Smartphone makers are banking on 5G innovations


SEOUL / PALO ALTO, USA / TOKYO – The race for the supply of smartphones compatible with ultra-fast 5G networks has begun in earnest as companies rely on the data generated by these devices to find new opportunities in a saturated market.

The new communication standard offers speeds of up to 20 gigabits per second, 100 times faster than the fourth-generation 4G predecessor. Next week's MWC Barcelona, ​​formerly the Mobile World Congress, will present offerings leveraging this technology, which will be rolled out in several countries in 2019 and 2020.

Samsung Electronics has decided to stand in front of the MWC Barcelona by inaugurating Wednesday the era of foldable smartphones with its Galaxy Fold, which opens a 4.6-inch screen cover to a screen of 7.3 inch tablet.

The Fold "breaks new ground because it meets the skeptics who claim that everything has been done, that the era of smartphone innovation is over and that the smartphone is a mature technology in a saturated market," Koh said. Dong-jin, Samsung's mobile CEO. division, during its unveiling in San Francisco on Wednesday.

"We are here to prove to them that they are wrong," he added.

The foldable device will have a 5G version and will be released in the US and South Korea in the next quarter, starting at $ 1,980. Significant sales are not expected given the high price. But the Fold will help Samsung to write "the next chapter of mobile innovation" by offering a new experience "beyond the limits of a traditional smartphone," Koh said in a press release.

Huawei Technologies and fellow Chinese Royole are also launching foldable smartphones with high-resolution OLED displays. Faster 5G networks will enable these devices to stream high quality video continuously, as businesses meet the need for rich content to run on large screens.

The smartphone market, which has grown rapidly in the decade since Apple launched its first iPhone, is now at a crossroads. Global shipments fell by over 4% to about 1.4 billion units in 2018, according to US research firm International Data Corp. – a second consecutive year of decline.

Samsung is among those looking for a breakthrough with more advanced features on high-end models while reducing prices to increase market share of emerging countries. The main objective is not to draw economies of scale from mass production, but to collect data, a resource whose value increases.

Google is expected to publish a cheaper smartphone than the current models here a year. Software developers who use its Android operating system tend to be strong in medium and low cost devices. The company had mainly developed high-end phones up to now to avoid cannibalizing its own camp.

In addition to speed, 5G networks are distinguished by their ability to transmit data almost without delay – a feature that will be the essential foundation of IoT technologies.

This will allow various devices to become gateways for data collection. Smart speakers, smartwatches, cars and electronics will work as channels to collect a wealth of consumer data, for example.

But smartphones should be the king of information gathering. About 70% of users work there for more than two hours a day, according to research firm Mobile Marketing Data Labo. Smartphones can also provide electronic payment and location data.

The competitiveness of companies will depend on how they can analyze this data to offer new services. The arrival of the 5G adds a new dimension to the importance of the market share of each smartphone manufacturer.

While the appetite for smartphones is decreasing in developed countries and in China, demand remains strong in emerging countries. The Indian market grew by 15% in 2018 to reach 140 million units. Chinese company Xiaomi used cheap prices to grow rapidly, surpassing Samsung as the country 's best seller last year. Google and its competitors are eager to target growing markets with inexpensive options.

The dawn of the 5G seems to have divided the power struggle of the smartphone market into two battles: one on high end models with advanced features and the other on economical devices.


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