Mobiles in 2019: What Can We Expect?

With such a successful year in 2018, where do the manufacturers go from here? Let’s take a look at some of the things we can expect in 2019.

We were spoiled for choice in 2018 with a flood of truly excellent smartphones, with very little to distinguish them from one another. The best smartphones gained an edge with stunning photography or refinements to luxurious design. Some of our favourite features were software innovations, as the hardware race seemed to slow down.

Hole-punch displays

There’s no doubt that bezels will shrink further, but that still leaves manufacturers with a quandary about where to place the front-facing camera. We have seen pop-up camera designs in phones like the Vivo Nex S and the Oppo Find X, but we’re not convinced this will catch on. Instead, we think manufacturers will continue to place them within the display. Until they figure out how to place one under the display, that means carving a notch or punching a hole.

Anything that accelerates the death of the notch is to be celebrated, but we desperately need a better name for the replacement design than “display holes” or “hole-punch display.” If you’re unfamiliar, the next design trend set to accommodate those tricky front-facing cameras into a bezel-less all-screen frontage is a small hole in the display surrounded by screen. We’ve already seen some designs from Samsung, Huawei, and Honor, and we expect to see a lot more in 2019.

More megapixels and lenses

While the hardware race seems to be running out of steam in some respects, smartphone photography has come on in leaps and bounds over the last few years. Our reigning champion in the best camera phones roundup proves there’s an awful lot you can do with software smarts, but many manufacturers have taken a different route, adding more and better lenses.

Xiaomi has already announced its intention to release a phone with a 48-megapixel camera in 2019, which would set a new record, jumping ahead of Huawei’s 40-megapixel lens-toting Mate 20 Pro and P20 Pro, and current record holder, the Nokia Lumia 1020, which had a 41-megapixel camera. We think a few other manufacturers will be tempted to follow suit.

It also seems unlikely that the race to add more lenses is over. Not content with five lenses in the LG V40 ThinQ, the South Korean manufacturer has a patent for a 16-lens design. Whether that will ever appear as a fully formed product is impossible to know right now, but we think the contest to add more lenses is set to continue as a trend.

Faster charging

With battery technology stuck in a stalemate, battling the pursuit of slimmer, sleeker designs or larger, power-hungry displays, the idea of increased capacity has historically been shrugged off. What has been steadily improving, is the time it takes to recharge our batteries once they’re depleted. Chinese manufacturers like Huawei, Oppo, OnePlus, and Meizu are already offering astounding charging speeds, but the two biggest smartphone sellers stateside are among the slowest.

Although the most recent iPhones can charge from zero to 50 percent in 30 minutes, you have to pay extra for the fast charging kit and a full charge still takes close to 2 hours. If you use the charger supplied, it takes closer to 3.5 hours. Having had its hands burned already with the Note 7 recall, Samsung has refrained from increasing its charging speeds, sticking with Adaptive Fast Charging which is compatible with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2 standard.

In 2019, Qualcomm is introducing a new triple charge system that will offer up to 32W for wired charging and 15W for wireless charging. To give that some context the iPhone charger that ships in the box puts out 5W. However, uptake of the current Quick Charge 4+ system has been slow, with some manufacturers, like Google, preferring USB-PD, and others sticking with proprietary charging technology.

Despite the fact that there are many different fast charging technologies, the general trend is unmistakable. We expect to see even faster charging in the year ahead. We just hope the big two get on board with it.

Face unlocking

While face unlocking has been around for a few years now, Apple has kicked it firmly back onto the menu with Face ID. We think more and more Android manufacturers will follow suit, improving their face unlocking systems to the point where they’re faster, more reliable, and secure enough to use for payments.

The old fingerprint sensor has been shunted onto the back of most phones to make way for an all-screen front, but it’s not a perfect solution and it imposes some design limitations. In-screen fingerprint sensors made an appearance this year, but the experience of using them left us underwhelmed. We’re not convinced that’s the answer, though there’s hope Qualcomm’s next flagship chip, the Snapdragon 855, will help to improve them significantly with ultrasonic support.

Face unlocking is by far the easiest way to unlock your phone. Google partnered with Huawei to make the 3D face unlock system work with Google Play, so we expect this to become more widespread in 2019 as more phone makers ditch the fingerprint sensor.

Foldable Designs

This one seems a long way off but if we’ve learned anything from being in the telecoms market for 21 years, it’s to expect the unexpected. There are rumours that Samsung, Huawei, Oppo, LG, and likely a few others are working on folding phone designs that they may or may not show off in 2019. We’ve already seen the Royole Flexpai, however we aren’t sure how successful this innovative design has been, only time will tell. The fact is that folding phones are coming, but the first wave are going to be chunky, glitchy, and incredibly expensive. We think it’s going to take a lot more work before folding phones develop into a major, mainstream trend.

Mobile has come a seriously long way over the past decade and it doesn’t look like it’s about to slow down anytime soon. We’re excited to see what innovations 2019 has in store!