8 important developments in the smartphone world in 2018

Kyle Chua
8 important developments in the smartphone world in 2018
We round up some of the biggest and most talked about headlines in smartphones this year

MANILA, Philippines – The smartphone industry is defined by innovations. Every year we witness smartphone companies sell us a brand new idea, feature, or design. Their drive to generate profits through their new products more often than not propel the industry forward in technological innovations. And it’s no different in 2018.

The year saw Chinese players step up and redefine themselves as global brands. We saw market leaders struggle with sales. We also got a taste of what trends we can expect in smartphones next year and perhaps in the near future.

With the 2019 right around the corner, we look back and round up some of the developments in the phone world in the past year.

New iPhone sales weaken

Apple’s latest trio of iPhones, the Xs, Xs Max, and XR underperformed in the market and fell below the company’s forecasts despite the fanfare during its launch. Sales were weak enough for Apple to reportedly resume production of last year’s flagship, the iPhone X.

IPHONE XR. Photo from Apple

While the steep price of the iPhone Xs and Xs Max may have factored in its weak sales, the so-called “budget” iPhone, the XR is not doing so well either. Apple has canceled additional production lines for the phone due to low demand as buyers lean towards the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus which has since received price drops.

Here comes a new challenger: the ASUS ROG

Razer created the gaming phone niche in the modern era with its Razer Phone, released in 2017. The popularity of mobile gaming has created a demand for high performance smartphones that can handle graphically demanding games.

Less than a year later, ASUS comes out with the ROG phone, a smartphone also designed for mobile gamers. It boasts flagship specs with a number of gaming-centric features which include an overclocked processor, a high refresh rate, as well as faster-than-usual response time. It’s a category that’s certainly worth looking out for come next year. Will there be new entrants? Will gamers be convinced that they need a specialty phone for gaming? Or will they go the way of the Nokia N-Gage? 

A practically unknown company pulls a fast one on Samsung with own foldable phone

Probably the least known company included in this list, Royole made headlines when it beat Samsung to unveil the world’s first foldable smartphone. The smartphone-tablet hybrid, called the FlexPai flaunts a 7.8-inch screen that folds 180 degrees.

FOLDABLE PHONE. Photo from Royole

It’s said to handle years of heavy use and can fold about 200,000 times. Royole has already opened pre-orders for the device and will begin to ship them out by the end of the year. At the very least, they have a legitimate claim for being the first foldable phone in the market. Whether it will be the first successful foldable is another question, especially with Samsung’s own take on the new format coming in early 2019. 

Xiaomi returns to the Philippines

Xiaomi in 2015 pulled out of the Philippines to focus on bigger markets in the world. In 2018, they officially announced their return to the country with new plans for expansion.

The Chinese electronics company this year opened Mi authorized stores in the country that sell their smartphones and other Mi products. They have also established a much larger presence through new dealer partnerships that have made their products more widely available. This in turn purged the grey market made up of dealers who imported and sold the company’s products in their absence.

The market has been responding pretty well with Xiaomi reporting that they’ve been leading recent big sales on Lazada specifically during Singles’ Day (11/11) and its derivative 12/12. 

Samsung shifting focus on midrange units?

Similar to Apple, Samsung has had quite a rocky year as sales of its flagship Galaxy S series and Note series lag. The South Korean company, however, may have devised a strategy to regain its footing in the market: shift focus to mid-range models, instead of flagships.

Head of Samsung mobile, DJ Koh said that they plan to debut new technology and features in mid-range devices first before they finds their way into flagships. This change is said to be an attempt to attract millenials who probably cannot afford flagships.

Novel notch solutions

Bezel-less, all-screen displays became commonplace in 2018 smartphones. Most phonemakers, however, did not know how to go about the lack of space for the front sensors except to include a notch cut out, derived from Apple’s iPhone X. So many phones came out with notches this year.

However, some solutions started to come up. First was Vivo who introduced the Vivo Nex, a consumer version of the APEX concept phone it first showed off in Mobile World Congress. The smartphone boasts a mechanized pop-up camera and a 91% screen-to-body-ratio. Vivo initially said they did not have plans to put the concept phone out for public. But, plans likely changed and the company officially unveiled their brand new flagship last June. 

APEX. Screenshot from Vivo

Later, Xiaomi had their own novel solution, coming out with the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 phone with a sliding back that housed the front cameras. Next year: hole-punch phones. With hole-punch phones, the camera will be tucked in one of the top corners of the phone in a round enclosure. Huawei’s Honor View 20 will be the first to sport the design, with Samsung announcing the Galaxy A8s shortly after, calling theirs the “Infinity-O Display.” 

Oppo’s FIND X launch in the Louvre

The Oppo FIND X, like the Vivo Nex, found a clever way to have an all-screen display without a notch – a mechanized pop-up slider. It is their most expensive phone to date and is touted as a work of art.

FIND X. Photo from OPPO

So it only seemed appropriate that Oppo launched it in the world’s largest art museum, the Louvre in Paris, France. The company surely wanted to make an impression as it formally entered the European market with its latest flagship. And it felt like a declaration that the company is capable of putting out a high-end premium smartphone.

Huawei tops DxOMark mobile camera reviews with P20 Pro

In the first quarter of the year, Huawei launched what appeared to be a strong contender for the year’s best smartphone – the P20 Pro.

Equipped with 3 rear cameras, the DxOMark review gave the P20 Pro an overall score of 109 which topped the list of smartphone cameras. It’s even more impressive to see that it still holds the crown against more recent flagship releases – the Galaxy Note 9 with 103 and the iPhone Xs Max with 105. Huawei is China’s biggest brand, and with the P20 Pro, it became a legitimate threat to Samsung and Apple.

As we’ve said before though in another roundup, Huawei’s facing a reputation problem, as several countries push back against their network equipment for fears of Chinese espionage. How Huawei navigates the issue – for the sake of its consumer devices – is among the most important stories to look out for in 2019.  – Rappler.com

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