2019 was an amazing year for smartphones
This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
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.