- On-device AI has become the focus of pretty much every tech player around the globe
- Users are more knowledgeable about their handsets, seeking out higher specs
OVER the past five years, advancements in the smartphone industry have been numerous, changing the mobile demand and usage patterns of Malaysians.
This resulted in a trend when it was about having devices with a good specs-to-price ratio, as end users seek to upgrade to mid-range (MYR850<MYR1700) devices from their ultra-low-end (<MYR400) or low-end (MYR400<MYR850) devices so they can follow the latest social trends and seek out new use cases.
Users have been becoming more knowledgeable about their handsets, understanding the need to seek out higher specs, such as larger RAM, ROM, screen size, battery capacity, camera megapixels, etc to keep up with the requirements of most apps these days.
Fast forward to the present, while the specs-to-price ratio is still a crucial factor among Malaysians, it has become a basic expectation and can no longer “wow“ the crowd as it used to.
The next “wow” factor and trend end users will be looking out for are the features that enhance their experience on their smartphones.
In the shorter term, dual cameras and 18:9 ratio screens are what will interest end users. These soon-to-be-mainstream features were previously available only on costly flagship devices but are now available as well on affordable midrange smartphones such as Huawei Nova2i, vivo V7+, and Oppo F5.
The dual cameras enhance photography effects while the 18:9 ratio screens enhance the viewing experience — both features are simple enough to be used and understood by the average consumer.
Wireless charging and water resistance may see some traction in Malaysia, but are still at an early stage where they are deemed to be “nice to have” features as opposed to necessary ones.
The availability of smartphones with these features will be limited as well as they tend to fall in the higher price range.
On-device AI has become the focus of pretty much every tech player around the globe. In the case of smartphones, it started to gain traction towards late 2017 with the launch of several notable smartphone models such as Huawei’s Mate 10 and Apple’s iPhone X.
IDC expects AI to be the marketing buzzword for most smartphones going into 2018, when vendors will showcase an array of benefits that AI has to offer on their newly released smartphones.
However, it should be noted that the AI-enhanced smartphones are still at their early stages and are still pretty much a hype at this point due to their basic functionalities and lack of use cases.
For now, the most obvious cases that benefit from AI-enhanced smartphones are image processing, biometric applications, and device optimisation.
It should be noted that not all AI-enhanced smartphones will see equal benefits of AI and could likely differ and serve only specific functions depending on the category level and targeted end users of the device.
An example would be Oppo’s consumer-targeted F5 that only enhances selfies, while the Huawei Mate 10 and iPhone X, both of which play in a different class and are targeted at commercial end users as well, can enhance security measures, perform 3D mapping and offset shortcomings such as latency/network dependency and various other enhancements ranging from complex to simple.
One of the upcoming features making waves worldwide is face recognition security, made popular by Apple’s Face ID.
Naturally, more smartphone vendors will adopt this feature eventually, especially for mid-range smartphones, for the sake of following the trend, but the level of security reliability will likely differ from the likes of high-end phones.
More time is required for this feature to be trialled by end users to see if it truly is as secure as claimed, since most Malaysian end users will be sceptical and rather adopt a “wait and see” approach, waiting for public comments and peer recommendations. For now, vendors will have a lot of convincing to do.
PC-like docking is an ideal feature that most will find practical to have. Several companies such as Microsoft, Samsung, and recently Huawei have been promoting the idea of a 3-in-1 in device that replaces and takes on more of the tasks that have been traditionally performed on a PC.
Numerous other companies are expected to enter this space as well over time; however, in the short term, the use cases remain limited to generic applications as not all apps are ready for such integration yet, a reason for weak mass market adoption.
The Malaysian market space would certainly require more time — at least another five years before it gains traction.
The last feature that has been gaining attention is dual screens, which may see market entrance in 2018, when the usual big players make their announcements of their latest flagship smartphones.
Most of the details remain vague, and yet numerous challenges are already anticipated, the most obvious one being that most apps require more time to scale to the requirements of the device.
The availability of such features will ultimately change the way we use our smartphones. Malaysian can expect to experience these features as they make their way into mid-range devices and become more mainstream overtime.
Jensen Ooi is a senior market analyst, Client Devices at IDC Asia/Pacific