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Foldable displays will drive smartphone sales in coming years as prices fall further

(Image credit: Future)

The industry saw foldable smartphones from some top vendors last year but what has in store for this year?

Only Samsung and Huawei, among major vendors, had launched foldable phones so far but many other smartphone OEMs are expected to launch their devices this year.

The smartphone market is gearing towards the introduction of new form factors which includes foldable and dual-screen devices, Nabila Popal, Senior Research Manager at International Data Corporation, told TechRadar Middle East, and added that these novel form factors are expected to help drive sales in the premium and ultra-premium segments in coming years as prices drop.

“Other trends the industry could see are the proliferation of high-refresh-rate screens and 5G capabilities being available in most variants of flagship devices across all major brands.”

As 5G adoption grows across various consumer technologies and new apps and use cases are developed in phones further connecting them to other devices, she said the consumer will also begin to see the phone as a confluence point for a consumers internet of things (IoT) (like smart home devices, smart assistants or wearables), outside of standard traditional use cases.

“We might see the beginning of this trend towards the end of 2020, although the proliferation of this is going to happen in the coming years,” she said.

Foldable devices, once it becomes affordable, will be one of the major drivers for the next boom in the smartphone market, both globally and regionally, she said.

“It will provide an undeniable tangible advancement in design language and help convince consumers to upgrade their phones. However, prices are not expected to fall in 2020 as the technology is still very new,” Popal said.

Variety of uses for folding displays

CES 2020 best laptops

(Image credit: Dell)

Currently, Anisha Bhatia, Senior Device Analyst at GlobalData, said that foldable displays are limited to smartphones but that is set to change as manufacturers experiment with foldable screens beyond smartphones, hinting at an innovative future for consumer electronics.

She said that Lenovo launched its first working foldable laptop PC - ThinkPad X1 – at CES 2020 along with conceptual folding laptops from Dell and Intel, and a smart speaker with a wrap-around display from Royale will help spike consumer interest in a variety of uses for folding displays.

 “Folding displays are still in the experimentation stage. Both manufacturers and carriers alike are figuring out specific use cases for foldable displays that best fit their overall strategy – whether they aim to market a media device or a productivity tool or a two-in-one product.

“Most of the folding screens are still niche concept devices and expensive. They represent an evolving trend, especially in a maturing and stagnating wireless industry which hasn’t seen true hardware innovation since Apple’s first iPhone in 2007.”

From the camera point of view, Popal said that the megapixel rating for phone cameras will continue to grow with the release of more advanced processors.

However, what’s also interesting will be further advancements in computational photography, she said will be multi-sensor cameras and additional features like high-resolution videography, slow-motion capture, and periscope zoom features.

Focus on AI camera

Shobhit Srivastava, Research Analyst at Counterpoint Research, said vendors will focus more on the AI aspect of the camera rather than the megapixel race.

“5G will become mainstream this year and drive growth this year. The game for megapixel has gone away and vendors are more focusing on AI camera. AI is one of the factors that is going to drive 5G. AI is right now available on the premium handsets but it will trickle down to lower price segments also.

“The availability of technology is there but higher adoption happens when it comes down to lower price segment. The smartphone shipments will record growth this year and it will be due to 5G handsets,” he said.