In certain aspects, 2020 was a significant year for the mobile industry that unveiled several smartphone trends. More than just flagship smartphones, 5G became accessible, we had foldables with enhanced functionality, and mid-range smartphones took a big step up in functionality. All wasn’t perfect, however. There were the trends that we would not desire to witness sustained in 2021 with any welcome industry step in 2020. The list unfolding the pointless smartphone trends is here.
The use of low-quality 2MP sensors has been one of the most irritating smartphone camera trends in the last two years. A straightforward effort to bump up the numbers of the camera. We’ve seen this approach on the part of smartphone trends being followed by everyone from Xiaomi and Realme to Samsung and Oppo, mostly using two 2MP cameras so they can brag about providing quad rear cameras.
We would certainly like to see more brands settle in 2021 on a quality over quantity strategy for cameras. In other terms, rather than merely introducing more lenses, we’d prefer brands to develop their main, ultra-wide, or even macro cameras. If brands still insist on selling a macro lens, then probably we can see higher resolution autofocus sensors rather than token 2MP cameras on the latter.
Plastic/Glasstic on $1,000 Phones
We’ve no issue with the “glass” of Samsung, the brand’s take on plastic that’s supposed to appear more like crystal. Our main issue, indeed, is that the company has chosen to use glass on the $1,000 Galaxy Note 20.
It is one idea to use a plastic design which appears and feels like plastic on an inexpensive smartphone, but when you invest over $900 on a high-end phone, it’s another thing. We expect Samsung limits this stuff to devices such as the FE/Lite versions of the Galaxy A series and Galaxy. Instead, we would like to see the company tweak the glass material to feel more like water.
Another factor why we took issue with crystal on the Note 20 is that Samsung did not really beef up the specification sheet of the phone accordingly. If it implied the phone had a high refresh rate and/or more amazing cameras, I’m sure several customers wouldn’t mind plastic, however they didn’t have any of that.
‘5G’ on the End of Name
It is reasonable that in the first year or two of the widespread accessibility of 5G, we will see phones receive a “5G” suffix, but today cooperation among flagships has become commonplace. Let’s hope, next year, developers will ditch this naming scheme for high-end phones. Wouldn’t it really make more sense for brands to use the “4G” moniker to denote 4G models then, as they are set to become less common?
Another trend, out of several pointless smartphone trends, seen in 2020 was a change by Verizon. It went a step further and slapped “UW 5G” on its smartphones, denoting 5G coverage for ultra-wideband or mmWave. The worst name in this respect is potentially the Nokia 8 V 5G UW. How about naming it the Nokia 8.3 Verizon just now?
Slow Wired Charging
It’s difficult to accept that you will really buy smartphones with 65W or even 100W+ charging speeds in 2020, such as the Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra and OnePlus 8T. What’s even tougher to understand is that there are already flagship smartphones out there that don’t provide fast charging.
Phones such as Motorola Edge Plus and Google Pixel 5 top up at a sluggish 18W, while at 20W and 25W, the iPhone 12 series and LG V60 are marginally quicker. Either way, as a standard in 2021, we would like to see 30W+ charging from all leading flagship smartphones.
Some customers worry that fast charging will weaken the battery over time, but what’s to stop 80 to 90 percent trickle charging brands? This is what many ultra-fast charging phones are now doing, after all. Oppo has also officially said that after 800 cycles (i.e. two years) of 65W charging, its Ace 2 battery degrades to 90 percent power. Eventually, brands could still ship a fast-charging phone, however if they particularly wish to, disable it by default.
High Price for Flagships
One of the most prominent pointless smartphone trends is the price hikes for flagships. Xiaomi, Realme, and OnePlus all presented flagships for 2020 at a higher cost than their predecessors. Evidently, part of this is due to higher flagship silicon prices this year. Nevertheless, it’s still very surprising to see a shortage of accessible flagship phones in 2020, aside from some welcome shocks.
We’ve also seen more costly mmWave models of smartphones come in at ~$100 than the regular 5G versions. The Verizon models of the OnePlus 8 and Pixel 4a 5G are some instances of this. Probably soon, in 2021, we’ll see more moderately priced flagship phones, but we’re not holding our breath for the price of mmWave phones to fall.
Quality or Quantity
Of other weird smartphone trends, preferring quantity over quality is another trend that should stop. In recent times, one of the more irksome phenomena is that a lot of OEMs sell a bunch of phones with only slight variations between them. Do we really want seven or eight variants of Redmi 9, if half do that?
We have shed light on it previously, but in 2021, we would also want to see brands tone the rebranding down considerably. Yes, there are sometimes legitimate reasons for rebranding, but for its Poco brand, companies such as Xiaomi definitely went overboard. With the N100, basically a rebadged Oppo A53, even OnePlus could not restrain itself.
Worse Update Assurances
Google is also dedicated to supplying its Pixel phones with three years of device updates. Samsung has joined this year’s club by giving certain devices a three-year commitment to Android version updates. In smartphone trends 2020, that was one of the few bright spots in this respect.
OnePlus announced only one update for its Nord N10 and N100 phones during the year, although Motorola figured it could get away with promising its $1,000 Edge Plus phone with one version update. Ultimately, Moto changed tack and went back to two release changes, but why did we first have to go through this?
It only makes sense for more companies to remain dedicated to app updates among customers holding onto their smartphones for a prolonged period of time and the economic instability regarding COVID-19.