This year laid the foundation for many emerging technologies. This year, smartphones with foldable displays finally started to start hitting retail shelves, with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Fold and the new Motorola Razr. Though limited in appeal due to hefty price tags, they at least gave a taste of the future of smartphones that will be radically different from existing devices.
Though 5G did not pick up pace as expected, 2019 will be remembered for the explosion of mobile games thanks to the popularity of PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty: Mobile. While the console market had a quiet year with Microsoft and Sony preparing for their next-generation consoles, Nintendo kept the sales of consoles going with Switch Lite.
Consumers have a lot to look forward to in 2020. So, what exactly will 2020 have in store? Here are seven tech trends to keep your eye on:
Improved optical zoom capabilities coming to premium phones
Smartphone cameras have gained many new features over the years, though the conversation has been limited to either an ultra-wide-angle lens or video capturing capabilities. This year, in particular, saw a shift when Huawei and Oppo launched smartphones with 5x optical zoom using a periscope design.
Barring a handful of smartphones, most flagships still can’t go beyond 2x optical zoom. By some estimates, there will be a flood of flagship smartphones with long optical zoom coming in 2020. In fact, Huawei’s P40 Pro might have a 10x optical zoom, allowing you to zoom in on the subject without loss of details. Samsung is also rumoured to be working on a higher optical zoom lens for the Galaxy S11 series. It remains to be seen if Apple plans to improve optical zoom on the iPhone too.
Affordable 5G smartphones coming
Though 5G deployment is still in its infancy, we will be hearing a lot about this in 2020. And this will happen through affordable 5G smartphones that will be launched throughout next year. Motorola, HMD Global (Nokia), Oppo and Xiaomi are all preparing to launch 5G smartphones at mass friendly prices using Qualcomm chipsets.
This might not interest consumers living in India, but cheaper 5G phones will help the proliferation of technology in markets where the services are already alive. 5G phones are now expensive, with just a handful of devices priced less than $1000. Apart from Qualcomm, MediaTek also promising 5G smartphones with accessible pricing next year.
Focus will shift to premium mid-range smartphones
Chinese smartphone makers like Realme and Vivo have made their name in India by selling smartphones in the $150-$250 segments. This helped them tap into customers who aren’t keen to pay extra for smartphones with top-notch features and specifications. But now, there is growing evidence to suggest that these tech companies are shifting focus towards mid-premium smartphones that cost anywhere between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000.
In the past year, every major Chinese company (including Xiaomi) had at least one model that cost more than Rs 20,000. It clearly indicates that the most popular smartphone makers have come to terms that they can’t sell phones with superior features like 64MP cameras and AMOLED displays in the price range of Rs 12,000. That’s not to say low to mid-range smartphones don’t exist in 2020. They will. But the next wave of smartphones will be pricier and pack a lot more desirable features.
More console-quality games will launch on smartphones
Mobile gaming has been around for several years. There are many popular mobile games over the years, but none has risen to the stature of AAA console games. However, games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), Fortnite Battle Royale and Call of Duty: Mobile have changed the narrative around mobile games. We’re now seeing big developers making games for smartphones from the ground up, which shows their seriousness towards the mobile gaming market. At the same time, smartphones are more capable than before and some are even designed specifically for gaming with features like overclocked processors and high-refresh-rate screens. The ever-growing popularity of smartphones in India and China alongside the development of console-quality mobile games will continue in 2020.
You will be spending more on digital services
If you have subscribed to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple Music or Hotstar, you know there is a need for a budget to keep expenses in check. Every major tech company on the planet, be it Apple, Netflix, Amazon or Disney, wants to sell you a streaming service. These massive companies are pouring in billions in either making original series and films or acquiring content so that you subscribe to their service in 2020. You will also end up spending more on cloud storage as you accumulate more data and try to figure out what to keep and what to discard. The question is: how many services you can subscribe to?
Next-generation consoles will cater to niche audience
Console gaming has been quiet for the past few years and we haven’t seen a new console in over seven years. But that is going to change next year when both Sony and Microsoft bring their next-generation consoles to the market. Like in the past years, Sony and Microsoft will spend millions on promoting the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
But the fact is that the gaming console has lost some of its commercial sheen. In fact, analysts believe the segment is already “dead”. Yes, consoles will still be around but will they cater to niche audiences (similar to gaming PCs) appealing to hardcore fans who want the best possible graphics and pure experience. Don’t be surprised if the PS5 and Xbox Series X will be the last of the gaming consoles.
AR will gain some momentum
The use case of augmented reality on smartphones is at the moment fairly limited due to lack of content. But things might change with the introduction of the iPhone 12 in late 2020. Analysts like Ming-Chi Kuo believe that certain 2020 iPhone models will introduce a new Time-of-Flight sensor on the rear. The biggest benefit of such a sensor is that it will drastically improve the AR experience. The problem right now is that augmented reality on smartphones is limited to a handful of experiences in the form of Pokemon Go or educational apps like Froggipedia.
AR is seen as the next step after virtual reality (VR), and Apple has been experimenting with augmented reality with its ARKit framework on iOS for years. If Apple manages to convince developers to create new worlds with AR, other brands would follow suit and try to mimic Apple’s approach. Smartphones are ready for AR… now we are waiting for the right apps and content.
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