Apple and Samsung will continue to shape the technology market this year, but can newcomers Huawei, Oppo, and Xiaomi spring a surprise?
2019 will be a bumper year for tech, with established and emerging brands looking to evolve, shake up and revitalize the market like never before.
Foldable smartphones, lightning-fast data connections, and wearables on every wrist are just some of the things that we’re expecting, and with prices going through the roof over the last 12 months, affordability will play a key role in their chances of success.
Looking at the year ahead, we’ve picked out five products, brands, trends or technologies to keep an eye on, from the key players to new kids on the block.
Samsung’s New Phone Designs
Samsung Galaxy S10 series
Despite being the enduring behemoth in the tech market – Samsung isn’t averse to a safety-first approach to innovation. The last major shake-up we saw in its phone design was the ‘edge’ – curved displays that eliminated the bezel from the side of a phone entirely. It’s been searching for its next big thing ever since, but despite the fact that the new S10 series is seen as a major upgrade (unlike the iterative nature of the Galaxy S9), it’s been beaten to the punch on two major design changes we’re likely to see – the hole punch front camera (as seen on the Honor View 20) and the in-screen fingerprint sensor. This won’t stop Samsung going all out to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its flagship mobile on 20 February, with support for 5G another headline feature to complement the aesthetics. Rumors point towards three new models: the 6.1-inch Galaxy S10, 6.4-inch Galaxy S10+, and ‘lower-end’ 5.8-inch Galaxy ‘S10 Lite’ or ‘S10E’. ‘Leaked’ pictures (below) appear to confirm the S10 and S10+ will use an under-display fingerprint sensor, and thankfully, both models have a headphone jack.
Ultimately the success of Samsung’s new designs will determine whether they’re here to stay, or merely another small step on the ladder to mobile phone perfection.
Samsung Galaxy X
Perhaps the most exciting new arrival though is the foldable phone. First spotted at a Samsung developer conference back in November (see below), the Samsung Galaxy X will be able to transform from a standard phone into a wider, tablet-sized device. This shapeshifting hybrid will use Samsung’s new Infinity Flex Display, and it will be demoed at the same February event as the Galaxy S10. Google has confirmed that it’s working on an Android update that will be fully compatible with foldable phones, and with brands like Huawei, Xiaomi and even Apple showing interest, we expect to see more foldable designs in 2019.
Apple Fighting Back
Apple has an interesting year ahead of it, to say the least. Analysts are reporting that the group’s phone sales are lower than expected, with Citi Group suggesting Apple’s original iPhone production forecast for Q4 2018 was reduced. A Forbes report adds that last year, Apple sold 14 million fewer phones than it did three years ago. There are plenty of words out there to describe Apple’s iPhone range, but ‘cheap’ isn’t one of them. As a growing number of Android rivals launch smartphones with similar specs and cheaper prices, Apple is feeling the pinch. It needs to find a way to fight back, and fast.
Falling iPhone sales could inspire iPhone SE2
The rumored iPhone SE 2 could be the device to save the day. The original SE launched in 2016 and recently went back on sale through Apple’s own website for a limited time. Since being relisted this month the phone has sold out once again, so there’s clearly a demand for an affordable small-screen iPhone. All eyes will be on Apple’s announcements this year, and in particular, it’s main launch event, typically held in September.
Apple AirPower charging pad (2019)
Though iPhones allegedly account for around two-thirds of Apple’s profit, it’s far from a one-trick pony. If there’s one thing Apple knows how to do well, it’s accessorized its own products.
One addition that could go straight on the must-have list is the Apple AirPower wireless charger that allows you to boost up to three devices at the same time – an iPhone, AirPods case and Apple Watch, for example.
We first caught a glimpse of Apple’s charging accessory back in 2017, and since then ‘manufacturing issues’ have seen the wireless charging pad delayed multiple times.
But it’s now looking increasingly likely that the AirPower will go on sale this year. Reports coming from a Hong Kong tech website cite sources ‘in the [AirPower] supply chain’ saying the accessory is now in production. For Apple users, that would mean no longer having to rely on third-party chargers from the likes of Anker and Belkin.
Apple AirPods 2 (2019)
Industry insiders expect the next-generation AirPods to drop in the next couple of months.
According to tech website DigiTimes, the new wireless earbuds will have added health monitoring functions, which potentially means we’ll see a slight price rise. The new AirPods are also tipped to feature a waterproof design.
We tested the original AirPods to see how they fared for overall sound quality, comfort, and durability. Take a peek at the review by CNET on the Apple AirPods 2 to see if these headphones are worthy of Best Buy status.
The Rise of Chinese Smart Phones
With high-end specs and low-end prices, a number of new smartphone brands are appearing in the UK – largely from China. The success of these brands could be key to breaking the dominance of Apple and Samsung – and they’re apparently ever increasing prices, in 2019.
Huawei has now cemented its position in the UK market as one of the go-to brands for premium mobiles on a budget. But with other Chinese smartphone brands looking to get in on the action, February’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) event could see some worthy competitors take the spotlight.
Honor recently announced its flagship Honor View 20 and showing a clear desire to offer plenty of bang for your buck. Its phones are typically modestly priced – more so than Huawei, but it has also shown that it isn’t scared of innovation. How it evolves in 2019, will be interesting to see.
Having officially landed in the UK at the end of 2018, Xiaomi will be looking to show off its existing range and its exciting work on folding phones at MWC 2019. There are already plenty of phones on offer through Xiaomi’s UK website, including the just-tested Xiaomi Mi 8, Mi 8 Pro and Mi MIX 3.
Xiaomi also released a video of its ‘fold-in-three’ smartphone this month to build some hype ahead of its appearance at MWC. See how the device works below:
China-based smartphone group Oppo has close ties to OnePlus, with both brands sharing the same parent company – BBK Electronics. Back in July 2018, Oppo registered trademarks for 40 handsets in the UK and Europe.
Overseas, Oppo has made a name for itself more recently with the Oppo Find X. The trend-setting Find X is the first smartphone to use a motorized hidden panel for the front-facing camera. That nifty design choice means the display on the Find X is entirely bezel-less.
Cheaper and More Stylish Wearables
March is shaping up to be a big month in the world of wearables, with BaselWorld and the Wearable Technology Show both scheduled in the calendar. We’re already starting to see wearables address some of the biggest issues that have prevented them from becoming more mainstream – style and price – and we expect to see big strides in 2019.
The Mobvoi Ticwatch Pro, which costs around $249.99, can read texts and emails. It has two displays – the transparent LCD display is used for battery-saving mode, but you’ll be tapping away on the OLED color touchscreen most of the time.
The $295 Skagen Falster 2 (above) is aimed squarely at the fashion-conscious, available with a range of different 20mm straps in leather, silicone and steel mesh. Google Assistant is built in, along with a tracker tool that helps you locate your smartphone if it’s out of sight.