Android in 2019: Our predictions on foldable phones, 5G and more

The trends that will emerge in the year to come.

Android in 2019: Our predictions on foldable phones
Android in 2019: Our predictions on foldable phones

2018 was a good year for smartphones. Not because of one show-stealing feature or an altogether new innovation, but because the whole smartphone world got really good.

Your average phone in 2018 was much better than in the last few years, and that’s better for everyone. But in 2019, I see a year in Android that will be slightly different — a “tock” cycle of altogether new technology and innovations hitting the market, rather than a “tick” of a rising tide that lifts all ships.

Here are the trends we can all look forward to in the Android world in the coming year.

Innovative notches; the death of the ‘notch’

Back in April I wrote about display notches and how they’re not inherently bad, so long as they actually serve a purpose. At the time I also pointed out that getting frustrated over notches isn’t worth our time, because they’ll soon be reduced and then disappear as quickly as they arrived. 2019 is the year for the start of this transition away from notches.

Notches are getting smaller, they’re changing shape, and in some cases they aren’t really “notches” at all. 2019’s notches will be in the corner(s) of the display, they’ll be just barely larger than the components they contain, or they’ll be just a hole in the display rather than a full-on notch. All of these new designs are less intrusive, less annoying and take up less of your display.

A prototypical top-dead-center notch will remain for some time, particularly at the mid-range price segments where phones get years-old tech that trickles down. But at the high end we’ll see fewer large notches and more innovative screen shapes and cutouts that more graciously integrate the cameras and sensors we need to have.

Foldable phones

Samsung will release a foldable phone in 2019, and it won’t be alone. This is the next frontier for smartphones, because as soon as the technology can be shrunk down to a pocketable size, it just makes sense as a concept. Our insatiable appetite for larger screens has made phones too big to fit in our hands and our pockets, yet we keep wanting more screen real estate, more features and larger batteries.

A foldable phone starts to solve the hand and pocket problem by letting a phone be compact when you need it to, then expand when you want more screen to see or interact with.

The first foldable phones will be big, bulky and not all that enticing, much like the first big “phablet” phones, but don’t get discouraged — foldable phone technology is an exciting development that has the potential to change what we consider to be a “smartphone” form factor.

You could also use this discussion foldable phones to include sliders, but I don’t see those sticking around very long. Foldable displays justify their thickness with dramatically increased screen real estate, whereas sliders add lots of physical complexity for little benefit. And advancements in notch, display, sensor and camera technology will eventually let components rest inside and behind displays in ways that will negate the need for a slider altogether. More