Reflections on what smartphone manufacturers should not do in the coming year
2020 has become a difficult year for all players in the smartphone market. In the past year, many had to make quick decisions and a lot depended on the ability to quickly adapt or change strategy on the go. Most companies have managed to flexibly adapt to the new working conditions, and in general, the results of 2020 were not as disruptive as they seemed at the beginning.
The past year will be remembered for the arrival of 5 nm chips, the appearance of 5G support not only in flagships but also in mid-range devices. The market received foldable mobile phones, displays with a high refresh rate came into fashion, fast charging continued to evolve, mid-range devices became favorites in the market thanks to the growth of their own functionality and the unrestrained increase in the cost of flagships.
But not everything that has happened on the market is perceived as positive, and there are a number of emerging trends that are not necessary for smartphone manufacturers to “pull” into 2021. We name seven “chips”, which should not be followed zealously.
5G is not everything
The development of 5G cannot be stopped and more and more models appear on the market with support for fifth-generation networks. The only trick is that in most countries of the world they are absent or work in a limited number of places. In the post-Soviet space, 5G has not appeared, the launch is constantly postponed indefinitely and there is no confidence that a new communication standard will soon come to our region. As, however, this is true for many countries of the world.
Therefore, I would very much like smartphone manufacturers not to stop releasing 4G smartphones and the number of decent models does not decrease. Installing 5G modems increases the cost of devices, at least at this stage. It’s okay for us to pay extra for a better display, camera, or even a brand, but not for 5G.
At least in the coming years. In our area, support for fifth-generation networks will not be relevant for a long time, and many will have time to change not a single smartphone until this technology works with us.
Stop using plastic in Expensive flagships
Another trend in 2020 was the plastic back cover in smartphones, whose price tag approached the $ 1000 mark. It’s one thing to buy an inexpensive smartphone, where the presence of polycarbonate is justified by the price tag and the need to make the device as cheap as possible. Another is to buy a premium mobile phone with a price tag of $ 800 and receive a plastic “backdrop”.
For example, the case of the Galaxy Note 20 is made of plastic, and at the same time, at the start, it was asked for $ 999 in the United States. Still, you expect premium materials from an expensive device, so it would be much more reasonable and logical to use fiberglass, rather than cheap plastic. Of course, you can argue for a long time about which material is more durable and practical, but plastic does not paint a premium and status device.
True, another Samsung mistake is that it did not offer anything impressive and revolutionary in its flagships to make it easier for the user to agree to a compromise in terms of the body materials used. And it so happened that users did not receive anything like that, but at the same time, they were offered to shell out a decent amount of money for a new product and at the same time be content with cheap plastic.
At some point, it became clear that a “decent” smartphone cannot have few cameras. Marketers have done a lot to foster the stereotype in the minds of users that modern smartphones = many cameras. So manufacturers are being sophisticated with the number of image sensors, in 2020 four sensors on the back have already become the standard.
If you carefully look at the characteristics of the cameras, you can see that in quad cameras there are two of the four modules with a resolution of 2 megapixels, and this, as a rule, is a depth sensor and a macro, which are of little use. Such tricks are willingly taken by Xiaomi, Realme, Oppo, Huawei, and even Samsung.
We definitely expect smartphone manufacturers in 2021 to focus on quality over quantity. In other words, I would like to see the focus on improving the main and wide-angle sensors, as well as telephoto lenses. We are waiting for good optics, doped software, and improved photo-processing algorithms.
Giving a quick charge
No one will argue that fast charging has evolved in 2020, its speed has grown. True, nothing fundamentally new has happened, and there are questions about how justified all these records are in terms of increasing power over 100 watts. However, no one will argue that fast charging is convenient and a compromise in terms of improving the autonomy of mobile phones.
Last year, users were offered models with support for fast 65-watt charging, and in the case of the Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra, it became possible to charge the smartphone at 120 watts. And against this background, it’s hard to believe, but there are noticeable devices that do not support high-speed charging. So, Motorola Edge + and Google Pixel 5 only offered 18-watt charging. Provided that the same charging is already received by Xiaomi state employees.
Already yesterday, fast charging with a capacity of 20 W or 25 W can be considered. In 2021, it should become the standard so that flagships and mid-range smartphones can be charged at a power of at least 30 watts. But all these records for 100 W + are excessive and self-indulgent.
A negligent approach to smartphone updates
Google has partnered with Qualcomm to ensure that future Snapdragon smartphones can be updated within 3 years, and security patches have come to them within 4 years. This was done as part of the Project Treble project and now it is up to smartphone manufacturers. We hope that this initiative will be taken up by smartphone makers and will increase the support period for their devices to 3 years.
Today we have become less likely to update our mobile phones and such a curtsey from the manufacturers would be a pleasant step for us. I would like more and more companies not to be limited to a 2-year device support cycle, and a number of brands to completely abandon the vicious practice of forgetting about smartphones already in the first year of their release.
The rise in the cost of smartphones
The rise in the cost of smartphones did not start yesterday. In the classic sense of the flagships, we see an increase in the average price, from year to year the price tag is growing. In 2020, we saw the next round of growth in value, where the price tags of a number of flagships came close to the $ 1000 mark, and some of them boldly stepped over it. In less than 10 years, the price of flagships has doubled.
This looks impressive and is dictated not only by marketing but also by rising component costs, increased development costs, and increased patent royalties. The price tags of smartphones were pushed upward by the recession in the market, inflation, and declining sales.
You can find many more objective and not very good excuses for the growth of value, first of all, for flagships. But new prices scare off many. This state of affairs cannot but upset us, consumers, who have to spend more and more on the purchase of new devices. It is said that such companies as Xiaomi and OnePlus have joined the epidemic on the rise in price tags for flagships.
I really want the unrestrained growth in the cost of devices, if not stopped, then at least significantly slowed down. The reality is that a further increase in opportunities, primarily technical ones, will be accompanied by an inevitable rise in prices. Again, I would like the price tags not to grow so rapidly, and manufacturers are not carried away by excessive build-up of specifications.
Quantity must go into quality
One of the unpleasant tendencies of recent years is that many OEMs are carried away to produce a “zoo” of models with minor differences between them. Huawei, Xiaomi, and Realme have been spotted doing this. Yes, and the BBK concern, as part of its subsidiaries, could not resist the temptation to offer smartphones of the same type. But objectively, Xiaomi has gone too far in inflating the lineup.
I really want the “art” of producing a huge number of clones to grow into quality. Let there be fewer models, but they will be original, high-quality made and each will have some kind of feature that will catch on and make you seriously think about updating the gadget fleet.