2018 was an interesting year on the tech front and I had a lot of fun covering the devices that have become such a big part of our daily lives. We saw a number of new trends emerge. So, what can we expect for 2019? Let’s polish our crystal ball and see what it tells us about the near-term future for smartphones.
Front design: the death of the notch?
2018 was the year of the famous notch at the top of our smartphones. Popularized by the iPhone X, the notch has been adopted by many Android phone-makers as well. Its purpose is to maximize screen size so as to provide the best possible screen-to-body ratio.
The goal is laudable but I have to admit I’m not crazy about the notch. I understand that in the race to deliver “all-screen” phones, designers still have to make room for the front camera and the speaker, but I think the notch is a stop-gap solution that will turn out to be blip on the screen of cellphone history.
A number of phone-makers are already coming out with designs that get rid of the notch while still leaving room for the camera:
The punch hole is simply a hole in one of the upper corners of the screen.
The teardrop is a small teardrop shape in the top centre of the screen.
The pop-up camera replaces the opening for the lens with a mechanism that slides out the camera for use and retracts and protects it when not in use.
Fingerprint readers: security doesn’t have to take up space
Some smartphone manufacturers have eliminated fingerprint readers and begun using facial recognition instead but others are still attached to the finger.
In 2018, a limited number of smartphones began offering a fingerprint reader built directly into the screen—no more dedicated button on the back or front of the device, just an area on the screen where you have to place your finger. A clever way to gain screen space!
In 2019, fingerprint readers will continue to be used for biometric security but more phone-makers will integrate them directly into the screen.
The folding screen: back to the future
The folding phone is an old idea that still seemed like science fiction just a few years ago, but in 2018 we got two brief glimpses of what a flexible phone might actually look like.
No, I’m not talking about a return to the old flip phone; I mean a screen that actually folds in half and gives you twice the display area when unfolded.
In late 2018, Royole launched the Flexpai, and shortly afterward Samsung gave us a preview of its Infinity Flex Display technology. It looks very promising but it still has a way to go before we can really enjoy a tablet-like experience on our smartphones.
That said, you can expect other companies to unveil their advances in flexible-screen technology in 2019.
Animation source: news.samsung.com
Steady improvements in night vision
You can also expect continuing improvements in smartphone cameras in 2019, with sensors providing ever-better performance and the ability to take perfect photos under all conditions, including low light.
Yes, phone cameras do come equipped with flash, but that can spoil the mood. In 2018, Google and Huawei made a lot of noise about their cameras’ night-vision capabilities. In 2019, we can expect this feature to become an important differentiator between phone manufacturers.
Image source: store.google.com
No more wires
When Apple eliminated the headphone jack on the iPhone in 2016 it was considered a bold step, but time seems to have proven Apple right. In 2019, fewer cellphones will have headphone jacks. Rumour has it that even Samsung is planning to drop them this year. Watch this space for more details.
So, if you want to continue using your old headphones, they will either have to be Bluetooth or, if you have high-end wired headphones bought not so long ago that you are loath to part with, you will need an adaptor. It’s a bit of a hassle but totally doable: I’ve done it and it’s not so bad.
By the way, wireless charging will also become widely available in 2019, but you already knew that!
The desktop experience
I’m very excited about the computing potential of cellphones. Already, the current crop of powerful phones can deliver something resembling a desktop PC experience.
Both Huawei and Samsung are now offering this type of capability. When you connect some of their devices to a TV set or a monitor, you get a hybrid user interface that is neither Windows nor Android but visually very similar to a desktop computer. You can then use the screen of your smartphone like the mouse touchpad on a portable computer. And when you click in a text zone or data-entry field, the phone screen turns into a virtual keyboard.
The solution isn’t perfect yet but if you connect a mouse and a keyboard too it’s almost like using a desktop computer. Will this become a real trend in 2019? Hard to say but I hope so!
What about you? Do you think I’m dreaming? What do you see on the horizon for 2019? What new technologies are you hoping for? Write and let me know, and we’ll compare notes in 2020.