Friends sitting outdoor talking about trendy smartphones

Innovation Talk: Latest Global Smartphone Market Trends


Global pandemics hold unprecedented power to change the world. Even if you had no idea about this phenomenon earlier, the COVID-19 pandemic must have updated you on the subject significantly enough by now. These changes also hit the smartphone industry. From sales to technology, COVID-19 has reshaped the global smartphone market trends in a major way. Before we indulge specifically in how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced those trends, let’s look at these changes at a broader level, also highlighting the factors driving the smartphone trends.

Industry Overview

  • By 2019, the global smartphone market’s value was $714 billion, with an expected CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 11.2%.
  • According to the Polaris Market Research Report, 5G led the global smartphone technology trends valued at $13.4 billion in 2019. Experts project a 122.7% expansion in it by 2027.
  • However, the latest smartphone sales trends reveal that the coronavirus pandemic also affects 5G growth. 5G smartphone sale cuts down significantly worldwide during the first two quarters of 2020.
  • Coronavirus uncertainties continue to influence consumer buying behavior negatively. Most consumers are still cautious in their spending, catering to their essentials first and luxuries later.
  • COVID-19-based Global supply line disruptions also affect the mobile industry. For instance, Foxconn, a famous smartphone assembler, shut down its assembly plants in China in February 2020. More recently, Apple shares fears of cutting iPhone 13 production due to chip shortage.
  • Software development also faces slowdowns like the rest of the industries. A large number of people associated with mobile development choose to work from home. Many others are unable to continue work due to the pandemic-led social distancing and lockdowns.
  • With China at the forefront of the whole COVID-19 saga and strict lockdowns, many telecoms and electronics companies get in the process of reassessing their reliance on the Chinese manufacturing sector. For instance, Google plans to turn to Vietnam for manufacturing its upcoming Pixel 4A and high-end Pixel 5 handsets.
  • Experts project online channel sales to rise to 23% this year, registering a 3% increase compared to the last year while Honor and Xiaomi dominate the online market.

Factors Driving Global Smartphone Market Trends

Major factors that influence smartphone consumer trends include:

Mobile-First Mindset

With COVID019 running wild all around the world in 2020, many industries took a drastic hit. Travel and tourism, hoteling, and hospitality industries were hit initially and vehemently. The consequent health emergency and lockdowns led people to confine themselves to their homes. As a result, we saw a mobile-first mindset taking over, coercing more and more people to turn to their mobiles to complete almost all essential tasks. From calling and texting apps to productivity apps, and travel apps, people’s reliance on different sorts of apps continues to soar now.

And this trend will continue, at least shortly. So, businesses worried about their survival and growth should focus on introducing apps to cater to the masses’ mobile-first mindset. App Annie reports that people downloaded 22.5 billion new apps on Google Play during the first quarter of 2020.

AI Personalisation

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) also continues to increase in mobile applications, focusing primarily on improving the user experience on the go. The pandemic seems to push this trend further. A report by Markets and Markets estimates the AI market to grow to a $190 billion industry by 2025. With people turning to mobiles and apps as an alternative to physical restrictions resulting in the aftermath of COVID, researchers resort to AI’s ability to customize the user experience based on customers’ unique behavior. It also serves to complement the mobile-first mindset of global audiences, giving them a highly personal and individualized user experience.

IoT – The Next Big Thing

More than anything else, COVID-19 has proven successful in highlighting the significance of connectivity – of both people and things. That makes the “Internet of Things” (IoT) more relevant than ever. Why? Because it helps bring things closer, connecting them ingeniously and making it easier for you to control them at will. IoT has shown its efficacy in mobile apps in various manners after the pandemic. From tracing and tracking apps to patient-care apps for offering improved treatment to people suffering from COVID and other diseases, IoT also aids mobile app development to secure your homes. The need of securing our homes post-covid also surfaces insistently, as the pandemic forces people to spend most of their time within their homes.

Agility and Convenience of 5G Technology

5G also secures and establishes its place in the factors that influence global smartphone market trends. More and more people jumping in on the smartphone bandwagon means more people looking for a quick and seamless connectivity experience. And what better than 5G, offering better speed and connectivity than ever. You’ll be wrong in confining the benefits of 5G services only for millions of people resorting to streaming services for entertainment purposes. As the number of people interested (read forced!) in using mobiles for everything increases, so will the need for businesses looking for more incredible data speeds and higher bandwidths to better serve their customers.

Viable Alternatives for Global Connectivity

According to the latest updates on the recent global internet outages by S&P Global Market Intelligence, the 3rd week of September 2021 saw a 30% hike in the volume of global internet outages. The times like these help us realise things we start taking for granted when we get used to their better alternatives. For instance, Talk Home App recently registered a 32% increase in its overall user base. It’s an app that allows you to call and text anyone, anywhere in about 240 global destinations. But without the need for the Internet! Instead, it relies on local lines to connect you to mobiles as well as landlines. So, it turns out that deep down, people still crave to communicate with their loved ones and are ready to go the extra mile when the need arises. For now, it seems like people will move forward with their search for viable alternatives for global connectivity, keeping this trend alive in the future as well.

Top 8 Global Smartphone Market Trends

It’s about time we introduce you to the top 2021 smartphone trends.

Simply Named Product Lines

Strange but true, we see most manufacturers choosing odd and not-so-friendly smartphone naming schemes. This trend raced in the past few years in particular. However, through 2021 and the next few years (hopefully), major brands seem to respond positively to this area of concern. Another recent trend followed by most brands in yesteryears is using suffixes like lite, max, plus, pro, ultra, etc.

On top, many brands also don’t hesitate in introducing multiple variations in the same range. Though it took the brands some time to realize that this confuses the users rather than helping them, most of them are likely to adopt simpler product lines in the years to come. So, they’ll go for nomenclature reflecting on various features and aspects of the device. There’s an upside for the brands in this as well. Simpler product lines will help them cut costs and efforts to market their products.

Compact Phones – The Balancing Act

It wasn’t long ago when any mobile with a 5.5-inch display was labeled as a phablet. In contrast, anything in access to 6 inches was referred to as a tablet. The wheel is on a roll again, though. While the excessive use of mobile surfacing in the past few years pushes the advantages of bigger phones to the forefront. The market share for small phones is shrunk. There are obvious reasons to prefer bigger phones over their smaller counterparts. The list can go on from smaller batteries to smaller camera sensors to miniature loudspeakers lacking thermal management. So, many users are now looking for compacter, thinner, and lighter options rather than smaller ones. You’ll see more of this in the years ahead.

Curves and Folds in the Display

With Samsung’s Galaxy Note line introduced the curves around the edges about seven years ago, the debate on its pros and cons occurs in the smartphone industry. It remains a bit of confusion for brands, just as it is for consumers. While many find curved edges reflective of the premium feel and improved display, others believe this creates problems in functionality and accidental touches. But this doesn’t seem to keep people from falling for the charms of curved displays.

In fact, people want more new things. Foldable designs, for instance. Surprisingly, the first phone with a fully functional foldable design was launched in China in 2018, the Royole FlexPai. Samsung soon followed in its footsteps, with Huawei and Motorola also jumping in for their piece of the pie in the next two years. All of that translates to people’s craving for more foldable displays, and foldable phones turn into one of the latest smartphone trends.

Displays with High Refresh Rates

2020 was the year that saw mobile displays with high refresh rates turning into a necessity from luxury. We saw displays augmented with high refresh rates trickling down from high-end mobile devices to the ones in the low-end segment. The same trend continues in 2021, with a very high possibility of extending to a few more years ahead. Unlike what’s commonly perceived, a high refresh rate not only pleases gamers. It also enhances your overall user experience in terms of display, making sure your eyes don’t get tired quickly, even after long hours of sticking to your phone screen.

Fast Charging

High refresh rates and fast charging also became one of the new trends in smartphones through 2020. Again, we saw fast charging standards jumping from flagships and high-end mobiles to budget phones last year. Many started offering under an hour charging speed for a complete charge, making up for the compromised battery in quickly thinning phones. However, one problem can dwindle all the gains of fast charging in new mobile phones, i.e., interoperability.

That’s because every other brand seems to adopt a varied approach in implementing its fast charging. Some are interested in higher voltages, some prefer more current, while others go for multiple inflow points. While it’s great to see fast charging becoming a part of the latest smartphone trends, we would also like to see companies working for a common standard, such as UDB PD or Qualcomm Quick Charge. It will ensure people stop worrying about carrying their chargers everywhere with them.

Photographic Innovations

It’s unfortunate to see many people not understanding AI for photography, giving it a bad reputation. But if there’s one feature that occupied its rightful place in the list of smartphone trends in 2021 and is expected to carry on computational photography. It has the potential to take smartphone imaging to a whole new level. That’s why we see almost all brands offering some level of intelligence through all segments of their phones by the end of 2020.

Companies are trying more than ever now to present their users with something to elevate their photography experiences on their mobile devices. It can include anything from as simple as portraits to night mode and something as complex as sky replacement or day-time light painting. Brands and people are now getting a better idea of how difficult it can be to uplift the hardware. So, they’re now increasingly looking for software-driven photographic innovations to improve the odds of getting a memorable shot.

Enhanced Software Experience

Though every passing day increases the number of smartphone users, the COVID-19 pandemic fuelled this trend even further. With a significant increase in people’s time spent glued to their mobile devices, there’s a corresponding increase in demand for enhanced experience through 2020. And we will see this demand surfacing as one of the most dominant global smartphone market trends in the coming years. Most brands seem to acknowledge this fast-gaining trend and strive to improve the software experience they offer on their devices, but a considerable gap still exists.

We believe it’s holding back on optimal exploitation of the potential of mobile usage, and the brands need to keep things simple and functional. There’s another angle to why many people end up being disappointed in the overall user experience. Often, companies create too much hype around the features they plan to introduce, raising users’ expectations. And when things turn out even slightly different, it downplays their whole effort. Hopefully, brands will consider this in the future while they’re on their quest to give users the best experience.

Intrepid Designs

They say the design has a language of its own, and quite rightly so. It looks like people have had enough of monotonous designs, especially on the back. That’s why we see brands slowly but surely moving to unique and bold designs. This change is becoming more and more visible in almost all elements, from colors to shapes, materials, and finishes. People are now looking for some innovation, and most brands responded well on this through 2020. It seems like people want this trend to continue. They enjoy as much novelty as possible while they devote more of their time to these devices.

Wrapping it up

To conclude, the future looks bright when it comes to the latest trends in smartphones. Everything seems to move in the right direction, from innovations like foldable designs to ever-increasing data speeds and volumes. Some more innovations include 5G technology mobile app design and development. So, we can hope for some great times to come in the mobile world. Let us all keep our fingers crossed, then.

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