Technologically speaking there has never been a dull year in mobile industry. Every year promises and brings in new technologies, disruptions, business models and lots of surprises and we hope 2014 will be another great year for mobile devices segment. Let’s see what we expect to happen in 2014.

 

Multiple Cores are fine but where is the Memory?

Dual Core processors will continue to dominate sub US$100 smartphones but the differentiation and competition in 2014 will shift to the point to see which vendor (Tier-1 or Tier 4) offers 512MB or 1GB RAM bundled at these price points first. This will unlock compatibility to upcoming platform updates and applications thus reducing fragmentation especially in Android & Windows Phone platforms. Quad-Core smartphones at sub-$100 retail price points will also be on the cards in second half of 2014. Watch out for likes of Lenovo, Samsung, Micromax and MediaTek in this space.


64 bit CPU is here but where are the apps?

Racing to get the 64-bit processors into the smartphones to win back mindshare will remain the hot topic but lack of applications written for 64 bit processing will make it an overserved feature until some OEM or platform vendors steps in to lead in 64 Bit app development (esp. For Android & after Google supports it in 2H 2014).

Watch out for likes of Apple, Qualcomm, Google, Intel and Microsoft in this segment.


LTE Phones reaching mass-market before the Networks
 

LTE phones which will reach mass-market (sub-US$150 retail) in mature LTE markets in 2014. OEMs will continue to supply LTE-ready phones (for scale) to newer markets and in the hands of consumers before even the LTE networks are live. LTE Device Installed base will be greater than LTE subscriber base and the trend will continue until the LTE plan pricing reaches mass market. China, USA will be the key market to drive this trend in 2014.

Additionally, many operators will leapfrog to LTE-A and hence the flurry of LTE cat-4 devices will start appearing in operator’s shelves.

Watch out for ZTE, Qualcomm, MediaTek and Samsung stimulating mass-market LTE market.


Sharper & Flexible – The New Glass

As Full HD (1080p) displays have gone mainstream at sub US$350 price-points, the battle shifts to getting either a 2K display or a Flexible display into the devices. Displays will remain the battleground for differentiation across price-bands in 2014 allowing OEM to either raise the price or reduce the price for a SKU. In the era of ‘size 0’ smartphones are trending the other way as consumers want bigger and bigger displays every time they are out for shopping their very personal device. Phablets and Tablets together are going to be US$170 Billion worth segments in 2014. Smartphones are achieving steady state towards 5-6 inch whereas tablets towards 7-8 inch formfactors. However, phablets are also poised to overtake tablets next year.

Watch out for LG, Samsung, Toshiba, Sony and Oppo to lead this trend in 2014


Imaging Kickstarts the Sub-Ecosystem wars, who will win it?

The camera resolution, OIS and low-light imaging wars have been reignited by Nokia, Sony and others in 2013 and the competition to differentiate will continue with Imaging as a key differentiator. The differentiation will come in the form of software behind the optics array imaging, 4K image and video capture, video editing on the go, image stabilization, Kinect style interactions etc. This will kickstart a whole new sub-ecosystem of already popular use-case in a mobile phone – Imaging.

Watch out for Nokia, Sony, Qualcomm & NVIDIA to dominate this space.


Wearables a segment ready for prime-time or  just forced down the consumers’ throat?

 Appcessories are great as they have revolutionized the different use-cases leveraging apps, sensors and will continue to take off in 2014 and expand across price-bands reaching mass-market.

But do consumers need or want wearables those have another display on it to interact with? Smart-wearables with displays such as smartwatches, glasses are stuck between functionality of appcessories and smartphones. For such smart-wearbles to take-off in 2014 or future years will need a whole new set of ecosystem initiated by a new set of intuitive interaction mechanisms, connectivity technologies, extraordinary battery design, specially designed applications, software and services.

 2014 won’t be the year of smartwatches or smartglasses unless OEMs fulfills the above criteria building a unique user-experience or these devices experience an iPhone moment to stimulate the demand. We see supply greater than demand as OEMs (forcefully) try to create a category out of it just to have these devices in portfolio and not being left out. Lots of work needs to be done for consumers to ‘want’ them.

Watch out for long tail of smaller startups such as Pebble, Vuzix, Omate, Misfit to players such as Epson, Symphony Teleca, Varta and bigger players such as Microsoft, Samsung, Google, Jawbone, Nissan and Sony.

 

About Author

Neil is a sought-after frequently-quoted Industry Analyst with a wide spectrum of rich multifunctional experience. He is a knowledgeable, adept, and accomplished strategist. In the last 11 years he has offered expert strategic advice that has been highly regarded across different industries especially in telecom. Prior to Counterpoint, Neil worked at Strategy Analytics as a Senior Analyst (Telecom). Neil also had an opportunity to work with Philips Electronics in multiple roles. He is also an IEEE Certified Wireless Professional with a Master of Science (Telecommunications & Business) from the University of Maryland, College Park, USA.