After the notch, phone makers are turning to hole-punch selfie cams and bigger screens
This article titled "Folding screens and 5G: what's coming in smartphones in 2019?" was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Friday 28th December 2018 08.00 UTCFrom the launch of 5G to phones with large folding screens, more cameras and fingerprint scanners under the screens, 2019 looks set to transform the smartphone in more ways than one.2018 produced phones with notches hiding selfie cameras and sensors in the top of the screen. While not quite the innovation most were likely seeking, notches allowed manufacturers to remove everything from the front that wasn’t screen.Now that the smartphone is essentially all screen on the front and a slab of glass on the back, what’s next for phone innovation?Hole-punch cameras Photograph: Huawei Notches are an ugly necessity at the moment – everyone but Apple agrees – as the camera has to go somewhere. But they don’t have to be large intrusive bars.2019 will see new hole-punch screens, which literally have small holes in the display through which the selfie camera pokes. Huawei has already announced two phones with a diminutive hole in the display, as has Samsung with its Galaxy A8s.With more devices expected to follow, it appears 2019 will be the year of the punch-hole display.Fingerprint scanners in the screen Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian What was long seen as the holy grail of biometric systems, the fingerprint scanner embedded into the screen finally became a reality in the mass market at the end of 2018 with the OnePlus 6T and Huawei Mate 20 Pro.Strictly speaking, the scanners are under the display, reading the ridges on your thumb or finger through the pixels of your screen. The current generation optical sensors are to be joined by improved ultrasonic sensors next year in a variety of phones.Sea of sameness Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian When all you have is a screen on the front and camera on the back, there’s not much to differentiate one model from the next in terms of design.“The rectangular touchscreen has become the dominant design for smartphones and there is little sign of that changing anytime soon,” says Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight.If you were hoping for a radical new design in 2019, you might be out of luck.Cameras, cameras, cameras Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian Having killed off the compact camera, smartphones are coming for the big, expensive digital SLRs and their ilk.First we had dual cameras on the back, then triple and now even quadruple. Some have up to 10x zoom that doesn’t look like a distorted mess, while most sport ever improving portrait modes for that pleasing shallow depth of field bokeh effect.“Cameras are a major battleground when it comes to competitive differentiation,” says Wood.Expect to see even greater use of computational photography, where multiple images from single or multiple cameras are combined to create a photo with algorithms, improving your candid snaps, particularly in low light.5G and super expensive phones Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian 5G will finally launch in 2019 with faster data and ever more expensive phones. But it won’t just be 5G phones pushing up the price. The cost of phones in the top-end market dominated by Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S series is expected to continue to rise.“Don’t be surprised to see the £2,000 phone in 2019 – the advent of 5G, premium materials, perhaps foldable devices and more will see the emergence of a new ultra-premium segment,” says Wood. “Apple has let the way on smartphone inflation and we expect manufacturers to keep pushing the boundaries – particularly as people hold on to their phones for longer.”Chinese battle at £500 Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian If you can’t stomach paying £1,000 for a phone, there is hope. With a new super-premium category, the market for slightly more competitive devices that offer top-performance is likely to expand.OnePlus has proved the niche exists with top-end phones costing under £500 in UK. Now it has been joined by Chinese rival Xiaomi and it aggressively priced top end phones, alongside the increasing sales of Honor, Huawei’s cheaper sub-brand.Old phones in hands for longer Photograph: Michaela Rehle/Reuters Giant leaps in performance and capability are long gone, chilling the desire to upgrade and leading to an ever increasing segment of the population holding onto their phones for longer.“A recent survey by CCS Insight among a statistically representative sample of UK consumers indicated that 36% of people will hold onto their smartphone longer than the previous device they had,” said Wood.Like the chicken and the egg, it’s likely the more expensive a phone is the longer someone might hold onto it, which may in turn force prices up as manufacturers struggle to maintain profits. At least those without a cut of services such as Google Pay or the Apple App Store.But what about folding phones? Photograph: Stephen Lam/Reuters Like something out of science fiction, folding phones will become a reality next year, with one already unveiled and Samsung’s effort due to be launched at some point in 2019.Whether or not the reality lives up to the fantasy, folding phones are likely to remain niche for years.“Although a magnet for gadget lovers, the folding phone’s inevitable high cost and its trade-offs in usability will result in limited shipments. Problems are likely to include poor readability in sunlight, a bulky design to protect the screen’s fold and the need for an external screen,” says Wood in his predictions for CCS Insight.Still, if you really must have the most bleeding-edge device, it looks like you will be able to buy one in some form as the never-ending quest for larger and larger displays continues.guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.
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