• Ajay Sharma

Adios 2018, Hola 2019!

Updated: Jan 3, 2019

Last year’s darkness derails. A steady growth carriage carries bouquets of positives in tonnes.

2018 has ended and it’s time for the “Pundits and Gurus” to make predictions. I am none so you’ll have to give me some benefit of doubt here on my predictions.

When it comes to smartphones trends, I have drawn a lot from:

a. China as a market for its eco system and success of its brands globally. Smartphone business moves around R&D and supply chain, and China is strong in both. What happens there gives one a tremendous insight into how things will shape up elsewhere.

b. US as it’s amongst the top 3 markets. #Apple as a brand has a rippling effect on what happens on Android devices – In terms of technology and design – Notch was one such example.


Market Size

Globally, based on various reports getting published, the global smartphone volume will see a decline in 2018. This will be due to increased smartphone replacement cycle and prices, industry consolidation, declining China market, a static US market, and economic headwinds/uncertainties etc..

However minimal as it may be, but things definitely look a little brighter in 2019.

India which will show just about a double digit growth this year, will maintain the same in 2019. One can attribute it to the low penetration of smartphones and replacement demand for the first wave of 4G phones sold in 2016-17.

I’d say that the smartphone market size for 2019 is between 160-165 million with smartphone contribution being higher than feature phones for the first time. Let’s tag this as the first of the many great news that 2019 comes bearing.

While everyone talks about volumes, I feel it’s value that is more important for the Industry. The growth in revenues will be much higher as both volumes and ASPs will increase. Second great news.


Sentiments Are Positive

2018, I feel, was the most difficult for many associated with the industry – brands, businessmen and employees. Based on all my studies, I strongly believe 2019 is going to be much better as it will be the year of digital adoption.

On a lighter note let me add a touch of numerologyfor those who believe in it.

Since we have taken China and US as the reference markets with India as our base market, let us see what does 2019 have in store based on forecasts from the numerology norms of these countries.

China: 2019 is the year of the Pig. Pig is mild and a lucky animal representing carefree fun, good fortune and wealth.

US: In Christian numerology, the Trinity is very important and linked naturally with the perfect, most holy and the best. Even before Christianity, 3 was linked to the superlative and the Greeks translated it as superlatively great. The Latin translated it as happiest.

India: 2019 promises amazing opportunities for greater happiness, fulfilment, and well-being.


So from all the three cultures – 2019 seems to be a year of good fortune, fulfilment and happiness. Third great news.


Product

A brand is as good as its products and let us therefore start with what we can expect on products.

As mentioned in my earlier blog, the hardware has exceeded the limits required. So what’s next? While brands may still try and play a bit on hardware, the most exciting smartphone innovations of 2019 should happen on the software front.

Let’s try and predict.


1. 5G Phones

While 4G adoption in India will only increase in pace with the large base of feature phone users, and there is apparently no readiness or requirement of 5G phones, we will still see brands launching them. Why? It can be a good selling point for 2019 flagships. And we Indians love to buy phones based on hardware is known to all!

While the first 5G commercial handsets will go on sale from 2019, sales will not begin to scale up until 2021.

#Motorola is planning on selling a 5G mod for some of its smartphones.


In fact, most of the big names have already confirmed they're going to be introducing 5G technology during 2019: the likes of #OnePlus, #Samsung, #Sony, #Huawei and others are all on the record as wanting to introduce 5G handsets over the next 12 months. Others may not have said it in so many words but may well do it as well.

4G LTE, currently the dominant handset technology worldwide, will remain a mainstay for mobile phones.

The only devices that will make use of a 5G network in 2019 will be Android based. There will be no iOS device on this much-anticipated network. And note this – you're going to pay a rather hefty price for entry.


2. Foldable Phones

While Samsung has been talking about it, the #Royole #FlexPai is one of the 1stgenuinely flexible phones launched.

Well, the foldable phones will be big, thick and expensive, but are definitely coming during 2019. We might see something as early as the CES 2019 in January. We've already seen Samsung show off a prototype foldable phone.

Not too far behind is Huawei – Their CEO Richard Yu said so during the launch of the Mate 20. LG hasn't said anything officially, however recent patent applications by the company suggest it's working on this design too.

The advantages are obvious – a large screen, tablet-style experience when the device is opened out. All this in a pocket-friendly form factor when folded (no hinge in the middle). Android is adding support for screens that shift in size in preparation for a new wave of devices. No news from Apple though. The technology won't be perfected, and it will be met with lukewarm acceptance initially. However, with the concept finally approved, manufacturers will start getting creative with the idea and by the end of 2019 we'll start seeing some fascinating uses and designs for foldable phones.