The Future of the Smartphone Industry ft. Samsung Infinity Flex

1. Current status of smartphones and mobile technology

Ever since the first iPhone came out in 2007, mobile technology has been on an exponential rise. The iPhone 2G set the stage for touch interaction with mobile communication and opened multiple new paths of software and hardware development. Before the 2G, smartphones were bricks about the size of a miniature tablet and featured understated displays with physical keyboards for input. Since 2007, the image of the smartphone changed towards a more user friendly and aesthetically pleasing large touch screen format. Manufacturers like Samsung, LG, HTC, Nokia and even Motorola began the shift towards thinner, sleeker and more compact capacitive touch screen, +4.0 inch LCD displays with incredible software capabilities. Today we see these devices everywhere taking the place of most tablets and laptops with over 42% of the world’s population owning at least one smartphone (that is 42% of 7.3 billion people!). The rise of social media, wireless communication and digital photography was fueled by this popularity of smartphones. These pocket-able, handheld computers have moved to the absolute forefront of innovation in the Information Technology and Computer Science industries.

The Original iPhone 2G (2007)

Smartphones today host a variety of ports, features and functionalities that has left laptops and tablets in the dust. The most common smartphones on the market inclusive of the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy Series include well known technologies such as Near Field Communication, Wireless charging and Organic LED displays; technologies that have been accelerated due to the very competitive modern smartphone and consumer electronics market. Due to the incredible compactness of these devices, companies are having to push the very boundaries of physics and hardware:

  • System on Chips (SoCs) have become more and more capable with various components such as RAM, Image Signal Processors (ISPs), LTE bands and cache soldered onto the same miniature PCB.
  • Battery technology has become more efficient and reliable as manufacturers struggle to cram these large power supplying devices into the smallest spaces inside smartphone chassis’.
  • Digital image sensor’s have become more capable than ever due to rising demand of social media and the practicality of mobile photography. Modern camera sensors have seen improvements in pixel count/size, processing efficiency and low light performance
  • The primary interaction with the user, displays, have become lighter, smaller and much more power efficient as technologies such as OLED and Liquid Crystal Display’s dominate the market. LED luminescence, color accuracy, brightness and durability are areas being heavily researched and developed by manufacturers of all smartphones today

 

Sony IMX Image Sensor
Typical Snapdragon SoC Layout

 

All in all, smartphones today are pushing the boundaries of innovation in nanotechnology and electronics hardware. And there are new trends that are pushing manufacturers to the edge of research and development.

 

2. The Future trajectory of the smartphone industry

With smartphone hardware becoming a common test bed for various types of companies and manufacturers in the electronics industry, new ideas and concepts have been flooding the market today. Starting in 2017, Samsung popularized the idea of smaller bezels (more screen) mainstream phone with the Samsung Galaxy S8. This was revolutionary. With one of the world’s largest smartphone and screen manufacturers taking on this risky yet necessary move, everyone had to follow through to have any chance of survival.

The LG G7 ThinQ, one of the latest smartphones to adopt the bezel-less “notch” design
A typical smartphone Lithium-Ion Battery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so they did. Devices like the S8 and Note 8 are seen being developed by LG, Apple, Xiaomi, Nokia, Huawei, etc.  The advent of this new generation of smartphones brings the following:

  • Bezel-less designs naturally force manufacturers to design motherboards, camera’s, displays and batteries that are significantly more compact than other parts of the smartphone. Resulting in better performance in all those categories.
  • Due to the appealing nature of the design, more and more consumers find themselves purchasing products with such technologies. Pushing the popularity of smartphones and hence increasing competition.

As we expect this bezel-less concept to flourish in the modern smartphone market, Samsung has yet again introduced a completely new type of trend that it hopes to popularize over the coming years.

 

Samsung has been teasing its foldable smartphone for weeks, and now the company has unveiled it for the first time today. Samsung calls its foldable phone technology the Infinity Flex Display, and the phone itself has a tablet-sized screen that can be folded up to fit into a pocket. Samsung demonstrated a “disguised” device during its developer conference today, and dimmed the lights to protect elements of the design. “There’s a device inside here,” said Justin Denison, SVP of mobile product marketing. “And it is stunning.” Google is also officially supporting these new foldable devices with Android, and it’s working closely with Samsung for the launch of this phone next year. Google is providing guidance for developers to start using existing features that are built into Android to support these foldable displays. Samsung isn’t the only phone maker working on foldable devices, though. Huawei reportedly plans to release a foldable handset next year. Lenovo and Xiaomi have also started teased their own prototypes, and LG is also working on flexible OLED displays and TVs that roll up into a box.

The official first look at the Galaxy Foldable smartphone, displayed at Samsung’s Developer’s Conference on November 7th, 2018

 

Samsung hopes to mass produce this technology in 2019 and has partnered with Google in doing so. It seems foldability is going to be the next “Big Thing” in mobile devices coming 2019. Let’s see just how quickly it catches on.