Phones were boring in 2022. Here’s why they’ll be more interesting in 2023

Fifteen years after the release of the first iPhone, tech companies are in a pinch. And who can blame them? It’s really hard to lift a piece of glass over a metal rectangle. While 2023 doesn’t look like it’s going to change the game, there are a few features we’re looking forward to that nonetheless raise the bar for the supercomputers in our pockets.

Some phone developments are long overdue next year, like the iPhone possibly switching to USB-C chargers (in part because Apple European regulators forced it). Others are likely to improve the AI ​​computer software that makes your photos look better, the cellular and Wi-Fi radios that transmit to the Internet, and the screen that you see on it. That’s at least a little more exciting than the few innovations we got this year.

We are all used to the modifications and improvements that companies make to phones to improve their processing speed, the quality of their cameras, and the beauty of their screens. Sure, Apple may have introduced the notch-hiding Dynamic Island feature and the new satellite SOS feature for the $800 iPhone 14, Promising peace of mind If you fall into an emergency situation without cell phone service. Samsung may have made its S-Pen available to people willing to pay $1,200 for it S22 Ultra. and the none phone 1 It may have advanced the affordable 5G niche with an LED-lit design. But other than that, this year has been a slew of picks for exciting new phones.

“The only significant thing that has changed this year, I feel, are the upgrades to foldable devices,” said Nabila Popal, director of research at industry watchdog IDC. Most phones have just seen incremental improvements, Bhopal noted, an assessment in stark contrast to Samsung chief TM Roh who said the company’s S22 series had “groundbreaking camera capabilities,” and Apple CEO Tim Cook called the iPhone 14 line the best iPhone ever. created.”

In the end, the promise of a truly exciting new phone may depend on technology that is still far away. One of the best examples this year came when LG announced the release of stretchable display, which raises the possibility that instead of carrying bulky, bulky phones around everywhere, we can simply expand the smaller phones when we want more screen real estate. LG is not alone. Motorola offered a Concept device With a rotatable display earlier this year, which means we could get a new kind of flexible screen in a handheld form factor sometime.

But even if we don’t expect generational leaps in next year’s phones, here’s what will improve for these ubiquitous devices.

Galaxy Z Flip 4 in Flex mode fits in the palm of anyone's hand

Galaxy Z Flip 4’s hinge allows it to be held at different angles. When he gets close to vertical, he can activate the software’s flex mode.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Folding are coming for the upper layer

Samsung this year Galaxy Z Fold 4 And the Z Flip 4 They were incremental upgrades to their predecessors. Neither has seen a price drop, but they’ve got S Pen functionality, better software, and an improved hinge, which puts Samsung’s first fold blunders further into the rear view. Next year, expect more of the same: the best Fold yet (with incremental upgrades), but not yet in many buyers’ price ranges.

That could be good for people who buy expensive phones, Bhopal said. While still only one segment of the 1.24 billion phones shipped in 2022, foldable devices have seen sales double from last year, to 16 million in 2022, and that number is expected to continue to rise. With the cheapest foldable devices, like the $999 Samsung Z Flip 4, priced the same as the iPhone 14 Pro, it’s no surprise that more premium phone buyers are starting to swap their flat phones for foldable ones.

They’re probably more eager to buy more expensive phones with some of the best promotions we’ve seen from carriers in years, which save consumers up to $1,000 off the list price as part of a multiyear service contract. That’s enough to get you a new Z Flip 4 for free, or bring down the price of the Z Fold 4 to a manageable monthly bill.

More consumers are likely to switch if a new device challenges Samsung for the title of cheapest foldable. TCL had almost stopped its market readiness Chicago Project A foldable clamshell because the company couldn’t bring the price down below $700, which is in line with the prices of its other phones. Although there is no rumor that a cheaper foldable phone is likely to come in 2023, we do know that the upcoming Motorola Razr It may have a lower price from its predecessors. The first foldable to fall below premium prices could set the bar for future flexible display devices.

Read more: Foldable devices are still looking for a breakout moment. Samsung wants to change that


iPhone 14 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

What’s coming for flat phones

There are a few predictions for the coming year when it comes to traditional phones, but they don’t exactly involve generational shifts.

Apple will have to replace its aging Lightning ports with USB-C ports by 2024, and the company could do so this year. Rumors for years have suggested that Apple will make the switch, but now it has a deadline imposed by the European Union. Otherwise, in next year’s series, presumably named the iPhone 15 lineup, the company may pack the pricier Pro Max model with more features and rename it the iPhone Ultra to differentiate it from its larger-screen iPhone Plus counterpart at an affordable price. to me bloomberg.

Android phones will continue their slow march of improvement. Samsung’s focus on improving cameras may lead it to use a 200-megapixel camera in its upcoming S23 Ultra phone, to me Ice Universe leaked from this year’s S22 Ultra’s 108MP main camera. And while there haven’t been many rumors surrounding the Pixel 8 series, we can expect Google to find new ways to use Tensor chips in phones to perform previously impossible feats, like the Magic Eraser feature that erases unwanted objects in photos, which debuted in Pixel 7 for this year.

Read more: The hottest new phones of 2023: iPhone 15, Galaxy S23, and more

These may seem like small improvements over last year’s phones, but it’s worth noting that most people don’t buy new phones every year. Thanks to two- and three-year contracts with carriers, and the rising cost of phones, consumers are taking a long time to upgrade. When they go to get a new device, it’s been a long time for the advancements to be noticeable.

Though only a few years ago, consider jumping from the iPhone X’s dual rear cameras to the iPhone 12 Pro’s triple shooters and square sides, and then to the iPhone 14 Pro’s dynamic island-bordering notch and always-on display, Bhopal said.

“[Phones] We’re really getting so far, and year after year, we’re not really seeing it,” Bhopal said. The rapid pace of innovations in the early smartphone era makes us feel like we’ve slowed down. As an industry or as a consumer industry, we’ve kind of screwed up.”


Two devices demonstrated at Samsung’s CES 2022 booth: a tri-fold device on the left and a traditional foldable device with a transparent edge.


Post-2023 phones

If we want real change in phones, we will have to wait for what lies beyond 2023. New technologies can change how we interact with and use our phones.

That could lead us to really new territory. Even science fiction didn’t come up with many ideas other than carrying a rectangle stuffed with technology in our pockets that connects us to the world. We’re basically moving around a Star Trek trio, a Star Wars handheld data pad, and Her’s in-ear personal assistant — all rolled into one.

Here, closer to our century, some ideas are emerging to the surface. next installment Qualcomm Snapdragon chips It can increase privacy by hiding notifications when the phone sees other people hovering over your screen, while advances in artificial intelligence continue to add filters and effects to all of our photos and live video chats. Google and Apple are racing to add more augmented reality features to their navigation apps, as well as make phones a focus for tap-to-pay purchases and remotely unlock cars and smart homes. So expect mobile software to put more control of your digital life at your fingertips. And in Apple’s case, expect it to harness Lidar to better map the real world, as CNET’s Lisa Edechico reports.

Other folds can go down the line as well. Samsung has shown a lot Different concepts at CES In years past, some had tri-fold screens and some had clear panels. These are further afield and probably won’t come next year, but at CES 2023 in January we could see more exciting concepts that give an idea of ​​how handheld devices can expand their functionality.

Then again, maybe the future of phones is in what they connect to — smartwatches and smart homes, of course, but also augmented reality glasses. Some rumors say we will Finally, get our Apple glasses in 2023, and solidifying our phones as anchors to more dynamic technological ways of seeing the world. Other companies are preparing their own augmented reality glasses as Apple normalizes new technology.

As noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted, we could replace all of our iPhones with AR glasses within a decade, so perhaps the days are numbered for phones to be the center of our mobile lives. Until then, we’ll keep tracking how it merges with more and more of our everyday experiences, one technical innovation at a time.

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