Smartphone Technologies and Capabilities That Vendors Can’t Ignore

Here are the top 10 smartphone technologies and capabilities that create more-compelling experiences for the user, as well as unravel new business models for mobile device vendors.

As it has matured and become highly commoditized, the smartphone market has also become more complex and dynamic. Technology improvements in smartphones have 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, as well as unravel new business models for mobile device vendors.

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

We identified 10 technologies and capabilities whose development and transformation cannot be ignored by any mobile device vendor. Our top 10 list for 2016 and 2017 is:

  • 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 personalized experience, display technology and connectivity. These areas can potentially address key smartphone user pain points, enable 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.

Why are VPAs and biometric authentication in your top 10? Why now?

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.

By 2020, 40% of mobile interaction will be facilitated by smart agents as the post-app era starts to dominate.

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

Concerning biometric authentication, sophisticated smartphones expose users to richer experiences, such as mobile payments and allowing them to store more-detailed personal data. This highlights the need for improved protection and verified access to a smartphone. 

New methods of biometric authentication will be explored. Biometrics technologies are already showing benefits in enterprise pilots and deployments focused on providing enhanced identification of individuals.

Augmented and virtual reality technologies are still new, but how quickly are they evolving?

Augmented reality (AR) can be effectively used on a smartphone or tablet, as well as other dedicated devices such as head-mounted displays (HMDs). Users can hold these devices up to a sign, for example, to see it translated, or in front of equipment to see its maintenance instructions.

In 2018, 26 percent of HMDs will be designed for business use.

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

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 great use cases, with the virtual world being a mockup of equipment or situations to simulate a real-life situation. We expect that in 2018, 26% of HMDs will be designed for business use.

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

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