The smartphone market has reached a certain level of maturity. An observation that sometimes makes us complain about the lack of innovation offered by brands from one year to the next. But that doesn’t stop them from releasing new products that sometimes look deceptively similar to previous models. Will this year be the year of big changes? In our opinion, we present you four trends that will shape the smartphone market in 2023.
The smartphone market is far from experiencing its heyday. It would peak in 2017 with 1.6 billion smartphones shipped, according to Counterpoint’s figures. Except for 2021, which benefited from the rebound effect after the Covid-19 pandemic, every year was worse than the previous one. In 2022, 1.2 billion smartphones were shipped, far from historical records.
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Environmental awareness and economic stress are driving consumers to upgrade their phones less often. To convince them, manufacturers must innovate by offering differentiating products and features that significantly improve the user experience. The other voice for brands is the voice of rationalization and the status quo. A risky choice in a highly competitive market.
Samsung, Apple, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Google, Honor, OnePlus, Sony, Realme, Nothing, Poco, Redmi, Motorola, etc. What will they offer us in 2023?
Compact smartphones are dead, long live folding smartphones!
It hasn’t escaped you, the compact smartphone is an endangered species. Nowadays, it is very difficult to find a phone with a screen less than six inches that can be operated with one hand. The reason is quite simple: they don’t sell enough. Apple has already thrown in the towel after the iPhone 13 mini, leaving the iPhone SE 2022 as the only representative of the brand’s small phones.
This year, only Asus tried to release a compact format with the ZenFone 9. For the rest, the smallest phones you’ll find are 6.1 inches, like the Google Pixel 6a or the Galaxy S22. If you want a smartphone that fits easily in your pocket, there’s now another, more expensive solution: the foldable.
Samsung’s success in the foldable smartphone segment has given the competition ideas. Currently very elitist, Galazy Z Flip 4 and Galaxy Z Fold 4 are presented as technological showcases. Samsung sees this as the future of smartphones, and it’s not the only one. Indeed, many Chinese brands have invested in this market in 2022… only in China. But 2023 will mark the arrival of the Chinese on an international scale to undermine the hegemony of the Korean giant.
Vivo X Fold+, Honor Magic Vs, Xiaomi Mix Fold 2 and other Oppo Find N2 are the names you need to know and will bring healthy competition in 2023. This format is enough to lower prices in the coming years. it is too elitist to be widely accepted yet.
“Flagship killers”, the return of revenge
In 2014, the OnePlus One introduced the concept of a “flagship killer”. No smartphone sold above 1,000 euros that year. The price of the OnePlus was offered below 300 euros, compared to around 700 euros for the Samsung Galaxy S5 released in the same year. Another era. Today, the price of certain phones has literally exploded, along with the margins of the manufacturers who sell them.
The models closest to the spirit of this “flagship killer” in 2023 are undoubtedly the best smartphones offered for under 500 euros. Take a top-of-the-line phone, strip it of a few upgrades like wireless charging, a telephoto camera module, or even waterproof certification, and you’ve got an incredible value for money product.
Examples in this category include Google Pixel 6a, Nothing Phone (1) or Oppo Reno 8. What do these smartphones have in common? Offer “what you need, where you need it”. Understand that they are convincing enough to meet the needs of 99% of users who use their smartphones for web browsing, social networking and video streaming.
Except for Apple, which concentrates its efforts on high-end models, all other Android brands have at least one reference in the mid-range, which concentrates a good part of their sales every year. Therefore, a very competitive price segment in which good references should still come in 2023.
Ultra-fast charging, but not for everyone
“Fast charging” is, unfortunately, a designation that is not framed by any rules. So, all brands will tell you that their smartphones benefit from this technology. In fact, there are several quick recharges. Some manufacturers have decided to stop the speed race and prefer to be cautious about the safety and longevity of their devices.
We can put Apple, Samsung and Google in this category. According to our 01Lab tests, the Galaxy S22 Ultra charges in 1 hour 04 (45 W), the iPhone 14 Pro in 1 hour 29 (27 W) and the Google Pixel 7 Pro in 1 hour 40 (23 W). Figures that are clearly related to the size of the batteries that directly affect these results.
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The second category is Chinese brands that have been offering pretty impressive charging speeds for some time thanks to chargers up to 80W, 120W and 160W for the OnePlus 10T. For certain models, it is enough to find a 100% battery in less than 25 minutes.
In 2023, Chinese manufacturers should set foot on smartphones that can charge in just 9 minutes thanks to 240 W fast charging. You read that right. To achieve this, smartphones are equipped with two batteries that are charged in parallel to distribute the charging power and thereby limit the heating of the device. As for the longevity of these batteries, we still have no perspective…
Hard zooming smartphones
The most affordable smartphones have long been able to take decent photos in good light with the main (wide-angle) camera module. That’s why brands don’t hesitate to add other modules to offer more versatility, especially in entry-level smartphones.
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Unfortunately, the quality is not always there. We still often find the ultra-wide-angle module and the anecdotal macro module unconvincing, not to mention useless. Telephoto modules are available for high-end models to zoom in without losing quality. A selling point that often gives the most expensive smartphones the name “Pro” or “Ultra”.
In this little game, Samsung hit hard in early 2022 by offering x10 optical zoom to the Galaxy S22 Ultra. For its part, the Pixel 7 Pro is content with x5 optical zoom, but compensates for this “weakness” with impressive software that allows you to get quality x10 photos. But the most innovative smartphone at this point in 2022 is the Sony Xperia 1 IV, the first smartphone to feature “real” optical zoom.
Indeed, Sony offers a camera unit that can move between x3.5 and x5.2 zoom without loss of quality. A new and truly remarkable 85-125mm equivalent, but still offering mixed quality, that’s the fault of a sensor that’s still too small.
This technology is promising nonetheless, and opens the door to future smartphones that could be equipped with a single periscopic camera module that could replace the multiple fixed focal lengths found in our phones today. Therefore, 2023 should be the “year of miniaturization” for high-end smartphones.