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  • Smartphones have altered our daily life so much that many don't remember life before them.

  • There are an estimated 3 billion smartphone users worldwide.

  • Over the past decade, we've seen phones get larger, faster and loaded with more features

  • like fingerprint technology, improved cameras and digital assistants.

  • But the pace of innovation is slowing.

  • And smartphone sales are declining.

  • Manufacturers are scrambling to find new ways to conjure up excitement.

  • This is your Bloomberg QuickTake on the future of smartphones.

  • In 2007, Apple's iPhone ushered in the modern era of smartphones.

  • At the time, text messages and slow data were about all most wireless networks could handle.

  • Then carriers moved to 4G, download speeds got faster,

  • phones got more sophisticated and growth exploded, surging 40% in 2013.

  • But 2017 saw the first contraction -

  • and the trend continued into 2018.

  • Devices aren't making the big, innovative leaps they used to.

  • Phones are also getting more durable.

  • And some of the biggest markets for smartphones are reaching saturation.

  • Most Chinese have a smartphone now.

  • So what will be the next growth driver?

  • Some of the world's biggest smartphone makers seem to think it will be the foldable screen,

  • which doubles the size of the display without making the phone gigantic.

  • Companies like Samsung, Huawei and Xiaomi are betting on it, but the technology isn't quite there.

  • In April, Samsung had to delay the launch of its new foldable phone

  • after some early users of the $2000 Galaxy Fold reported that it failed after only a few days of use.

  • The screen stopped working after people peeled off a special film that looked just like a screen protector.

  • It was a pretty devastating blow

  • so early in the process of releasing foldable phones.

  • What was unique about the Samsung Fold is it folded inwards, like a book.

  • Whereas Huawei have brought out a foldable phone that folds outwards,

  • so the screen is actually on the outside.

  • What that means is not folding as hard,

  • not so much of a crease down the middle

  • as you have on the Samsung phone.

  • So while companies are experimenting with

  • how they're going to design these devices,

  • they might start going more for the Huawei option.

  • Or maybe the game changer will be 5G

  • - though its rollout could be slowed by geopolitics and security concerns.

  • 5G networks promise to be so fast

  • that it would only take a few seconds to download a feature-length movie.

  • Samsung has released a 5G phone in South Korea and Huawei also has one in the works.

  • What it will also do is support all the other technology that's emerging.

  • For driverless cars to work, the world is counting on the capacity for wireless networks to carry that data.

  • For the Internet of Things to work, which allows you to connect your fridge to the internet

  • or remote control the lights in your house when you're not there,

  • that requires a lot of bandwidth, a lot of data.

  • But experience has shown that

  • it usually takes more than one improvement to get people to shell out for an upgrade.

  • Even when we went from 2G to 3G to 4G,

  • it was a combination of things.

  • The ability to download the data made all these extra uses by the consumer so much more possible.

  • But not everyone uses their phone the same way.

  • So what you need to see is a capacity for people to start using their phones

  • in new and different ways to justify spending more money.

Smartphones have altered our daily life so much that many don't remember life before them.

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When Did Smartphones Become So Boring?

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    洪子雯 posted on 2019/06/19
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