2019 will be a gift to tech enthusiasts and fans of flagship smartphones. While 2018 brought sleeker phones with incredibly advanced cameras and battery life, 2019 will reset our expectations of innovation in the category.
The New York Times believes we have reached ‘peak smartphone’ – a situation in which growth of handset sales falls to zero, as the market becomes saturated. The results, of smartphones sales maturing in this way are interesting to see.
First, people are holding on to their phones longer. That has led in rocketing sales of SIM Only and Prepaid Plans as well as fewer upgrade sales for the world’s major handset manufacturers.
Second, if judged by the roadmap of devices scheduled for release next year, 2019 could herald be a dramatic rise in innovation – by smartphone manufacturers competing for your money. 2019 seems set to bring access to next-generation technologies such as Foldable Screens, Artificial Intelligence, and 5G – the 5th Generation of cellular network traffic.
It’s a while since we’ve seen anything like this level of functionality improvement in a single generation of devices. Here are some of the most anticipated smartphones expected to launch in 2019.
Samsung Galaxy S10 Series
Samsung’s dominance of the smartphone market will continue into 2019 with Samsung Galaxy S10 series.
Expect to see three versions of the Galaxy S10, all with powerful system processors and anti-reflective INFINITY (almost bezel-less) designs.
Other anticipated features and specifications include a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display with Ultra HD resolution for the flagship device, Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC for faster processing, 8GB/10GB of RAM and 512GB internal memory, a 16MP + 8MP camera module with dual aperture technology for a, low light photography, and much more.
Samsung are going to release their new S range phone early in the year. Typically they announce the new ‘S’ range device in February each year, and the range is sold from late March. That seems likely to represent a problem for Samsung who could struggle to include 5G technology in the phone so early. (See 5G OnePlus 7 device, below for more on 5G.)
Other questions remain, too. Samsung’s most notable announcement at their developer conference this year related to the apparently imminent release of a new, foldable, phone. Here’s the best available video on the subject.
Will one member of the S10 range be a foldable option? Personally, I hope so.
Expected release: February – April 2019
Rumors surrounding the OnePlus 7 suggest that this smartphone will become one of the first phones in the world to be shipped equipped with 5G.
5G is the 5th Generation of wireless cellular network. Every decade or so, phone companies upgrade the network they provide us and the frequencies they rent from governments around the world, which transmit the internet to our phones.
2019 will see the launch of 5G services in many Western countries, albeit mostly in small test zones and city centers, to begin with.
5G is not just faster than the data transmission facilities you almost certainly have in your phone at the moment. It’s incredibly fast. It can take 20 to 25 minutes to download a 2 hour film over a 4G connection. With 5G, that same film might well take less than 30 seconds to get to your phone.
According to Pete Lau, OnePlus’ CEO, the company will launch the world’s first 5G smartphone in early 2019. Hardcore Android fans will be even more excited about the OnePlus 7’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset supported by 6GB – 8GB of RAM, and its improved camera performance.
Expected release: May or June 2019
What makes Nokia’s upcoming flagship smartphone, the Nokia 9, superior? It’s camera.
Nokia have invested in Penta lens camera at the rear of their new Nokia 9 device, which delivers ultimate photography results that are strikingly similar to DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex – the industry’s best) cameras.
The 2019 Nokia 9 will also launch with a 5.9-inch, 18:9 display and Carl Zeiss (dual) lens. From a processor standpoint, specifications will include the Snapdragon 845 chipset supported by 6GB or 8GB RAM, and a long-lasting 3,800mAh battery.
The Nokia 9’s launch seems imminent, given Amazon’s recent listing of the Nokia 9 smartphone case.
Expected release: February – March 2019
Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL
Later in the year, Google will push boundaries with it’s October 2019 release of the Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. Both versions will include an INFINITY display (their attempt to minimize the bezel width around the glass front to the phone) with minor ‘invasions’ into the screen for the front camera and earpiece. However, exact features of the Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL are still unknown.
What is better understood, is the focus Google are putting on Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the heart of their phone range these days. Artificial Intelligence is simply a way that the phone can ‘learn’ in a way similar to how humans acquire information – by generalizing from large sets of data. Google themselves point out that AI is the core focus for their hardware development team and caused a ‘bottom up redesign’ of the Pixel 3.
The Artificial Intelligence that was built in to the Pixel 3 (released late 2018) assisted in some of the fundamentals like extending battery life and improving the way data is stored on the device. Most people would realize that the Google Assistant (the thing you’re talking to when you ask a question that begins with ‘hey Google’) also runs on AI. These concepts were extended in some areas of the world to provide a Virtual Concierge on the device.
Users who wanted to, could hand off the call to an automated response bot, who / which would establish the caller’s name and intent. The results are transcribed and sent to the user as text so they can determine if they want to take calls from that person at the time and in the future.
Each year, the Pixel range advances it’s AI focus. What the Pixel 3 was capable of was remarkable. The Pixel 4, although arriving later in the year, seems set to extend Google’s AI advantage.
Expected release: October 2019
Xiaomi Mi 9
Xiaomi will add a new premium smartphone to its Mi series – the Xiaomi Mi 9. Leaked images show triple-rear cameras aligned vertically, possibly boasting a lineup of 48 MP + 13MP + 16MP, along with an ultra-sharp center-mounted front camera.
According to leaks, the Mi 9 is likely to feature a 6.4-inch AMOLED screen and ultra-bezel-less display. Renders of the Mi 9 show a glassy, mirror-like design and metallic back.
The Mi 9 should launch with Android 9 Pie, the latest, speedy Android OS. Rumored specifications include a Snapdragon 855 chipset, Octa Core (4×3.0 GHz) processors, Adreno 630 GPU, and an option between 6GB RAM and 128GB internal memory or 8GB RAM and 256GB internal memory.
Expected release: January 2019
XDA Developers reports on the early stages of Motorola’s nameless flagship smartphone. Although no definite name exists as of yet, the device could be called the Moto Z4 and already has a codename — “Odin”.
Motorola’s focus in 2019 is, the company says, on perfecting performance, cameras, and battery life. The Moto Z4 will boast Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8150 chipset and Moto Mods support.
It will also launch with the latest Android 9 Pie and support Motorola’s upcoming 5G Moto Mod.
Expected release: August – September 2019
2019 will actually be a year of interesting phone releases
2019 is a veritable blizzard of phone hardware. In addition to these much-awaited flagship phones from popular brands, and the incrementalism of improving cameras, batteries and screen sizes, expect the New Year to bring other exciting developments – for a change.
Understanding the roadmap for these devices, from the point of view of the core innovation enhancements they represent, is potentially the most useful way to understand what’s happening.
Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. The peak smartphone phenomenon has created a need for each of these handset manufacturers to make real, genuine leaps forward in functionality, for the devices they’re releasing next year.
2019 could be the year we all upgrade to something noticeably better.