Has the Smartphone Market Really Reached a Plateau?

March 8, 2016 - Written By Darla Sutrich

With Apple big enough to hold its own launch events at times chosen by itself, the Mobile World Congress is usually all about Android. And a bit of Windows 10, with a handful of handsets turning up running this operating system. Big names and smaller companies compete for the press’s attention at the event, holding flashy presentations and showing off their latest innovation to the world. But what innovations?

Most announcements made at the MWC this year were minor improvements made to already excellent handsets. Samsung and LG presented their latest flagship phones, with larger screens, more power, better cameras and bigger storage. Smaller manufacturers, like Alcatel, showed off their handsets as well. Alcatel brought Idon 4S to the show, with a 5.5″ QHD screen and stereo sound. HTC announced three new handsets, the Desire 530, the Desire 630, and the Desire 825, all with a new finish and high definition sound. Huawei, after its strong 2015 releases, didn’t bring a phone, but rather a convertible tablet-notebook hybrid called the MateBook. Lenovo came with some mid-range tablets, and so did Sony.

I think smartphones are going through a phase similar to the one seen by DSLR cameras about two years ago – a plateau and a saturation of the market. Samsung’s sales were seriously eroded by emerging manufacturers like Xiaomi and Huawei. Apple has also seen its smartphone sales slow down. With so little true innovation, people don’t have a reason to switch their handsets to the latest model year after year. Because new phones are just a little better than last year’s model: they have a little more processing power, they have a bit larger screen and their camera is also a little better. Instead of more cores and larger batteries manufacturers announce curved screens, rounded edges, and more attractive finishes. But the phones run just as great as last year’s models, show Redflush online card games with the same resolution and speed… again, no reason to buy the new ones.

The only notable innovation I’ve seen in the last two years on the mobile phone market is Microsoft’s Continuum. By expanding the use of the smartphone beyond the touchscreen, and giving it the possibility to be transformed into a personal computer. HP’s new phablet model uses this technology, which makes it an appealing choice for businesses. Aside from that, there’s nothing new on the smartphone front to be excited about.

The only thing smartphone makers could impress me with at this point is a battery with a radically improved capacity. I’d love my phone to go at least two days, or even three, with a single charge. Not a larger screen with a higher resolution, not curved edges and wonderful finishes.