Phones were boring in 2022. That’s why they will be more interesting in 2023

Fifteen years after the release of the first iPhone, tech companies are in a state of malaise. And who can blame them? It becomes really difficult to jazz up a glass plate on top of a metal rectangle. While 2023 doesn’t look like it’s going to change the game, there are some features to look forward to that will nonetheless raise the bar for the supercomputers in our pockets.

Some of next year’s phone advances are long-awaited, like the iPhone potentially moving to USB-C chargers (partly because Apple is doing it forced to do so by European regulators). Other devices will likely improve the artificial intelligence computer programs that make your photos look better, the Wi-Fi and cellular devices that transmit them to the internet, and the screen that you see them on. That’s at least a little more exciting than the handful of innovations we got this year.

We’ve all grown accustomed to the tweaks and refinements companies make to phones to improve the speed of their processing chips, the quality of their cameras, and the beauty of their screens. Sure, Apple may have introduced notch-hiding Dynamic Island and a new satellite SOS feature for its $800 iPhone 14. promises peace of mind if you find yourself in an emergency with no cell service. Samsung may have made its S Pen stylus available to people willing to shell out $1,200 for it S22 Ultra phone. And the Nothing phone 1 Perhaps it has beefed up the affordable 5G niche with an LED-lit design. But other than that, this year has been a tight selection of exciting new phones.

“The only significant thing that I think has changed this year has been upgrades to the foldable devices,” said Nabila Popal, director of research at industry watchdog IDC. Most phones only saw incremental improvements, Popal noted, an assessment in stark contrast to Samsung President TM Roh, who said the company’s S22 series had “groundbreaking camera capabilities,” and Apple CEO Tim Cook called the iPhone 14 line “the best iPhones we’ve ever had”. created.”

Ultimately, the promise of a truly exciting new phone may rest on technology that’s years away. One of the best examples came this year when LG announced a stretchable display, which raises the possibility that instead of carrying big, bulky phones everywhere, we could just stretch out smaller ones when we need more screen real estate. LG is not alone. Motorola showed a concept device with a rollable display earlier this year, meaning we could eventually get a new kind of flexible screen in a handheld form factor.

But even if we don’t expect generation leaps in next year’s phones, here’s what’s set to improve for these ubiquitous devices.

Galaxy Z Flip 4 in Flex mode in someone's hand

The Galaxy Z Flip 4’s hinge allows it to stay at different angles. When it’s almost vertical, it can enable flex mode for the software.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Foldables come for the top tier

This year’s Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Z flip 4 were incremental upgrades of their predecessors. Neither saw price cuts, but they did get S Pen functionality, better software, and improved hinges, further eclipsing the flaws of Samsung’s first foldable devices. Expect more of the same next year: the best foldables yet (with incremental upgrades), but not yet in many buyers’ price ranges.

That might be okay for people acquiring more expensive phones, Popal said. While they still made up just a portion of the 1.24 billion phones shipped in 2022, foldable devices saw sales that doubled year-on-year to 16 million devices in 2022, and that number is expected to continue growing. Given that the cheapest foldable devices, like the $999 Samsung Z Flip 4, are priced the same as an iPhone 14 Pro, it’s no surprise that more and more premium phone buyers are starting to sell their flat phones exchange for foldable ones.

They’re probably more eager to buy pricier phones with some of the best promotional deals we’ve seen in years from carriers, saving consumers up to $1,000 off list price as part of a multi-year service contract. That’s enough to get a new Z Flip 4 practically free, or bring the price of a Z Fold 4 down to a manageable monthly bill.

Even more consumers are likely to switch if a new device challenges Samsung for the title of cheapest folding device. TCL had shelved its almost-marketable Project Chicago Clamshell foldable because the company couldn’t lower the price below $700, which would match the prices of its other phones. While there’s no rumor that a cheaper foldable device will likely launch in 2023, we do know that the next Motorola Razr may have lower price than its predecessors. The first foldable device to drop below the premium price point could set the bar for future flexible display devices.

Continue reading: Foldables are still looking for a breakout moment. Samsung wants to change that

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The iPhone 14 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

What’s coming for flat phones

There are some predictions for the next year when it comes to traditional phones, but they don’t exactly involve generational changes.

Apple will be forced to swap its aging Lightning connectors for USB-C by 2024, and the company could do so as early as this year. Rumors have suggested Apple would make the switch for years, but now it has an EU-imposed deadline. Otherwise, in next year’s series, which is expected to be dubbed the iPhone 15 line, the company could add more features to its most expensive Pro Max model and rename it the iPhone Ultra to distinguish it from its cheaper, larger-screen iPhone Plus counterpart to take off. corresponding Bloomberg.

Android phones will continue their slow progress. Samsung’s focus on improving cameras could see it using a 200-megapixel camera in its upcoming S23 Ultra phone. corresponding Leaker Ice Universe, taller than the 108MP main camera in this year’s S22 Ultra. And while there haven’t been many rumors about the Pixel 8 series, we can expect Google to find new ways to leverage the phones’ Tensor chipsets to achieve previously impossible feats, like the Magic Eraser feature that’s unwanted Things in Photos Deletes debuted in this year’s Pixel 7.

Continue reading: The most exciting new phones for 2023: iPhone 15, Galaxy S23 and more

These might seem like small improvements over last year’s phones, but it’s worth noting that most people don’t buy new phones every year. Thanks to two- and three-year carrier contracts and rising phone costs, it’s taking consumers so long to upgrade. When they decide to buy a new device, it’s been long enough since the advances are noticeable.

Though only a few years apart, think of the leap from the iPhone X’s dual rear cameras to the iPhone 12 Pro’s triple shooters and angular sides, and from there to the iPhone 14 Pro’s notch-limiting Dynamic Island and always-on display . said Pope.

“[Phones] We’ve come this far already, and year after year we don’t really see that,” Popal said. The rapid pace of innovation in the emerging smartphone era makes us feel like we’ve slowed down. “As an industry or as a consumer, we’ve kind of been spoiled.”

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Two concept devices at Samsung’s CES 2022 booth: a tri-fold foldable on the left and a traditional foldable with a translucent border.

Samsung

Phones beyond 2023

If we want real change in phones, we’ll have to wait for what’s after 2023. New technologies could change the way we interact with and use our phones.

This could lead us into really new territory. Even science fiction hasn’t spawned many ideas beyond carrying in our pocket a rectangle stuffed with technology that connects us to the world. We’re basically lugging around a Star Trek tricorder, a Star Wars handheld datapad, and Her’s earphone personal assistant—all wrapped up in one gadget.

Here, closer to our own century, some ideas bubble to the surface. The next bonus Qualcomm Snapdragon chips can increase privacy by hiding notifications when the phone sees other people hovering over your screen, while AI advances continue to add filters and effects to all our photos and live video chats. Google and Apple are scrambling to add more AR capabilities to their navigation apps and put phones at the heart of tap-to-pay purchases and remote unlocking of cars and smart homes. So expect mobile software to give you more control over your digital life. And in Apple’s case, it can be expected to use lidar to better map the real world, as reported by CNET’s Lisa Eadicicco.

Other foldable devices could also come to market. Samsung has shown many various concepts at CES in recent years some with trifold screens and others with transparent panels. Those are further away and likely won’t be coming next year, but at CES 2023 in January we were able to see more enticing concepts that give an idea of ​​how handheld devices could expand their functionality.

On the other hand, perhaps the future of phones lies in what they connect to – smartwatches and smart homes, of course, but also AR glasses. Some rumors say we will Finally get our Apple Glasses in 2023by solidifying our phones as anchors for more dynamic technological ways of seeing the world. Other companies are preparing their own AR glasses for the moment when Apple normalizes the new technology.

As famous Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted, we could replace all our iPhones with AR glasses in a decade, so perhaps the days of phones being the center of our mobile lives are numbered. Until then, we will continue to monitor how they integrate with more and more of our daily experiences, one technical innovation at a time.

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