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2019’s Handsets of the Year

It was a dazzling year for new phones, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, as he makes his choice of the best handsets of the year.

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It was the best of gadgets, it was the worst of gadgets. At least, that’s what Charles Dickens would have said if he were alive today and writing about consumer technology.

On the one hand, foldable phones arrived amid enormous hype but absurd prices and one design flaw after another. On the other, flagship phones arrived with cameras so sophisticated, they practically wiped out the last vestiges of the low-cost point-and-click digital camera.

The selection below has been designed to meet every budget, starting at the high-end flagships, working down through the mid-range and low-mid, down to entry-level. At the high-end, we have selected no less than five phones that represent dazzling innovation, but at the entry-level, we also include a few feature phones that come in for as little as the price of a movie ticket and box of popcorn.

High-end: (above R10,000)

  • Huawei P30 Pro (from R16,000)
Image result for huawei p30 pro

The specs of the Huawei P30 Pro are enough to make one’s eyes water. A 6.5-inch display, 4200mAh battery and 40 Megapixel main camera are just the obvious. Look deeper into the camera array, and you begin to understand why this handset offers the best camera experience yet on a phone. The 40 MP lens is a 27mm wide-angle with an f/1.6 aperture, marginally behind the Samsung flagships’ 26mm and f1.5. It comes down to the fact that these smartphones let in more light than ever before, allowing for more dazzling images than ever before. The rear of the P30 Pro also hosts an 8MP 125mm telephoto lens with 5X optical zoom, and a 20MP 16mm ultrawide angle lens. The selfie camera on the front is a 32MP lens with an outstanding 26mm wide-angle lens. Video can be shot at a range of resolutions and speeds, from 30 frames per second at 2160p to 960fps at 720p. The single-SIM version is probably the best value for money of high-end smartphones, starting at around R11,000 at Takealot.

  • Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max (from R21,999)
Image result for iphone 11 pro max

The Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max offers a triple-lens camera, with a 12 MP f/1.8, 26mm wide-angle lens, a 12 MP  52mm telephoto lens, and a 12 MP 13mm ultrawide lens. This keeps Apple behind Huawei in camera technology, and one must look to the software settings for it to match image quality. The selfie camera may seem lower-end at 12MP, but the key difference is that Apple incorporates 3D functionality, along with higher resolution and more options for video speed. Its 6.5-inch display and 3696mAh battery keep it level with the P30 Pro, but it’s in the quality of the display that it shoots the lights out: while the P30 offers 1080 x 2340 pixels and 398 pixels per inch, the Max comes in at 1242 x 2688 pixels, and 458 ppi. Only Samsung does that better, underlining the fact that it is the combination of features and usability that differentiates each handset, rather than a single stand-out specification.

  • Samsung Galaxy S 10+ (from R19,999)
Image result for samsung s10+

The Galaxy S10+ set new standards for handsets, as the first phone in the world to offers 1 Terabyte of storage – a 1000 Gigabytes. With expandable storage, that can be pushed to 1.5TB.  It was also the first with a video technology called HDR10+, which uses artificial intelligence to analyse every frame of a video, and optimise its colours based on what it perceives as the content of that frame. Previously, this technology was only available in high-end TV sets. Samsung has put massive emphasis on display, with a resolution of 1440 x 3040 pixels and 522 ppi density – beaten only by Sony’s Xperia 1 (not available in South Africa).

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ (from R22,999)

The Samsung Note10+ represents an astonishing array of just how much current technology can be held in one hand. At 6.8-inches, it has the largest display of any mainstream flagship phone on the market.  The cheapest Note10+ comes with a massive half-a-terabyte of storage, compared to 128GB for the S10+. The equivalent storage on the S10+ cost a few thousand rand more than the base Note10+. The Note10+ is aimed at a very specific market, namely people who want to use the device for its size, or its productivity benefits. It is in the latter category that the Note 10+ comes into its own.

  • Nokia 9 Pureview (R11849 from Vodacom)
Image result for nokia 9 pureview

The handset that grabbed the most attention at the 2019 edition of the world’s biggest mobile launchpad, Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, was the Nokia 9 Pureview, the first truly high-end Android smartphones from the resurrected Nokia brand under HMD Global, the new custodians of the handset brand. It has a dazzling array of five cameras on the back, with two colour sensors and three monochrome lenses working together to collect up to 10 times more light than a single colour lens of similar specs

Read more about the top mid-range, low mid-range, and entry-level handsets.

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Second-hand smartphone market booms

The worldwide market for used smartphones is forecast to grow to 332.9 million units, with a market value of $67 billion, in 2023, according to IDC

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International Data Corporation (IDC) expects worldwide shipments of used smartphones, inclusive of both officially refurbished and used smartphones, to reach a total of 206.7 million units in 2019. This represents an increase of 17.6% over the 175.8 million units shipped in 2018. A new IDC forecast projects used smartphone shipments will reach 332.9 million units in 2023 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.6% from 2018 to 2023.

This growth can be attributed to an uptick in demand for used smartphones that offer considerable savings compared with new models. Moreover, OEMs have struggled to produce new models that strike a balance between desirable new features and a price that is seen as reasonable. Looking ahead, IDC expects the deployment of 5G networks and smartphones to impact the used market as smartphone owners begin to trade in their 4G smartphones for the promise of high-performing 5G devices.

Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, says: “In contrast to the recent declines in the new smartphone market, as well as the forecast for minimal growth in new shipments over the next few years, the used market for smartphones shows no signs of slowing down across all parts of the globe. Refurbished and used devices continue to provide cost-effective alternatives to both consumers and businesses that are looking to save money when purchasing a smartphone. Moreover, the ability for vendors to push more affordable refurbished devices in markets in which they normally would not have a presence is helping these players grow their brand as well as their ecosystem of apps, services, and accessories.”

Worldwide Used Smartphone Shipments (shipments in millions of units)

Region2018
Shipments
2018 Market
Share
2023
Shipments*
2023 Market
Share*
2018-2023
CAGR*
North America39.022.2%87.226.2%17.4%
Rest of World136.877.8%245.773.8%12.4%
Total175.8100.0%332.9100.0%13.6%

Source: IDC, Worldwide Used Smartphone Forecast, 2019–2023, Dec 2019.

Table Notes: Data is subject to change.
* Forecast projections.

Says Will Stofega, program director, Mobile Phones: “Although drivers such as regulatory compliance and environmental initiatives are still positively impacting the growth in the used market, the importance of cost-saving for new devices will continue to drive growth. Overall, we feel that the ability to use a previously owned device to fund the purchase of either a new or used device will play the most crucial role in the growth of the refurbished phone market. Trade-in combined with the increase in financing plans (EIP) will ultimately be the two main drivers of the refurbished phone market moving forward.”

According to IDC’s taxonomy, a refurbished smartphone is a device that has been used and disposed of at a collection point by its owner. Once the device has been examined and classified as suitable for refurbishment, it is sent off to a facility for reconditioning and is eventually sold via a secondary market channel. A refurbished smartphone is not a “hand me down” or gained as the result of a person-to-person sale or trade.

The IDC report, Worldwide Used Smartphone Forecast, 2019–2023 (Doc #US45726219), provides an overview and five-year forecast of the worldwide refurbished phone market and its expansion and growth by 2023. This study also provides a look at key players and the impact they will have on vendors, carriers, and consumers.

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Customers and ‘super apps’ will shape travel in 2020s

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Customers will take far more control of their travel experience in the 2020s, according to a 2020 Trends report released this week by Travelport, a leading technology company serving the global travel industry.

Through independent research with thousands of global travellers – including 500 in South Africa – hundreds of travel professionals and interviews with leaders of some of the world’s biggest travel brands, Travelport uncovered the major forces that will become the technology enablers of travel over the next decade. These include:

Customers in control

Several trends highlight the finding that customers are moving towards self-service options, with 61% of the travellers surveyed in South Africa preferring to hear about travel disruption via digital communications, such as push notifications on an app, mobile chatbots, or instant messaging apps, rather than speaking with a person on the phone. This is especially important when it comes to young travellers under 25, seen as the future business traveler, and managing their high expectations through technology.

Mobile takeover

With the threat of super app domination, online travel agencies must disrupt or risk being disrupted. Contextual messaging across the journey will help. Super app tech giants like WeChat give their users a one-stop shop to communicate, shop online, book travel, bank, find a date, get food delivery, and pay for anything within a single, unified smartphone app. Travel brands that want to deliver holistic mobile customer experiences need to think about how they engage travellers within these super apps as well as in their own mobile channels.

Retail accelerated

In the next year, research shows, we will see an accelerated rate of change in the way travel is retailed and purchased online. This includes wider and more complex multi-content reach, more enriched and comparable offerings, more focus on relevance than magnitude, and an increase in automation that enables customer self-service.

“How customers engage with their travel experience – for instance by interacting with digital ‘bots’ and expecting offers better personalised to their needs – is changing rapidly,” says Adrian Roodt, country manager for Southern Africa at Travelport. “We in the travel industry need to understand and keep pace with these forces to make sure we’re continuing to make the experience of buying and managing travel continually better, for everyone.”

Read the full 2020 Trends report here: 2020 Trends hub.

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