The smartphone industry is dying

Smartphone industry - the old cell phone is still working

The old cell phone still works

In his analysis of the smartphone industry, which is imminent despite folding cell phones and 5G problems, Rafael Schuppisser writes: "Many do not long for a folding display, but for more time without a display."

The smartphone industry is known for selling even the smallest technological innovation as a major revolution. Somehow the users have to be convinced that they need a new cell phone and that the cell phone they used last year is already out of date. In truth, the major development steps are far rarer than the complete renewal of the manufacturer's product range. 2019 is therefore a special year: It is the year in which not just one technological innovation is ready for the market, but two at the same time: foldable displays and the ultra-fast fifth-generation mobile communications standard (5G). Both were the topic this week at the Mobile World Congress, the most important trade fair in Barcelona.

With the Mate X, Huawei has introduced a smartphone whose display can be folded out into a tablet. This means that the Chinese have caught up with Samsung: the Korean company had already presented such a device to the public a week earlier, the Galaxy Fold. And the new 5G mobile communications standard will accelerate data exchange by a factor of one hundred; this lays the foundations for a completely new world of networking.

Innovation will not be able to stop the decline

The smartphone industry started into one of the most exciting years. But it should also be one of the most difficult. The sales figures are falling. In 2018, smartphone sales fell by 4 percent. In the fourth quarter even by 7 percent - it is the fifth quarter in a row with declining sales. Apple even sold 15 percent fewer iPhones in the last three months of 2018 than in the same period in the previous year. The stock of the former trillion dollar company at times plunged over 40 percent. Despite technological innovations, the falling sales figures are unlikely to be stopped for the time being. On the contrary: It would not be surprising if at the end of 2019 the biggest drop in sales had to be recorded since the invention of the smartphone.

Because the users apparently no longer feel the need to always have the latest cell phone. Many do not long for new features such as folding displays, but for more time without a display. They notice that the constant blinking and beeping is not good for them in the long run. The answer to this is "digital minimalism": Time in the digital sphere is kept to a minimum. You don't need an ultra-fast, foldable giant cell phone.

But technology aficionados are also well advised to wait before buying a new cell phone. Although the telecommunications providers are about to put their 5G networks into operation, very few of the smartphones presented in Barcelona are equipped for this. The Galaxy S10, for example, the premium cell phone from Samsung, will be available in three different sizes at the end of the month, but without a 5G chip. A 5G version has only been announced for the summer. And this year's iPhone will most likely not support 5G either.

Don't rush, the second generation is coming soon

It is also worth waiting for the folding cell phones.

It sounds quite attractive to unfold the display into a tablet when in use, but it is far from clear whether these devices will really prevail or whether they will share the same fate as the 3D televisions. One problem is their thickness: the hardware cannot be minimized at will; the battery in particular has its limits. After all, Huawei has already managed to hide the problem with a design trick.

How good the folding cell phones actually are can only be assessed once you can test them. However, this is currently still denied to journalists. What we do know, however, is that the devices will be very expensive: namely over 2000 dollars. That alone is reason enough for most potential users to wait for the second generation.

So the topics at the Mobile World Congress will be the same again in a year: 5G and folding phones. And maybe a third will be added: Cell phones for digital minimalists.

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