Whither the Smartphone
January 20, 2019
Industry pundits tend to announce the demise of a product as soon as the growth slows or recedes. Later in this Musing, we report on 2018 PC shipments, which have lost volume over the last 4 years. Given the lack of growth many of these pundits have predicted the end of the PC industry, despite shipping just under 266m units, Now, in light of slowing global sales recently, some observers say that smartphone innovation has hit a bottleneck, as new devices bear more iterative upgrades instead of groundbreaking features. Others even predict that the smartphone era may be coming to an end soon. But with mobile technologies like 5G, AI, and AR maturing rapidly, users will be able to do even more with their smartphones soon. Instead of losing relevance, the next wave of technological innovation should increase the relevance of the smartphone to our lives. Whether it’s leveraging increased connectivity or harnessing next-generation mobile intelligence, a larger display will be key to accessing future smartphone experiences.
Senior Vice President Hark-sang Kim from Samsungdiscussed the future of the smartphone as acknowledged that the display size limits the functionality of the smartphone and Samsung began to ask ourselves how we can overcome this limitation and expand the possibilities of what users can accomplish on the go. It is not really clear that the problem drove the solution or that the capability of OLEDs to be foldable drove the solution.
The recent unveiling of the Infinity Flex Display at SDC 2018 signaled the start of a new chapter. But building a foldable device was no simple feat. After the prototypes of the flexible display debuted at CES in 2011, it took another seven years to perfect the technology and deliver a truly meaningful experience to users. From developing new materials to overcoming mechanical challenges, the foldable screen demanded a total reconfiguration of the smartphone from inside out. We expect to see a sea change in the smartphone form factor in the coming years. To build the new foldable device, we made significant investments to create a new material that completely changes the anatomy of the smartphone display. We also created a natural and durable folding experience that users can appreciate from the very first time they unfold the device and crafted an innovative mechanical technology that can withstand hundreds of thousands of folds. We also had to rethink the placements of the battery, cooling system, and camera so that they can be placed inside the slim body efficiently. Last but not least, we developed an intuitive UX to ensure apps can transition seamlessly between the smaller and larger displays. We are committed to continue pushing the limits of possibility and lead the mobile industry into a new era.
The commercialization of the foldable phone comes none too soon for Samsung as their 4Q guidance reduction was reinforced by a reduction in the 2019 smartphone sales goal, which was is units 290m, down from 320m 9.4% reduction. Typically such goals are set in October of the preceding year, with changes usually made in January, May, and July of the target year.
Chinese smartphone brands look forward to capturing the reduction by Samsung and Apple. Huawei is expecting 20% to 25% growth, with Xiaomi set at ~20%, and both Oppo and Vivo set for 15% to 20% growth. In total, the top 4 Chinese smartphone brands expect an increase in unit shipments of ~120m units.