Despite being the most popular electronics show, smartphones often take the back seat at the CES, as most handset phone makers tend to wait until the Mobile World Congress. However, it didn't fail to set the pace for exciting technologies like 5G and foldable displays.
Like every year, the majority of the mobile industry and various other companies will meet in Barcelona to present their latest innovations. Here are a few trends we can expect from the MWC 2019.
The concept of foldable displays is not new. While Samsung’s curved “Infinity" and “Edge" displays could technically be called foldable — since the AMOLED display actually folds around the edges in the manufacturing process—they don't actually flex.
Samsung was rumoured to be working on a foldable display last year, but it was Royole Corp’s FlexPai that took the cake for made the first smartphone with a foldable display. Although it flagged off the foldable screen race, it certainly didn’t win it, as the FlexPai still looks like a prototype instead of a final product.
We can expect Samsung, Motorola and even Oppo to unveil foldable smartphones at the MWC 2019. Samsung is all set to launch the final version of the prototype it put on display at its developers’ conference last year. The smartphone will also run Samsung’s One UI based on Android Pie.
Motorola is also expected to bring back the Razr brand in the form of a foldable smartphone. WSJ first reported on the revival of the iconic brand and mentioned that the parent company Lenovo had plans to manufacture about 200,000 of Razr smartphones.
Last year, Oppo’s product manager, Chuck Wang, confirmed that the company was developing on a phone that could be folded like a book — similar to Samsung’s foldable phone concept and Royole Corp’s FlexPai. We can expect the same to hog the limelight at Oppo’s exhibit.
At Qualcomm’s conference last year, it was announced that the first 5G smartphones would start rolling out in the first quarter of 2019. The Lenovo Z5 GT Pro was announced in December last year and it has overtaken the Mi Mix 3 to be the first 5G smartphone in production. The Z5 GT Pro will go on sale on January 29 in China, while there’s no word out on the 5G-enabled Mi Mix 3’s sale.
We can expect LG, Oppo, Huawei and Samsung to launch 5G handsets at the MWC. OnePlus has traditionally launched its smartphones in May or June, so there’s not a high possibility there.
Although it seems lucrative to have gigabit speeds on your smartphones, 4G is more than sufficient for most of our internet consumption needs. 5G is more suited for the Internet of Things, or a network of devices like vehicles or home appliances that contain electronics, software and actuators. With the help of 5G, these elements can connect, interact and exchange data among each other.
5G might pose its own issues—in its initial stages, there might be very few providers that will provide the service.
5G operates on very high frequencies, which also means it operates on very low wavelengths. Because of lower wavelengths, the distance between the tower and device has to be much shorter and the signals will be more susceptible to interferences in the forms of buildings and trees. The workaround to this might be installing more towers, which is less feasible, or installing signal boosters at regular intervals.
5G is also very power-hungry, so smartphones might have to switch to 4G networks more often, which completely defeats the purpose of having 5G in the first place.
Smartphone cameras have seen a sudden spurt in numbers, especially after Apple introduced the iPhone 7 Plus. Last year, we saw the world’s first triple camera and quadruple camera setups in smartphones. We also saw manufacturers replace the dedicated secondary depth sensor with another camera with a different focal length.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro, for instance, came with three cameras with regular, ultra-wide and 8x zoom lenses. Having multiple focal lengths is incredibly practical since you have a one-stop solution for different scenarios.
This year, we can expect the camera game to be taken further with the Nokia 9.1 PureView, which might carry a penta-lens configuration at its back, with a 48MP primary sensor.
We can also expect mid-range smartphones to boast higher megapixel counts. The Redmi Note 7, which was launched recently in China, sports A 48MP camera. This is attributed to newer processors from MediaTek and Qualcomm that can support higher resolution cameras.
Qualcomm’s new line-up of mobile processors includes the Snapdragon 855, 850, 710, 675 and 670. While the Snapdragon 855 is the only 5G-enabled processor among the lot, the other processors are significantly faster than their previous generations.
The Snapdragon 710, 675 and 670 bring faster computing speeds at reasonable prices while also offering several other perks like support for 4K recording and up to 48MP camera sensors.