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  • 2019 was an amazing year for smartphones

    This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
    2019 was an amazing year for smartphones
    Each year, we get new flagships and each year we use them, judge them, critique them, and sometimes enjoy them. If you yourself are a tech enthusiast, you may be in a similar spot and you've possibly noticed something — we are all becoming a bit jaded. For example, when the iPhone 11 series landed in 2019, some called them "boring", while others retorted with "You are insane, they are amazing!".

    Both sides have a point — if you are one who has been following the smartphone industry closely for years, you may be growing nostalgic for the times when the tech was still fresh and growing and we had major new breakthroughs each year. But the guys on the other side of the fence have a point, too — smartphones nowadays are anything but boring. They are super powerful devices with gorgeous screens, fast Internet connectivity, pretty amazing cameras, digital wallets, and mind-boggling biometric security that all fit right in our pockets.

    So, let's get some optimism back in here! If you think about it and look back, 2019 was a pretty amazing year for smartphones. Here are 5 major things that happened:

    We saw and touched actual foldable phones



    Granted, their launch was a bit... rocky, but foldable phones are now a fact! We have the Samsung Galaxy Fold, the Motorola razr (2019) (ironically, that'll launch early January 2020), and even the kind of unknown Royole Flexpai.

    And yes, they are expensive — so expensive that buying one is probably not a good idea. But hey, so were electric cars.

    Yes, we still can't say for certain that foldable phones are the future. But they very definitely will at least be a subset of future smartphones and a cool one at that.

    The hadware is insanely powerful



    Apple's smartphone chips have been overkill for the past few generations. But Qualcomm has been killing it over the past couple of years as well. The Snapdragon 855 is just insanely fast and Android flagships are smooth, snappy, and a pleasure to use.

    Let's also not forget that we are seeing more and more high refresh rate screens. OnePlus led the charge with a 90 Hz refresh rate on its OnePlus 7 Pro and then Asus knocked it out of the park with 120 Hz on the ROG Phone II. And yes, we have seen 120 Hz on the Razer Phone before... but that was LCD, while OnePlus and Asus did it with AMOLED panels, which is huge.

    Mobile cameras are better than ever



    Yeah, smartphone cameras have been pretty great over the past 3 years or so. But this year, we didn't only get small tweaks and adjustments, we also got the triple camera module as a mainstream feature.

    So, we have crazy optical zooms, ultra-wide-angle lenses, and some pretty impressive computational photography from all teams in the field. While last year the Pixel 3 was kind of king in terms of pictures, this year everyone brought their A+ game to the point it's hard to pick a favorite consistently.

    And the improvements in night modes have been monumental, especially for Apple's iPhones, who have been painfully missing such a feature for the past couple of years.

    Long battery life is now an industry standard



    For years, users have pleaded "Give us large batteries!". Some companies listened, others preferred to make their devices super-thin and super-light.

    In 2019, the technology is so ahead that we managed to kind of get a bit of both — the phones don't have to be super huge, yet battery capacities have grown noticeably. Even Apple, who has been notorious for using smaller batteries, now has a 4,000 mAh cell in the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

    And yes, some manufacturers still fail at software optimizations to keep those huge batteries lasting for as long as they should. But we are getting there!

    The end of Price Wars?



    2017 and 2018 had us worried. Smartphone prices were constantly growing with no end in sight. The price increase was the manufacturers' answer to users choosing to upgrade their point less frequently (among other things). Yeah, nobody was happy and customer dissatisfaction was beginning to boil.

    Yeah, manufacturers extended an olive branch with a "cheaper flagship" — Apple had the iPhone XR, which still felt just a tad too expensive at $750, Samsung had the Galaxy S10e at the same price point, but it was only good for people who like compact smartphones.

    In 2019, however, Apple flipped the script with the iPhone 11. Not only is it back to a starting price of $699, it also included a secondary camera with the trendy ultra-wide-angle lens, and Apple did the smart thing to market it as its flagship. The iPhone 11 Pro models are higher tier, yes, but they are treated as that premium offshoot only meant for super-fans or professionals. The point is, the general message is that "The iPhone 11 for $699 is the iPhone to get".

    And it did sell insanely well. Competing manufacturers will surely be pressed to respond with a value product of their own, which only cuts corners where it needs to and doesn't smell of "discount flagship". Or, at the very least, this should put a stop to the price inflations that have been going on over the past 2 years.

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    11 Comments

    2. User123456789

    Posts: 1299; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

    Nothing new from Apple

    3. pimpin83z

    Posts: 606; Member since: Feb 08, 2019

    iPhones finally having long battery life is definitely something new from Apple.

    6. mackan84

    Posts: 674; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

    Seamless switching between cameras that are calibrated to each other. Might be wrong but haven’t heard any else being “as seamless” as iPhone 11 Pro.

    8. jjface

    Posts: 266; Member since: Jun 07, 2017

    It isn't seamless. Best on the market but not seamless

    4. Pabliell

    Posts: 189; Member since: Mar 22, 2016

    This year was an interesting one, but not too good. We got first true foldable phones, we got bigger camera sensors, still with small pixels, but with quad Bayer filter. We got premium phones in lower price range, we got improvements here and there. But we also got death of smaller screen flagships, iPhone 11 Pro and Galaxy S10e are the only two flagships below 6" screen this year. Also there are almost no flagships with headphone jack. And flagships are the segment that should have no compromises and should be most feature rich. Thought that a mid range device has more features than a flagship is ridiculous to me.

    5. tokuzumi

    Posts: 1989; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

    Phones are still too large. I am excited about the Razr, but will let that tech mature for a generation or two, as I have no interest in paying more than $600 for something like this.

    7. Locked-n-Loaded

    Posts: 99; Member since: Sep 13, 2019

    For USA phones it wasn't. For those outside USA who can get their hands on the truly advanced phones mostly seen in Asia and Europe it was. But for USA buyers it was more of the same same from Apple in Samsung.

    10. Poptart2828

    Posts: 494; Member since: Jan 23, 2018

    Well said. The truly exciting stuff is in Asia. Between all the foldable phones from Asia and the usual head turning designs from the likes of oppo, Huawei, vivo and xiaomi, Asia is killing it. Just the waterfall display on my phone make people stare at it like something out of the future.

    9. jjface

    Posts: 266; Member since: Jun 07, 2017

    I think this year was pretty weak for smartphones. AI photography is veering images away from natural. Ugly camera modules have surfaced. Ultra wides are slapped in for the sake of it without the quality. In screen fingerprint sensors suck. Curved screens are gaining momentum. Headphone jacks are vanishing. Prices are creeping up even further. And manufacturers are going for quantity rather than quality churning out hundreds of models between them with very little to separate them. Extremely expensive foldable phones that are a fad and vanish in a year or two unless apple joins in. The highlights for me - Apple did well to improve battery life significantly and to finally come out with a competitive camera. Samsung designs leading the way. Google's budget pixel 3a. Phones like the Asus Zenfone 6 don't get enough credit. Macro mode Oneplus 7t.

    11. Locked-n-Loaded

    Posts: 99; Member since: Sep 13, 2019

    Lots of hype in the USA Market BUT when you really look at it it's just a lot of fluff. But in Asia all the killer brands are blowing performance out of the water constantly advancing the technology, designs, functions in ways that are actually useful for the user (for example massive batteries). How many want to bet the Samsung S11 for the United States will just be more of the same. And then they will start the whole process over about how great the S12 is going to be and then that'll be more of the same. Watch the trends people it's so glaringly obvious the USA is limited in what we can get thanks all the government mumbo jumbo.

    14. Duncdawg26

    Posts: 188; Member since: Jan 20, 2017

    Kicking out Huawei was certainly bad for consumer choice but an equally difficult hurdle for OEM's to justify bringing, say, sub-$600 to the US is carrier based phone sales and the cultural assumptions involved with them. Americans expect to buy phones from their carrier store and often accept whatever the going price for flagships as normative. So, first, they only look at the phones on those shelves. Secondly, it leaves a massive amount of flagships in circulation resulting in a strong and competitive secondary market. This secondary market results in last year's flagship specs coming in at 50-60% 9-12 months from release. I personally don't spend more than $300 on a phone and when offered a Galaxy S9+ or a Moto G7 (or, for instance, the missing Honor 9x), the s9+ is a much better offering than either of those possibilities.
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