New Delhi: Gadgets have become an integral part of our lives with most of us relying on some form of factor to communicate, commute, work, be informed or entertained. Year 2019 will see some gadgets lifting the user experience to a whole new level. Here’s what we can expect to see:

Smartphones with foldable screens: Foldable phones are finally moving from the concept stage to commercial launches. They are made up of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels with higher plastic substrates, allowing them to be bent without damage.

US-based display maker Royole Corp’s foldable phone, FlexPai, has already arrived in select markets, while Samsung’s unnamed foldable phone is expected sometime next year. Samsung’s smartphone chief executive officer D.J. Koh has said they will make a million units of it. LG, too, is expected to display a foldable phone next year. Meanwhile Apple, Nokia, Lenovo and Huawei have also been working on foldable phones, reportedly.

eSIM: Very soon your smartphone won’t need a physical SIM card anymore. The eSIM technology, already used by Apple in its iPhones and Apple Watch, replaces the physical SIM with a virtually embedded chip on the motherboard. eSIMs support multiple mobile operators and can be programmed to switch services.

Voice Recognition: The speech recognition market is expected to grow from $1.1 billion in 2017 to $6.9 billion by 2025. With support for voice assistants being built into all kinds of gadgets, users will eventually not have to rely on physical remote controls-

According to a MarketsandMarkets report, the eSIM market is estimated to grow from $253.8 million in 2018 to $978.3 million in 2023. In India, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd and Bharti Airtel Ltd have already started providing eSIM services.

A market report by Beecham Research claims that an industry-wide adoption and deployment of the eSIM will lead to 34% higher market growth in the mobile industry by 2020.

Voice as an interface: The advancements in machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) have made conversing with voice assistants less frustrating. They are slowly getting better at understanding the context and intent of people.

With support for these assistants being built into all kinds of gadgets—speakers to TVs—users will eventually not have to rely on physical remote controls anymore. A voice command from anywhere will get things done in a jiffy. Research firm Tractica has predicted that the voice and speech recognition market is expected to grow from $1.1 billion in 2017 to $6.9 billion by 2025.

Wearables as medical devices: Wearables are no longer just about tracking steps and activities. The Apple Watch Series 4 can capture (electrocardiogram) ECG/EKG readings and even detect fall in heart rates , though the feature isn’t available in India as yet. US-based medical device company, AliveCor, has announced a smartwatch with a six-lead ECG reader .

Another medical equipment company, Omron, has developed a blood pressure tracker that can be worn on the wrist. According to a Research and Markets report, the wearable medical devices market is expected to reach $14.41 billion by 2022 from $6.22 billion in 2017.

Gaming smartphones: The gaming industry generated revenue of $15.5 billion in 2018 and smartphone gaming accounted for 30% of this, claims market research firm Statista. To tap into this growing market, phone companies are developing smartphones meant specifically for gaming. For instance, the Razer Phone 2 has a 120Hz display, which means the frames will update faster compared to regular smartphone’s display, resulting in a more fluid gaming experience.

Gaming phones also come with accessories meant to enhance gaming, but what’s missing so far are games that are meant for these. In 2019, we will hopefully start seeing developers take interest and make games that can take advantage of the features gaming phones bring to the table.

Multiple cameras and computational photography: With phones becoming the go to device for photography enthusiasts, phone companies are taking the experience to the next level by deploying multiple sensors and principles of computational photography.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro and P20 Pro have three cameras on the back, Samsung’s Galaxy A9 has four, and Nokia is said to be working on a phone with five cameras.

According to an August 2018 report by Counterpoint Research, 42% of all smartphones sold in July 2018 had dual or triple cameras on the back. Samsung has said that 10% of its phones to be launched in 2019 will have triple cameras. All these hardware additions are enhanced using software implementations. Cameras on almost every top phone are aided by AI and ML algorithms, showing the first steps in computational photography.

Companies train their algorithms by showing it millions of images and it then uses these learnings to enhance the photos you take, artificially. The final goal is to eliminate the lens altogether and we are likely take one more step towards that in 2019.

5G smartphones: The global shift to 5G is expected in 2020, and India is on track to meet the rest of the world. The first 5G chipset for smartphones, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855, was announced this year and there are more to come in 2019.

OnePlus chief executive officer Pete Lau has said that his company is working on a 5G phone that will cost $200-300 more than the company’s existing devices. Further, US telcos AT&T Inc. and Verizon have both announced that they will be bringing 5G smartphones in association with Samsung, while Motorola has developed a 5G Moto Mod (that can be attached to the phone) for the existing Moto Z3 handsets, for the Verizon network.

According to a April 2018 report by Counterpoint Research, the shipments of 5G smartphones is expected to grow 255% by 2021, reaching 110 million units.

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