Future Gazing: 5G for the People
It’s that time of the year again when I’m asked to gaze into my crystal ball and second guess what the smartphone industry will look like in the year ahead. This job used to be a lot easier. In what was still a relatively new industry only a few years ago, the technological advancements made in both the devices and app eco-system were staggering (taking devices from brick-like objects to super-sleek pocket-sized computers) and so there was plenty to write about and get excited about.
Looking back at previous attempts to gauge the future – we’ve hit the mark with regards to voice, the $1,000+ device, the rise of the phablet (killing off the tablet), and the ascent of the Chinese and Indian OEMs – giving the Koreans a run for their money. We can also claim some success with other predictions, VR, AR, and wearables are perfect examples, which despite not finding mainstream success have certainly found their niches and will continue to plod alongside more fast-moving technologies. And just to prove the point that this future-gazing business isn’t an exact science — we also bet rather unwisely on the popularity of the foldable device. This reminds us that innovation must always solve a real-world problem and not seek to just do something new.
So this year is going to be somewhat different. I’m not going to write about all the “every day” innovations the smartphone industry is promising us for the year ahead. Sure, smartphones are going to be more “aerodynamic” — lots of glass, no bezels, cameras hidden behind the device’s screen, meaning they are going to look great and pushing the smartphone in your pockets even further into the realms of the fashion accessory (admit it — that’s a huge influence when it comes to selecting your next device). Of course, the chips that power your devices are going to be more powerful and faster — but this was predicted by Moore’s Law in the 1970s, so really there is nothing new to see here (if only we could say the same about battery life). Don’t even get me started on cameras. Yes — we all have the ability to shoot TV-quality footage and upload it to TikTok but how much more innovation does the average user need in this direction?
Don’t get me wrong, of course, I’m excited about innovation in the industry but I’m going to hold off with the predictions until I walk the floors of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) event in Barcelona in February and actually get my hands on the latest, cutting edge tech to see how life-changing it really is before I bet the farm on its future success.
OK, OK, I get it – this might sound like a bit of a cop-out. After all, the team here at Digital Turbine has their finger on the pulse of all things mobile — surely, we’ve got a tip to whet the whistle of innovation lovers around the world. Well OK then, if there is one thing I’m excited about for the year ahead, and the year after that, and probably the year after that as well, it’s 5G.
5G is about to (Slowly) Change the Face of Mobile
While the concept of lightning-fast 5G mobile coverage isn’t new and is understood by virtually everyone who has ever owned a smartphone, it’s something that very few people have had the pleasure of actually enjoying first hand.
It’s ironic that the superfast 5G mobile network is being rolled out rather slowly. However, 2020 is the year that more people across the United States will get their hands on the technology that will breathe new life into their smartphones.
Check out where you can currently enjoy 5G across the US and a list of how and where the various networks will be rolling out the service in 2020 here.
5G is following similar roll-out schedules to the US across international markets like the UK and will be making its debut around the world in 2020 with planned launches in Canada, Brazil, China, and India. The South Koreans (of course) have had 5G since 2018.
Note: For some residents in rural parts of Scotland, 5G isn’t so exciting. They’d be happy if they could access any mobile network, regardless of speed. The moral of the story is, access to digital services cannot be taken for granted even in more “mature” markets
Why Am I so Excited about 5G?
The answer should be obvious to anyone who has to endure a slow connection. Imagine, instant downloads, no buffering, everything working with a click and no lag. It’s like magic. The science fiction writer, Authur C. Clarke once said that any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic. Could there be a more perfect description of 5G?
The fact is, all those other innovations (lots of glass, no bezels, etc.) are purely cosmetic and of little value when your connectivity sucks. With this in mind, everyone in the smartphone industry and app eco-system should be incredibly excited about 5G. It’s the biggest thing to happen to the smartphone since… well, the smartphone.
What are you excited about in 2020? Share your comments below.