Phones at MWC 2019 were average at best
MWC 2019, the flagship conference for Android phone makers failed to show anything that would set new trends. Many had hoped that MWC 2019 would showcase products that would change the smartphone industry. To their surprise, MWC came out with incremental upgrades while the “innovative products” were prototypes at best.
1. Foldable Phones
People have been raving about the foldable phones for years. Foldable phones were supposed to become the new industry norm. While I do not doubt that one day they will, for now, we only got disappointing 1st gen prototypes. Yes, these were nothing more than prototypes. They were at best a technological showcase of where we currently stand.
Let’s start with the Galaxy Fold. We talked about 5 reasons why we think the Galaxy Fold will fail but here’s a quick recap. It is extremely expensive, the OS is not ready, it’s got first gen device problems and the main screen is simply bad. You can ignore the price, the OS and so much more, but you simply can’t ignore the fact that they are shipping a prototype device for $2000. Just look at the screens on that thing, especially the main screen which you’ll use as a phone.
Then there is the Huawei Mate X. A beautiful phone from an initial glance with top-notch specs. But then you see it in the tablet mode and you realize what Huawei has done. They have quite literally come out with a product that many would call unfinished. When the phone goes in tablet mode, you see sort of bubbles in between. Now many are saying that it’s because it’s an engineering sample, but we don’t know that if the issue will be fixed in the final version or not. The fact that they have the audacity to show it and then ask $2600 is simply disappointing.
2. Gimmick Fest
Android phones are often plagued by the problem of gimmicks. OEMs come out with the toilet sink worth of features that sound cool but no one uses them. Simple because they are quite useless or because their implementation is not good.
LG is known for trying new things. Apart from their super wide angle second lens, the industry has flat out discarded everything they came out with. From the replaceable batteries to a secondary screen, LG has struggled to find a feature to set itself from the crowd. With LG G8, the company has given it another shot. Remember Samsung Galaxy S4’s air gestures? LG has packed a similar feature set in the G8. You should now be able to control the volume, skip tracks and launch apps by hovering your hand over the phone. Yes, don’t touch it, just hover over it. Seriously? The feature is nothing short of a gimmick? Do you really want to not touch your phone simply because your hands are wet? I mean the phone is waterproof after all.
Then there was the Nokia 9. The phone has five cameras on the backside. While the specs of the camera look impressive, from the initial results, there’s a long way to go. In the portrait mode, you can clearly see the edge detection not working as it should. Even if we give the phone the benefit of being an engineering sample, we can’t ignore the sacrifices one would make to get the phone. The $700 comes with a design that is old even by standards of 2018, while the processor, Snapdragon 845, is a year old chipset. Even the battery is small by today’s standards.
And finally, Sony. Everyone knows that Sony’s Xperia lineup has failed to make its presence known for quite some time. So this year, Sony went all in and created the Xperia 1. Apart from the usual specs for a 2019 flagship, Sony gave the phone a massive 6.5 inch 21:9 aspect ratio screen. While the concept is decent, there is no practicality here. Majority of the content is created for either 16:9 or 18:9. Expect black bars in almost everything. And while multitasking is bound to look good, ask yourself, how often do you multitask on your phone?
3. Iterative Upgrades
We had hoped for great things from Samsung. It was the 10 year anniversary for the Galaxy S lineup, a series that played a big role in Android’s dominance. Yet, we got iterative upgrades nothing groundbreaking or innovative. For years Samsung had mocked Apple for the notch, so they made the punch through display. While it’s not exactly a notch and looks a lot prettier than one, apart from the design, nothing else generated excitement. The camera? Yes there are 3 cameras, but Huawei did it last year at the same show floor, Samsung launched a phone with 4 cameras. So just having 3 cameras is really not a big deal anymore. Reverse wireless charging? Huawei did it last year. The battery? Nothing much new either.
Then there were the usual suspects. Xiaomi came out with a 5G variant of its slider Mi Mix 3, again, iterative at best. LG came out with the G8. If you exclude the gimmicky air gestures, everything else is iterative. OEMs have failed to understand that just putting a price tag of $1000 is not enough. You need something serious to backup your asking price.