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MWC 2015: The beginning of the end for smartphones?

Posted by Ben Smith on 26th November 2014

And so to the slightly Alice in Wonderland world of wireless electronics. Smartphones may still seem like relatively new products for us consumers, but as far as the device manufacturers are concerned it seems they are already yesterday’s news.

A report from Caroline Gabriel at Rethink Wireless has highlighted how moves from Intel and Samsung have signalled an admission that they need to “look beyond handsets for growth in devices”.

So, farewell then smartphones?

Perhaps not as far as you and I are concerned, certainly for the foreseeable future smartphones will remain the dominant high-end mobile handset category. But for the manufacturers it seems they will start to be de-emphasised, along with tablets, as they look for the next ‘hero’ product that will create bigger margins and drive new growth.

Interestingly, when it comes to this ‘so what next’ question the reports don’t sound too promising. Of course manufacturers are looking at new ‘post-PC’ form factors, but there are also high hopes for new flexible screen technology. It seems like fairly thin soup for the immediate future of wireless devices.

With MWC 2015 on the horizon it feels to me that the wireless industry is at somewhat of an impasse when it comes to consumer devices. It’s an impasse that is not going to be solved with a slightly different form factor or a bendy phone either. Instead the wireless industry is crying out for some good old-fashioned analogue electronics innovation.

4G and LTE-Advanced, never mind 5G, are stretching traditional RF and wireless electronics to their fundamental physical limits. These technologies are eroding the user experience with limited coverage and sluggish data rates, issues that can only be salved with nice software so much. As a result demand for new RF technologies to enhance the capabilities of wireless devices is skyrocketing.

Starting at MWC 2014 earlier this year the big trends going on under the surface of the wireless industry are all bold innovations at the chip level; in the baseband, in the power amplifiers, in the antennas, in the RF power supply. It’s exactly the kind of innovation we love to see here at Wildfire and we expect to hear much more about it in 2015, whether smartphones really are ‘over’ or not.

photo credit: srietzke

Ben Smith

Ben’s deep knowledge of sectors as diverse as electronics and IT, cleantech and medtech means he has a wide range of experience to draw on for his clients – ensuring that no two campaigns are the same. Ben’s expertise lies in helping his clients to raise their profiles beyond trade media and he has a proven track record in running campaigns that deliver coverage in national, business and consumer publications.