more midrange phones with similar configuration or more – upto 1TB.
More Subbrands going Independent
Smartphone companies have subbrands that cater to different markets and target markets and in 2020 we are going to see more successful subbrands get the authority to venture out on their own as independent companies
Unnecessary phone versions and more weird names
Too many Android phones. Should that be a good thing? Last year, we saw smartphone companies launch new versions of their major phones. It’s redundant and confusing having a lite version of a phone when you already have midrange series that cater to that market. This trend is already up and running and the year is still young. Samsung recently released the S10 Lite and the Note 10 Lite – the latter dilutes the “premiumness” of the Note Line, in my opinion.
OnePlus is slated to have a Lite version of the OnePlus 8 if leaks are anything to go buy.
Another thing we’ll start seeing is weird names that’ll have more than three words which will make it confusing to consumers as the year progresses, for example, the yet to be launched 5G versions of the Samsung S20 series – Samsung the Galaxy S20 5G, the Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G.
For Pixel peeps, expect a Google Pixel 4a XL 5G.
Can’t wait to see what other smartphone manufacturers such as Transsion brands will name their upcoming devices.