Every year the premium smartphone market gets a little more competitive. Both sales and revenue continue to increase every year and so far show no signs of slowing down. In order to entice new customers to their brands, manufacturers are hard at work on some exciting new features for the coming year. Let’s take a look at seven of the most interesting new developments we hope to see in 2019.
Triple-sensor Cameras Finally Arrive
High-quality cameras in smartphones have proven to be a popular draw with consumers, and manufacturers have realised the importance of continued improvement in imaging technology. Recent phones have integrated two separate camera lenses and sensors in the back of the phone, one wide-angle and one long-distance lens. The images generated by the two lenses are then combined on the phone for the best possible picture. This new field of computational photography offers some exciting possibilities. It is widely expected that many manufacturers will make the leap to triple-sensor cameras on their new flagship phones. The extra sensor could allow improved low-light pictures. We also expect to see additional image stabilisation built into these cameras, allowing steady photos and videos even when filming handheld.
Enhanced Privacy Protection
2018 will be remembered as the year in which consumers finally became aware of the huge volume of information held on them by social media giants and advertising companies. This trove of data contains details about almost every aspect of their lives, and a number of scandals involving large companies has shown that this data can be quite easily lost, stolen or used for political purposes. Many customers are now showing an increased desire to control their own personal information more closely and protect how it is used. Apple is taking a leading role in this movement, restricting heavily the extent to which advertisers can track their customers. It is becoming much more common for users to install their own ad-blocking software measures. We can expect hardware and software companies to take notice of this trend in the next year and cater to people who place a high premium on digital privacy.
Fully Waterproof Phones
In the last number of years, a number of manufacturers have made advancements in increasing the protection offered by smartphones against water damage. This is becoming increasingly necessary for premium flagship phones as the price has increased sharply over the last few generations. For example, the iPhone X now starts at over A$1500. Most high-end phones offer some level of water-resistance, which means they will survive brief exposure to liquids. Now manufacturers seek to make the phones entirely waterproof. This will involve careful engineering of the charging port and the grilles used for the speaker and microphone. It is not a simple task to make these ports functional but also keep out any liquids. This is one of the most-requested features from customers, as anyone who has fallen into a pool with a phone in their pocket knows.
Faster Internet With 5G
A consortium of chip fabricators and phone manufacturers has been planning to make 2019 the year in which 5G will be properly integrated into smartphones for the first time. Qualcomm, who designs and sells the modems used in most phones, has indicated that they will have a consumer-level chip available in large numbers to facilitate this rollout. 5G, which will be a substantial upgrade over existing 4G networks, will potentially offer speeds one thousand times faster with latency speeds of less then one millisecond. Users could see downloads running at over 10 Gbps, allowing movies to be sent to your device in seconds. It should be noted that even if new smartphones contain 5G chips, it will take time for the necessary and expensive network upgrades to be performed, meaning these speeds may not be widely available until 2020.
The latest smartphones have a killer combination of high-resolution cameras, speedy graphic chips and fast processors. After the addition of motion tracking, along with the 3D depth-projection and scanning systems used for facial recognition, all the pieces are now in place for augmented reality software to succeed. Also known as AR, it refers to the combining of computer-generated images and real-world pictures or data into a single image. One of the first successful examples of this is Apple’s animojis, animated emojis using the front-facing camera and the 3D scanner to make onscreen characters that can exactly copy the voice and facial expressions of the user. The major game development studios are also working on games which use this same technology to overlay the gameplay onto real-life settings. This is an area with enormous potential to change the way people interact with their phones.
The decision by Apple to move to a notch-based design was due to the trade-offs inherent in making the bezel as slim as possible, but also preserving the front-facing camera and some form of biometric identification for security. Some manufacturers chose to shift the fingerprint reader to the back of the phone. Others moved the selfie camera to the bottom lip of the phone, saving space but providing an unflattering angle for photos. The next year should see the first generation of fingerprint readers and front cameras which are directly integrated into the screen itself. Prototypes have already been demonstrated, and this technology is expected to be popular with phone companies and customers alike over the next year. The development of these integrated sensors will also allow the continued shrinking of phone bezels, a style trend which has been a strong driver of new phone sales.
Tough Sapphire Screens
Most manufacturers currently use Gorilla Glass in their phones, a special form of toughened glass which is extremely solid and durable. Apple and other companies have been testing out the potential of sapphire displays. Sapphire is extremely hard and resistant to scratches, but currently it is difficult to manufacture in the large quantities required for smartphones. HTC actually shipped a premium phone in 2017 using such a display but it was only sold in very small numbers. If the manufacturing challenges involved in making large flat-panel sapphire sheets can be overcome, then customers will be offered a much more durable and scratch-proof screen made from the same material currently used in luxury watches.
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