As someone who is deeply embedded in the consumer technology industry and thrives in it passionately, ‘disruption’ for me is the very valuable fundamental that shapes trends, discards clutter, and makes way for the new and exciting things on the horizon. The industry, by nature, never adheres to a strict status quo. And that’s how we have evolved so far. Think about the time when you used to run to your local restaurants to buy food. Today, there are several food-tech apps that will deliver orders to you in a jiffy, and allow you to pay later at that!
From social media becoming a tool to capture memories and networking to broadcasting your most cherished experiences in real-time, and even emerging as pathways of revenues for businesses. Multi-tasking while working remotely? Just place orders to your smart AI-enabled voice assistants to help you out. Mobile internet has become one of the primary means worldwide, especially in South-east Asia to communicate, create, and be productive. At the same time, it has proliferated into a high-growth internet economy with ride-hailing apps, e-commerce, food-tech, fintech, social commerce, and so on.
As we bid adieu to a significant year that underlined the importance of technology and connectivity in our lives, let’s put the spotlight at the intersection of various consumer trends that will cement themselves in 2021:
Power-packed 5G chipsets
2020 was a significant year as several brands introduced 5G-ready smartphones. realme was the first brand to enter the 5G handset arena with its realme X50 Pro 5G. Next year, we will see more smartphones with powerful 5G chipsets entering the market. Even though full-fledged 5G infrastructure is a few years ahead, consumers will showcase a steady demand for 5G smartphones. Why? Because a high-end 5G-ready processor will unlock exponential capabilities for daily use – be it gaming, camera, UI, or any other operations. Consumers will get the chance to use a future-ready smartphone to cater to various needs, offering maximum power and performance for a tech-empowered life. With more commercialization of 5G chipsets, we may even see them making more headway in mid-range smartphones as OEMs look to strengthen their portfolios. In fact, industry forecasts say that global 5G smartphone production will likely exceed 500 million units, with an almost 40% penetration rate.
Do you feel that gaming smartphones are just a niche? Well, think again. India has a sizable catchment of mobile gamers and e-sports users today with 4G/LTE penetration in Tier 2 cities and performance-oriented devices. Post the pandemic, the demand for e-sports has accelerated further. A report by Google states that India’s growing gaming industry is expected to boast 440 million gamers by 2022. Pro gamers are looking for powerful processors, high refresh rate screens, ultra-fast cooling, and fast charging creds that improve their smartphone gaming experience. The industry has seen an influx of leading gaming chipsets such as MTK Helio G95 and G85 processors that bring an excellent ownership experience, as gamers can multitask without any frustrations on delays and lags. As the gaming industry thrives with more esports tournaments, viewership and engagement increased consumer demand will give wide berth to devices that satisfy emerging needs.
Smart Techlife living, with smart home solutions
It is estimated that there are approximately 12 billion IoT devices in play worldwide. Jump to 2030, and we will see 30 billion IoT connections. Smart homes and demand for smart tech-lifestyle experience are some of the key drivers propelling consumer IoT today. Consumers, especially Gen Z and millennials, are looking for a connected experience where they can control various smart devices in their homes through a centralized platform such as an app on their smartphone. Smart home solutions will move beyond smart devices to include Smart TVs, soundbars, smart white goods as well. Smart TVs have paved the way for connected viewing, with users streaming content on bigger screens when at home, opting for a more immersive experience. The demand for smart TVs will be on an upward trend with families preferring to gather together in connected living rooms to spend quality time. An increasing appetite for OTT content and video consumption will also fuel this trend. 5G will be a game-changer for smart home solutions, with ubiquitous connectivity, peak data rates, ultra-low latency, and greater interoperability.
Sophisticated computational photography
From single and dual-lens cameras to smartphones housing multiple lenses and advanced sensors, there are flagship camera experiences in the mid-range as well as the premium segment. Computational photography or the technique of capturing diverse images, processing them, and producing one composite shot has transformed the smartphone camera landscape. Artificial intelligence will continue to play a more defining role in smartphone photography going ahead. For instance, AI-driven algorithms can analyze the scenes to be photographed, consider diverse factors such as light, movement aspects, shoot a series of images with different exposure levels, and bracket them together to produce a single image with stunning details and clarity. We may even see chipsets from vendors that can combine the footage taken from all three cameras of a smartphone and form a highly detailed image. Given the hardware limitations of smartphones, OEMs will invest in powerful sensors and SoCs that yield vibrant image quality, akin to professional technologies. And consumers can unleash their inner photographer and click away to their hearts’ content.
Immersive AMOLED displays
Smartphone display has emerged as one of the key cornerstones driving creative experiments in the industry. From the waterdrop-notch display in 2018, we saw the center of gravity shift towards the punch-hole display, and even in some cases, no-notch displays. Why? Well, this particular design caught steam due to its high screen ratio, stunning visual effect, and aesthetically pleasing quotient. In 2021, we will see this trend get democratized across mid-range and entry-level smartphones as well, with the added thrill of AMOLED displays being integrated across different pricing tiers. Owing to its extremely lightweight and flexible form factor, vivid color reproduction, low power consumption, greater contrast ratios, better responsiveness and refresh rates, global production was projected to be 70 million in 2020 to satisfy consumer demand. For uses who love to multitask on their smartphones, consume content, play games, and seek a richer, deeply immersive experience, AMOLED displays with high refresh rates will emerge as a critical driver for purchase decisions.
“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision” – Peter F Drucker had famously extolled. We are already reaping the fruits of a superior tech-lifestyle, thanks to many tech disruptions over the last decade. Whichever aspects of life you look at, the potent combination of smartphones, the internet, and connectivity has brought in unparalleled ease and convenience. And as we step together into a new year, holding vibrant new promises in the offing, I am beyond thrilled to witness the magic technology will unfold for us.
Madhav Sheth, Vice President, realme and CEO, realme India and Europe