It’s that time of the year when tech pundits and analysts start predicting the trends that will shape the smartphone industry in 2021. And it is a good time for tech companies to set right a lot of wrongs. Here are some things we think need to have ended with 2020.
Unnecessary variants of the same model
One practice that has become common is how smartphone makers took the liberty of selling the same phone model in different variants with hardly any differentiation. For instance, throughout the year, we saw multiple variants of the Redmi 9 and Redmi Note 9. Samsung initially pitched the Galaxy A-series catering to the premium mid-range segment, but as the year passed, it started becoming too similar to the Galaxy M-series both in terms of pricing and features. Similarly, the existence of the Realme Narzo series raised many questions. There might be a business reason, but all this was just confusing for the consumer. A good reason why brands need to think twice about selling the same product in multiple models in the new year.
Overemphasis on ‘AI’ in marketing campaigns
Some brands have taken AI functionality so seriously that they now market their devices as “AI-powered smartphones”. In reality, every smartphone released in the past year has AI-focused hardware and software. The hard work is done by either chip makers or software providers like Google who are behind these AI developments. Yes, brands should highlight most AI features on smartphones such as the progress made in imaging and photography or security but don’t just call every feature AI-powered.
‘Stock Android’ is better than the ‘modified’ version of Android
Apparently, a small group of smartphone brands like HMD Global still strongly believe that stock Android is better than modified versions of Android. It’s not proven that consumers want an Android smartphone running the “purest” version of the OS. Stock Android has its advantages but leading manufacturers like Xiaomi and Samsung and their success show us it might not be such a big deal after all. From a product point of view, smartphones running MIUI give access to a lot of user insights and thus help Xiaomi create an ecosystem of apps. In the case of Nokia-branded smartphones, which run stock Android, user data gets transferred directly to Google. At the end of the day, the idea of marketing “pure Android” has neither helped Google’s Pixel brand nor HMD Global.
Unnecessary camera modules
Every major smartphone brand, from Samsung, OnePlus to Xiaomi, literally jumped onto the idea of slapping multiple cameras without realising more camera lenses don’t make for a better camera smartphone. Without giving proper rationale, brands added macro lenses on several popular smartphones including the Galaxy M51, Mi 10, and OnePlus 8 alongside wide-angle and ultra-wide lenses. In reality, the sub-par macro lens hasn’t improved the overall camera experience. In fact, several reviewers pointed out that the macro lens on the OnePlus 8 was the weakest part of its camera. So was the 2MP macro lens on the OnePlus 8 purely a marketing exercise?
Be more transparent about ‘bloatware’
Brands need to be more transparent about the apps that come preloaded on the smartphone. They need to learn a lesson from the OnePlus-Facebook chapter, so that the trust between the brand and consumers should not be compromised. Earlier this year, OnePlus irked some of its die-hard fans by pre-installing Facebook services onto its new phones which could not be fully removed. The company then decided to remove the Facebook junk from its phones. Facebook was never the problem, the issue was that OnePlus in a way tried to change its brand proposition of a fast and clean software experience, which makes it different from other Android phone manufacturers.