Another autumn is fast approaching, and with it a new crop of smartphones. But if excitement over them seems a little muted this year, it’s not just you.
A PCMag survey recently asked more than 1,500 people which smartphone launch they most anticipated this year. Apple’s launch, in which the company may reveal three iPhones, came in first with 42 percent. Samsung’s Galaxy Note9, which made its debut last week, garnered 24 percent.
And "None” came in third — ahead of the next Google Pixel’s 7 percent. That’s a pretty lukewarm welcome for Google’s next phone, which is expected in October.
While smartphones used to generate a lot of excitement every year, even phones with new features, such as the iPhone X’s nearly full-screen front or advanced biometric scanners, have failed to reignite the excitement of a few years ago. The average time people wait to upgrade their phones continues to grow. Americans are now likely to hold on to their phones for an average of 32 months, research firm NPD Group reported in July, up from 25 months at the same time last year.
The number of people holding on to their phones for more than three years is also up, from 18 percent at the end of 2016 to 22 percent at the end of 2017, the firm said.
Smartphone makers are making up for the slower unit sales by charging more per phone — a strategy that worked well for Apple but sent mobile revenue at Samsung down sharply last quarter.
There is a lot of hype about where the smartphone’s hardware could go next, with excited speculation about folding displays and new types of cameras. But those types of features aren’t likely to show up in this year’s remaining crop of smartphones in the United States.
So what could drive consumers to the stores again for smartphones? The next big upgrade that we’ll see from smartphones is the inclusion of 5G antennas, which analysts expect will be revealed in new models in February 2019.
Even then, however, the rollout of 5G networks will be limited in the United States. Major carriers including Verizon and AT&T have plans to flip on 5G networks in just a handful of cities this year, with a wider rollout of a more advanced version of the technology coming in 2020.
The new standard for connectivity is expected to send smartphone growth back up, according to the Consumer Technology Association, a tech industry group.
While the number of smartphones sold in 2018 in the United States is only expected to grow 1 percent in 2018, the CTA expects 2019 sales will start a new upswing, “with triple-digit increases through 2021.”