Key Devices Innovations Expected at MWC 2020

The annual mobile tech show, Mobile World Congress (MWC), is less than two weeks away. It will take place in Barcelona, Spain; between February 24 and February 27. Like every year, this year too, we are expecting smartphone manufacturers to introduce their major smartphones at MWC 2020. From foldable phones to screen tech, here are the top trends we expect to see at MWC this year.

2020 Could be the Breakout year for the Foldable Smartphones

MWC 2019 offered a glimpse at foldable phones, with companies like Samsung, Huawei, ROYOLE and TCL showing off the futuristic designs. Fast forward a year, and we are expecting at least three foldable phones ready for commercialization to headline MWC 2020.

 

Counterpoint Foldable Phones at MWC
Source: TCL

 

Motorola has already unveiled the foldable Razr smartphone, and we will get to see this in action at the trade show. Ahead of MWC, Samsung is expected to unveil the Galaxy Z Flip, and we expect to see that at MWC too. And lastly, Vivo is also expected to unveil its foldable phone on February 23. There may be other surprise announcements too.

Under-screen camera tech will drive Innovative Full-Screen Displays

Over the past couple of years, smartphone makers are fiercely competing to offer a differentiated full-screen experience integrating designs sporting notches, AMOLED, in-display fingerprint and so forth. Solutions like pop-up selfie cameras and hole-punch cut-outs have been popular. Last year, OPPO also showcased its under-display camera tech working with its ecosystem partners.

Counterpoint Under-screen Camera Phones at MWC
Source: OPPO

Oppo has used a custom-made display with a transparent material that works with a redesigned pixel structure. It allows the light to pass through the camera. This was just an early experiment to show off the possible future. We are expecting to see an improved implementation of the tech, maybe in the Oppo Find X2.

High-Resolution Camera Sensors To Push Smartphone Photography Boundaries

Smartphones with quad-cameras and 48MP to 64MP sensors are becoming a commonplace in the mainstream sub US$150-$180 segments. But premium smartphones like the Xiaomi Mi 10, Samsung Galaxy S20 series and more are expected to take a big leap this year by integrating 108MP camera sensors, improved digital, optical zoom and more. CMOS Image Sensor (CIS) suppliers such as Sony, Samsung have been driving these trends and Chinese brands are at the forefront of bringing them to market quicker than others.

Counterpoint High Resolution Camera Sensors at MWC
Source: Xiaomi

However, it is not just improved resolution and zooming capabilities, we will see a lot of other advanced imaging features too. These include the ability to shoot gimbal-like shake-free videos, improved slow-motion video capture, etc. Smartphones are also set to get the ability to record and playback 8K resolution videos. And with the latest Qualcomm flagship chipset supporting resolution up to 192MP, we might just see a smartphone sporting that high-res sensor before the end of the year, if not at MWC. We expect 3D sensing tech also enter the mainstream model this year.

Fast charging is getting even faster

Smartphones have evolved over the years with a plethora of use-cases driving the average usage or screen time. Thus, with more usage, battery consumption takes a hit and has been one of the major pain-point for consumers. Packing a smartphone with bigger batteries adversely affects the device’s form-factor adds bulk. As a result, smartphone makers are introducing fast charging solutions to help users quickly charge their phones in a matter of few minutes, solving one of their biggest concerns.

Counterpoint Fast Charging Phones at MWC
Source: Realme

Qualcomm, OnePlus, Samsung, Oppo, and Realme have all introduced fast charging over the last few years.  Some solution providers such as Qualcomm are already on their fourth generation of the solution, pushing the limits. The new brand Realme, which shares its R&D with OPPO, launched its latest X2 Pro flagship model sporting a massive 4,000mAh battery and latest generation quick charging Super VOOC 4.0. This latest tech charges the phone from empty to full in less than 35 minutes, which is super impressive.

Towards the end of 2019, Xiaomi unveiled its 100W fast charging tech that can charge a 4,000mAh battery from empty to full in flat 17 minutes. And while it hasn’t made it to any smartphone yet, we still may get to see a demo of how it works. Even rival brands are expected to showcase their fast-charging solutions. We expect quite a few brands to focus on this feature as this year’s phones will continue to get bigger displays (almost 7-inches), coupled with power-hungry 5G NR capabilities all warranting bigger batteries and faster charging.

5G to become the de-facto cellular standard for premium devices in 2020

Let’s admit, we have been hearing a lot about 5G, and we have seen its crazy download speeds too. The commercial debut of 5G happened in 2019, with parts of the US, UK, China, and Korea have seen the rollout. But 5G, the next-gen mobile broadband, is only available on a handful of premium phones. And that’s about to change this year. Samsung dominated the 5G smartphone landscape in 2020, though Huawei in China is estimated to drive unprecedented scale.

Counterpoint 5G Announcements at MWC
Source: Samsung

Qualcomm has already unveiled its mid-range Snapdragon 765 and 765G chipsets with an integrated 5G modem. Then there is the premium Snapdragon 865 chipset which needs to be paired with Snapdragon X55 5G modem. Even MediaTek has unveiled the Dimensity 1000 and 800 chipsets with a 5G modem. At MWC 2020, we expect to see a number of devices that will be powered by these 5G chipsets. Whether or not you live in a region that has 5G coverage, the upcoming smartphones will be integrated this capability as the chipset price fall due to the growing competition and also making the device future proof, at least from the next-gen mobile broadband viewpoint.

Other interesting announcements expected at MWC 2020

Overall, we expect to see some interesting technological advancements in the smartphone space. But MWC isn’t just about smartphones. Wearables like fitness bands, smartwatches, and true wireless earbuds are expected to bake in meaningful use-cases. We also expect some announcements in feature phone space from likes of KaiOS, HMD Nokia and others still catering to multi-billion opportunity out there for less advanced users. We could see other cutting-edge solutions centring around Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Cloud Gaming technologies all leveraging the 5G network.