Two things drive more frequent phone changes.

The first is cosmetic. A phone can get a beating, screens break, or scratch, and we all want to have nice shiny things.

Next, is the fact that batteries lose resilience and we all want a full day’s use also drives frequent change.

Motorola was one of the Founding members of Mobile Muster, and we still place a free-post return bag in every box. We are seeing about 20% of smartphones sold coming back for recycling. Australia, we need to do better.

And its easier to change a phone if you have paid less than $400 for it!

Growth of Android

Android globally is already at 87% of the market. But the real growth is in ‘pure’ Android One – that is where Google can roll out over-the-air updates to improve already great security and features.

Google has answered the call for improved security by releasing Android updates every 30 days and ensuring handset vendors pass these on at least every 90 days. It’s making sure you’re getting the latest software versions and security onto your device. And it is offering at least two updates – Android 8 to 9 and 10.

Android is by far the most flexible operating system and allows handset vendors to showcase their technology but also allows consumers to optimise the phone the way they want to, like with widgets or folders. App developers also have a lot more flexibility.

Smartphone industry in 2019

Conversely, you have the walled garden iOS – ‘You can do anything you want, as long as it fits into this square’. It is like the old saying when you went to buy a Model T Ford, “You can have any colour you want, as long as it’s black!”

By the way, Australia is one of the few remaining countries that are strong Apple lovers. Statcounter shows by a relatively stable 56% of the market, but towards the end of last year after the initial uptick of the new XS and Max, it is again dropping. If Apple does not change course you can expect Android to overtake it in Australia in the next couple of years.

Smartphone industry in 2019

This further reinforces the value issue. Device Atlas shows the iPhone 6/Plus, 7/Plus and 8/Plus are more popular than the iPhone X, XR XS and XS Max buy a huge margin. Price is a real issue.

Smartphone industry in 2019

5G adds more opportunities, but these won’t be realised for everyone or for some time

Sure, we will see 5G handsets in 2019 – we have a Moto Mod 5G – but the benefits are a lot further down the track. Early adopters will pay through the nose for handsets and 5G Telco data plans. And frankly, 4G does a pretty good job for 99.99% of us.

Thinking back to 4G and 3G handsets, every time a new device came out, the phones were bigger and bulkier because they needed bigger batteries or antennas, and then the technology matured, and the devices got smaller and smaller.

5G will allow for zero latency; the ultimate data experience for devices. Now, we have high-speed data at home, but when you’re travelling, you can’t always take that same experience with you. With 5G, you’re bringing your broadband internet with you, anywhere you go and can do the same thing whether you’re at home, in a car, on the train, or in a park. If you can afford it!

Foldables and AI – a fad?

Foldables are not a fad insofar as they meet a need for more screen space in a similar size footprint – they are just a smartphone with a larger screen. Early adopters will pay a lot more, the folding screen technology is still rudimentary, and it may soon give way to other formats like pull-out, rollable screens. For that matter, wearables like smart glasses or even neural interfaces may win in the longer term.

Smartphone industry in 2019

More interesting is the development of AI and there is so much scope to improve the smartphone experience. Contextual awareness of your surroundings and actions like reminding you to get petrol when driving via an auto-interface. Or extending the battery life by precisely managing the CPU power and screen brightness needed for a task.