A unique year for the smartphone market. Sensitive to global economic and social problems, the industry has reacted sensitively to the pandemic, survived a lockdown, adapted, and survived. About the main releases and trends of the year, stagnation and growth of the market, the agony of Huawei, and ridicule of Apple in the final material of.

Million-Dollar Baby

The introduction of the compact smartphone at the beginning of the year has seriously cheered up the market and Apple fans. The release of the old iPhone design was taken as a signal. Firstly, Apple is fine, and the company can produce gadgets despite the coronavirus lockdown, and secondly, the corporation has not forgotten about conservative users who do not understand why something needs to be changed introduce “bangs”, OLED screens and give up the Home button with the fingerprint scanner if everything is working well anyway. In the spring, we still did not know that this would not be the first attempt by an American corporation to play on nostalgic feelings in 2020.

On the one hand, this is a failure. The updated SE turned out to be a device with an ancient design, a mediocre camera, and a weak battery. In the segment of Android smartphones, this is no longer produced, at least, the price tag of $ 400 is not charged. In 2020, the device is perceived as a byproduct of the experiment, on the other side of which are the “correct” iPhone X, Xs, and 11 with FaceID.

On the other hand, a very average smartphone turned out to be what ordinary people wanted to see – a compact body, a familiar design, and, most importantly, a Home button with a Touch ID. It is not known whether Apple engineers laid additional meaning or were just lucky, but this year the fingerprint sensor turned out to be the most important part of the smartphone. Because the new iPhones refused to accept users in protective masks, Apple even had to release a special update. The owners of the iPhone 6, 6s, and, now, SE, with the onset of the pandemic, did not give up their old habits.

As a result, the phone turned out to be in demand in its segment, having adequately replaced the iPhone 8 – the latter was still on sale as of the beginning of spring. Demand for the successor to the iconic 2016 phone proved to be stable and lasted until the New Year: in October SE even managed to overtake the newest iPhone 12 mini in sales.

If in the first half of the year the market was actively deflated, and sales stalled, then towards the end of the summer the industry slowly began to come out of suspended animation. It became clear that it was possible to live with a pandemic the heads of countries thought about a gradual exit from quarantine, and smartphone manufacturers woke up Asian contractors and suppliers the gadget market began to stir.

Moreover, if we look at the models and specifications of the devices without context, it may seem that we are not at the peak of a global epidemiological catastrophe paralyzing the industry and the economy, but in relatively well-fed and comfortable conditions. In 2020, the largest smartphone manufacturers  Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Xiaomi released a huge number of gadgets and several lines of premium devices. Companies have updated the record for prices almost everyone Рnot counting Apple Рincreased the cost of top-end phones, which this year confidently went for $ 700 and approached the mark of a thousand. OnePlus Р$ 827, Xiaomi Р$ 811, Huawei Р$ 1,378. Consider Samsung alone, which has smeared a series of luxury gadgets throughout the year, ranging from the flagship Galaxy S20 to the expensive Galaxy Note20 shovels.

In fact, there is a logical explanation for everything, and 2020 turned out to be almost the best year for purchasing a premium device. First, consumers have noticed that the latest generation of A-brand phones is not much different from the previous one, and therefore the average time of smartphone ownership has increased to two to three years. Secondly, what’s the point of changing cheap devices every year, if you can buy a flagship device once and use it without a significant loss in quality for several years?

Thirdly, specifically in Russia, three factors played into the hands of manufacturers and electronics stores the coronavirus lockdown and the availability of online sales, the desire to invest in expensive equipment amid the depreciation of the national currency, and the funds saved this season that should have been spent on vacations , Of course, not every Russian could afford to get 70-100 thousand from the stash and buy a new flagship, but those who planned to do this made their purchases. As a result, by the end of the year, there was a trend in the country for the purchase of phones over 50 thousand rubles.

Organic Growth

The outgoing year can hardly be called rich in innovation, but one of the trends is clearly visible – the completed transition from IPS-displays to OLED. Among all the major smartphones of 2020, there is not a single premium device that has received an LCD screen. Previously, the advantages of OLED – maximum color rendering, high brightness, and energy efficiency – could only be appreciated by owners of top-end devices, now matrixes based on organic LEDs are available to owners of millions of smartphones.

Despite concerns, major OLED screen suppliers (Samsung, LG, BOE, and others) handled orders. Also, such displays are almost completely cured of childhood illnesses – a high degree of flicker with a decrease in screen brightness (PWM) and burnout. New screens are becoming commonplace in smartphones as triple cameras or face unlock. Another sign that OLEDs are serious and lasting is the fact that Apple has finally migrated its flagships to a new type of matrix. Let’s remember a fingerprint sensor, 4G, widgets, or Qi-charging – an American company often uses technologies already proven on other devices in its smartphones, and often then innovations become classics on the market.

Another advantage of OLED screens is their perspective. From an OLED matrix, flexible displays that change their shape and state are obtained. They can be used to create foldable smartphones, devices with an “infinite” or wrapped around the screen, and other futuristic devices.

Harmony From Huawei

At the end of 2019, the disgraced Chinese company was in a fever – in the middle of the year it was included in the US sanctions list and for the next few months it was solving the problems that had piled up. 2020 began gloomily for Huawei, but the corporation’s problems were leveled against the backdrop of the global crisis – after all, the entire industry was in a fever in a difficult year. At first, the most powerful manufacturer of gadgets and telecom giant lost the rights to licenses and technologies provided by partners, then found itself without components and hardware for the production of smartphones. In the fall, the company somehow released new flagships (the ultra-modern Mate 40), but without confidence in the future, and then openly declared its struggle for survival.

In 2020, Huawei can safely be considered the main victim of all the largest companies. Left without proprietary processors and Android, the corporation was forced to abandon subsidiary Honor, selling the brand of low-cost phones to a specially created alliance of dealers and investment firms for the deal. If at the end of 2019 it seemed that Huawei could muster all its power and compete with Google Play and the entire Western technological world, now the company’s threats are more like the latest Chinese warning. Attempts to get off the Android needle and switch to its own software and the release of flagships with a loud announcement of “the first smartphone on HarmonyOS” remind of agony.

In turn, supporting the trend of increasing the smartphone update cycle, Android has noticeably strengthened. By the end of the year, Google and processor manufacturer Qualcomm announced that new devices based on the most popular mobile OS on the planet will receive updates for up to four years. In simple terms, companies have opened the possibility of using Snapdragon processors to install the current versions of operating systems for the entire life of the phone – until the memory, battery, and other components are worn out. Previously, such support existed only on Google Pixel smartphones not available in Russia. Obviously, such a decision will add points to Android, allowing it to get closer to the gold standard for updates from Apple – 4-5 years. What the developers of HarmonyOS will offer is unknown.

Buy Me If You Dare

Experienced fans did not expect anything outstanding from the new generation of Apple smartphones and, as a practice has shown, they did the right thing. Firstly, the presentation of the iPhone was delayed by a month (usually it takes place in September), and secondly, compared to the gadgets of 2019, the devices of the new generation received very little changes. Standard checklist, bend your fingers: the monobrow remained intact, the performance increased, the camera began to shoot a little better (and then only in the case of the iPhone 12 Pro Max), a couple of software chips appeared, and new colors were added.

On the other hand, the American giant surprised anyway. To begin with, Apple has never announced four smartphones in one go, including the ultra-compact iPhone 12 mini. The company was also pleased that it finally killed the 64-gigabyte drive in top-end devices, removed the IPS matrix from the canon, and added 5G to smartphones. Someone was delighted with the design in the style of the legendary iPhone 5.

If the classic line almost does not excite the mind, then the tiny 12 mini attracted attention from the very beginning. Apple managed to assemble a new smartphone from seemingly incongruous components and meanings. Top-end hardware, good camera, cutting edge design combined with minimalism, and flagship price. The controversial smartphone turned out to be very attractive in press renders and the first leaked reviews of the device, but did not hit the market. According to statistics for the first month of sales, the iPhone 12 mini has become the most unclaimed Apple new generation smartphone. It turned out that the iPhone 12 is more interesting to the consumer – after all, for just an additional $ 100, you can get a larger screen and a long-lasting battery.

Nature Is So Purified

In a year when the coronavirus crisis is shaking society, forests are burning and glaciers are melting, basic products are becoming more expensive, and the planet is heading for nowhere, Apple has announced that it refuses to equip smartphones with charging and headphones as part of the fight for the environment. First, it’s beautiful. At the presentation, the top managers of the company said that the more compact the boxes with the iPhone are, the less they will leave a carbon footprint during transportation, therefore, the better for us and our descendants. Secondly, it is beneficial. It turned out that the abandonment of a penny adapter and a wired headset will not only partially offset the costs of introducing 5G, but also encourage users to buy wireless AirPods. Another definite plus for Apple is that the smaller box will cut down on logistics costs by delivering many more tubes to retailers at a time.

Competitors in the face of Xiaomi, Samsung, and other companies immediately rushed to joke about Tim Cook’s corporation, hinting that they would never remove the free charger. Music in the wired headphones removed from the box did not play for long. First, Huawei conducted a survey of consumers on the topic of whether they really need a charging adapter in a box with gadgets, and then they did not find anything in the set of future Samsung flagships except the smartphones themselves. And the company suddenly erased all the jokes from social networks.

It seems that a lightweight set of phones if it does not become the norm, will definitely remain one of the trends in 2021. On the one hand, the seized accessories are really inexpensive, and a couple of extra adapters and charging cables are found in almost every home. On the other hand, a visit about ecology and empty boxes is prudent, as the efforts of a cunning salesman in a store cheat each customer a little. That is if Apple or any other manufacturer strongly asks and, preferably, points a finger at the law as it was in France, then the company will close its eyes to environmental problems.