It’s evident that 2019 was a big year for smartphones, and it doesn’t look like the speed is going to slow down much in 2020 either: you can expect the usual flood of handsets from the likes of Samsung, Apple, Google and the rest. Somewhere among those phones waiting in the line in 2020, we hope these enhancements are included.
We’ve chosen phone features in particular here, but yes, the list could go on and on – faster speeds, better cameras, sharper displays. In this specific list, we’ve emphasised on areas where we think improvements are most required and left out few of the areas where phone makers are at present doing quite well (like low light photography).
More affordable pricing
The costs of top-end phones keeps going up and up – opening prices of $999 for the lowest spec iPhone 11 Pro, US$799 for the lowest spec Pixel 4, , and $1,099 for the lowest space Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus. To avail the very finest these days, you need to let go four-figure sums or very near to them.
No doubt, there will always be some phone buyers who will be happy to pay the top prices for the best phones, and it’s fair to say the cellphones we’ve stated are exceptionally well designed, super powerful, and made from the very best materials – you could nearly say they’re good value for money, as costly as they are.
To be fair we should also admit that Samsung and Apple make more reasonable versions of their main flagships now, so there are more choices than there have been in the past. Google also makes the Pixel 3a (and apparently will launch the Pixel 4a in 2020) – we’d like to see more competitively rated handsets like this, with somewhat inferior specs but some exceptional features (like the Pixel camera) as well.
Having said that, we do admire if manufacturers could cut back on the prices of their very top-end cellphones, even if it means a reduction in terms of storage or processor speed. The costliest handsets that hit the market in 2019 were able of speeding through every job and then some, so it seems as though more concessions could be made to pull down prices further – or at least offer an extensive range of price points.
Better battery life
Praise to Apple, which achieved to add several hours of battery life to the 2019 iPhones – let’s hope other producers are paying attention in 2020. No one heeds a slightly thicker phone if it means prolonged battery life and more time between charges.
However, it feels that the majority of phones have been caught on a day of use from every battery charge for a long time now. Partially, it can be due to the limitations of lithium-ion technology, but it’s also because phone makers like to keep their handsets as light and thin as possible, at the cost of everything else.
That usual is fine as long as you can charge up your smartphone every night, but if you forget, or you lose your charger, or you’re away camping, or, you can quickly be in trouble. The situation inclines to get worse as phones get older, with average battery life often dropping quite significantly after a year or two.
We’ve seen a few phones with less-than-marvellous battery life in 2019, but we’re hoping that in 2020 the big manufacturers tighten belts elsewhere – a few fractions of an inch in thickness, a few pixels of display resolution – and make sure a bigger battery is the primary concern in every phone they make.
Even smarter software
Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa continue to get better and smarter over time – although Amazon’s digital assistant hasn’t made it to cellphones in the same manner as the apps from Apple and Google have – and it feels like these tools and the artificial intelligence on our phones are genuinely starting to get really valuable.
We’re now seeing Siri screen and Google Assistant robocalls and spam calls, for instance, and the latest Pixel 4 handsets debut with an AI-enhanced Recorder app that can write out spoken audio into text in real-time. These are genuinely useful features rather than gimmicks.
However, we think there’s plenty more to come – phones should be better than they are at understanding what app we want to use next (the alarm app at bedtime, games at lunchtime), and at using context cues (such as location) to work out what phone functions are going to be most suitable for us at any given moment.
The following real upgrade in phones could well be on the software instead of the hardware side: mobile operating systems that learn our preferences and our habits, cutting down the time we consume swiping and scrolling to bring up the apps and the information we need at once.
Genuinely innovative features
The feature-set of the modern-day smartphone has plateaued to a certain level – they all make calls, take photos, and run apps. Many of them are dustproof and waterproof and charge wirelessly. They almost all look very alike, save for a pop-up selfie camera or two in the gathering.
We’re hoping that 2020 sees some true innovation in terms of what our smartphones can present us, however it’s easier said than done: if we had all the solutions to what that appears like, we’d be working in the research and development labs at the big makers.
We also like the Motion Sense features that come built into the Pixel 4 – miniature radar means you can manage apps with a swipe across the air. The same tech also silences down alarms as you reach your hand towards your phone, and makes the lock screen display noticeable when it senses you’re looking at the device.
These sort of features make phones more spontaneous and easier to use, and we’re hoping to see lots more of them in 2020. Better onboard sensors for tracking activities and even attitude, maybe, or phones that are smart enough to switch on the camera and take a picture even as you’re lifting up the handset.
Foldables that work
2019 was something of deceitful dawn as far as foldables are involved – both the Huawei Mate X and the Samsung Galaxy Fold were announced and were supposed to go on sale, but none of the two made it to market in significant numbers. It emerges as making a folding phone is as difficult as you would expect it to be.
2020 could be significantly different as the technology and manufacturing processes improve. We’ve already been given a sneak preview of what next year has in store in foldables in the form of the refurbished Motorola Razr, and Samsung is believed to be working on another folding handset with the same form factor.
Let’s hope the tech giants do a finer job of folding phones this time around because these new designs propose a retreat from the old form factors that we’ve lived with for so long – it’s almost time that there were more options in terms of smartphone design beyond a simple slab of metal and glass.
Folding phones may well propose that choice, and software and apps to match. Till the time we get round to doing our smartphone preview for 2021, we’d love to see foldables well established as a reliable and viable part of the mobile market.
We’re also keen to know what you’ve got to say: what specific upgrades and new features do you want on your 2020 smartphone? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments and join in the discussion.