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Smartphone technologies and capabilities that can not be ignored by mobile device vendors

The smartphone market is getting more complex and dynamic, as well as maturing and being highly commoditised. In such mature market, technology improvements in smartphone has brought incremental enhancements and these are often not perceived by users as critical for them.

We asked Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner to share her views on the top 10 smartphone technologies and capabilities that create more compelling experiences for the user, and unravel new business models for mobile device vendors.

Q: How did you select the top 10 smartphone technologies and capabilities for 2016 and 2017?

A: We identified 10 technologies and capabilities whose developments and transformations cannot be ignored by any mobile device vendor.

Our top 10 technologies and capabilities for 2016 and 2017 are:  

  • Fast charging  
  • Wireless charging 
  • Augmented and virtual reality 
  • Multiple-lens camera solutions 
  • Sensors: Biometric authentication and technologies  
  • Virtual personal assistants (VPAs)  
  • Flexible/curved displays  
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 standards  
  • USB Type-C  
  • Embedded SIM (e-SIM)

They were selected looking at five main potential areas of impact: the battery, an immersive experience, a personalised experience, display technology and connectivity. They represent areas that can potentially address key smartphone user pain points, expand to new capabilities, unlock new business models or create more compelling experiences. They look at the smartphone no longer in isolation, but as part of a continuum of devices and within new user scenarios.

Q: Why are virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and biometrics authentication in your top 10? Why now?

A: VPAs represent a shift in how people will interact with machines. They are available on a number of platforms, including iOS, Windows and Android devices as well as tablets, PCs, wearables, connected home hubs, and smart home speakers.

We predict that by 2020, 40 percent of mobile interaction will be facilitated by smart agents as the post-app era starts to dominate. Already, 74 percent of smartphone users currently use VPAs frequently, at least one a day (38 percent) and several times a week (36 percent).

General purpose VPAs’ experiences have been so far disappointing. Users want more proactive interaction and notifications from their VPAs that can deliver more personalised experiences. However, VPAs and their services are becoming richer - we saw new smart features in Cortana at Build 2016 and recently the new Google Assistant. This opens up new opportunities for device vendors, ecosystem owners and VPA developers to differentiate themselves by creating smarter solutions.

Concerning Biometric authentication, sophisticated smartphones expose users to richer and new experiences with their phones such as mobile payments and, increasingly, allow users to store more detailed personal data on their phones. This highlights the need for improved protection and verified access to a phone.

Beyond fingerprint, new methods of biometric authentication will be explored. Going forward, biometric authentication will force vendors to work more closely not only with biometrics technology providers, but also with biometric software developers to achieve smooth and usable solutions that can win over users in their daily use of smartphones.

Biometrics technologies are already showing benefits in enterprise pilots and deployments focused on providing enhanced identification of individuals. Device vendors will extend the use of biometrics measurements to explore other areas beyond authentication, like Emotion and mood detection, for example.

Q: The current iterations of augmented and virtual reality are new, but how quickly are they evolving?

A: Augmented reality (AR) can be effectively used on a smartphone or tablet (as well as other dedicated devices such as head-mounted displays [HMDs]). For example, users can hold up a phone to a sign and see it translated, hold a tablet in front of equipment, or use AR smart glasses to see the equipment's maintenance instructions.

VR immerses the user into a full digital environment. Users can snap their smartphone into devices such Samsung Gear VR or LG 360 VR, hold it to their eyes, and see and interact with virtual worlds. More sophisticated immersive VR experiences come from dedicated HMDs like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, but these require a high-end PC. In consumer markets, gaming, events and movies, and 360-degree immersive videos will be the primary areas of focus for developers and content creators. However, easy access to content and distribution will be critical success factors.

Opportunities are also emerging for a VR system to be used in business settings: businesses can use mobile VR as a marketing device to deliver personalized product experiences, or as a tool to communicate with employees. Training and education are also a great user cases — with the virtual world being a mockup of equipment or situations to simulate a real-life situation. We expect that in 2018, 26 percent of HMDs will be designed for business use.

While the current appearances of AR and VR are new, better display technology, improvements in sensing and tracking hardware and software for things such as motion, gesture, head and eye tracking, and real-time graphics will increase interest and adoption. Burgeoning developments in 360-degree and depth-sensing imaging will provide enhancements to and the availability of environmental mapping capabilities. In addition, 3D and 360-degree imaging devices can further accelerate this trend. HMDs using AR and VR are expected to sell 40 million units by 2020, which provides the highest revenue opportunity, together with smartwatches.

Gartner clients can find more detailed analysis in the report "Top 10 Smartphone Technologies and Capabilities in 2016 and 2017."

Article by Christy Pettey and Laurence Goasduff, Gartner.

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