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10 Mobile Trends To Watch Out For In 2020

5G, foldable devices and a renewed effort around bring-your-own-device programs are likely to be among the major themes in the mobile world next year.

Mobile Trends

While all eyes are on 5G in 2020, there are plenty of other reasons to expect it will be a huge year for the mobile arena. Foldable and dual-display devices are also looking to take off in a major way in 2020, while the potential launch of Apple's iPhone-connected AR headset is another possible highlight. Meanwhile, in the business world, the revival of BYOD (bring your own device) efforts and a greater focus on mobile security and Unified Endpoint Management are other key themes in mobile to look for next year.

What follows are 10 mobile trends to watch out for in 2020.

5G

Sure, 5G has gotten off to a gradual start so far. But 2020 could mark the true coming-out party for high-speed 5G connectivity. The reason can be summed up in two words: 5G iPhone. Apple is widely expected to be planning its first 5G-capable iPhone model—or models—for the fall of 2020. In tandem, the major carriers are planning significant rollouts of 5G networks next year. For instance, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg recently pledged to bring 5G access to half of the U.S. population in 2020. While smartphone vendors such as Samsung have already launched 5G-capable models, that company and the other major phone vendors are all likely to get into the 5G game as the carrier deployments get more widespread in 2020.

Smartphone Returns To Growth

While the smartphone market has been sagging of late, the arrival of 5G is expected to return the market to growth next year. Worldwide smartphone sales are predicted to grow 2.8 percent in 2020, after dropping 2.5 percent this year, according to research firm Gartner. That would put the smartphone market back above 2018 levels, and the expected 5G iPhone could be among the major factors in the growth, Gartner reported. Sales of the iPhone have been slipping due in part to slower paces of upgrades by users, but a 5G iPhone would provide a fresh reason for upgrades, the firm said. "Sales will start to ramp up in the second half of 2020 as the coverage and availability of 5G hardware services improve," said Annette Zimmermann, research vice president at Gartner, in a news release.

Foldable Android Devices

Samsung ignited the foldable phone movement this year with the Galaxy Fold, and there are signs that foldable Android devices could be a much bigger theme in 2020. The Galaxy Fold—the industry's first mainstream foldable smartphone—launched in the U.S. in September with a nearly $2,000 price tag and generally favorable reviews (at least this time around—the initial version was plagued by failed displays and other issues). While it's no surprise that other Android smartphone players would look to follow Samsung's lead (Huawei already has a foldable phone on the way), the bigger news in the space is that Microsoft plans to come out with a foldable phone in 2020. The company recently teased the Surface Duo, a dual-display Android device that will have cellular connectivity and can be used for making calls. It will feature dual displays of 5.6 inches each that are connected by a 360-degree hinge (that’s one inch bigger per display than the Galaxy Fold). Microsoft said the Surface Duo is coming in the fall of 2020.

Foldable Windows Devices

Microsoft is also at the center of another foldable trend that's expected to pick up steam in 2020: foldable Windows devices. For starters, along with the Surface Duo, Microsoft is also planning to launch the Surface Neo dual-display device next fall, featuring a pair of 9-inch displays. Unlike the Duo, however, the Surface Neo will run Windows—specifically, a new version of Windows dubbed Windows 10X. And the Surface Neo won't be the only Windows 10X device expected next year. Microsoft said Windows 10X will be available on devices from HP Inc., Dell, Lenovo and Asus. Earlier this year, Lenovo announced plans for a foldable laptop that will be joining its ThinkPad X1 family in 2020.

AR Accessories

Apple is planning to launch its first augmented-reality headset and other new hardware products during the second quarter of 2020, according to a research note from well-known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Apple is reportedly working with third-party brands on the AR device, which is being described as a pair of augmented-reality glasses. Kuo believes that the AR glasses will be positioned as an accessory for the iPhone—with the glasses mainly providing a display while a wirelessly connected iPhone provides the processing power and other functionality, reports said. That will make the glasses into more of a mobile accessory than some of the other augmented-reality devices that have launched thus far. And of course, where Apple goes, many other vendors can be expected to go as well with their own AR accessories.

"Always-Connected" Devices

There's been a slow build in recent years of "always-connected" devices, such as tablets and laptops, which can connect to cellular--essentially replicating the key functionality of smartphones in a larger form factor (and typically with a keyboard option). Signs are pointing to 2020 as the year when the trends becomes even more prevalent thanks in part to the spread of 5G availability. Lenovo has announced that it's working with Qualcomm to develop "the world’s first 5G PC," which will be an always-connected laptop that uses Qualcomm's Snapdragon X55 5G modem. The so-called "Project Limitless" device is planned for early 2020, Lenovo said. Meanwhile, Microsoft's redesigned Surface Pro 2-in-1 tablet--the Surface Pro X--is arriving toward the end of 2019 and will feature a custom ARM-based processor that's being designed with the help of Qualcomm. The processor, dubbed the Microsoft SQ1, helps enable mobile connectivity over LTE Advanced, Microsoft said.

New Battery Technology?

This year, three scientists shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their roles in the development of the lithium-ion battery--the standard battery technology used in smartphones and laptops (as well as electric vehicles). "They created a rechargeable world," The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in summarizing the achievement. But the lithium-ion smartphone battery could be getting some competition as soon as 2020. Rumors suggest that Samsung could be looking to introduce a smartphone featuring graphene battery technology in the next year or two, as a way to boost both battery life and charging speeds. "Lithium-ion batteries are...suboptimal. Samsung is hoping to have at least one handset either next year or in 2021, I'm told, which will feature a graphene battery instead," wrote Evan Blass, who has a strong track record for leaked smartphone information, in a recent tweet. "Capable of a full charge in under a half-hour, they still need to raise capacities while lowering costs."

Renewed BYOD Push

New capabilities in Apple's iOS 13 should address many worker concerns around taking part in bring-your-own-device programs, potentially leading to a renewed push for BYOD adoption. Apple's new User Enrollment solution allows corporate workers to easily keep their personal data and business data separate on their iPhone. As a result, employees don't have to worry about the possibility of intrusive actions being taken by their IT department—such as remote wiping of their device data or a change of their passcode. Those sorts of concerns have hampered BYOD efforts at a time when many businesses want to see more adoption, since BYOD has been shown to increase productivity and is required for using many workplace apps. User Enrollment should help to eliminate the fear of "big brother" with BYOD programs, said Marco Nielsen, vice president of managed mobility services at Stratix, a mobility service provider and Apple partner based in Peachtree Corners, Ga. "We might see a new wave of BYOD coming along with this, specifically within the Apple realm," he said.

Mobile Threat Defense

The spread of security threats has meant that smartphones are not immune, creating the need for businesses to consider mobile security solutions for both iOS and Android platforms. Mobile Threat Defense (MTD) solutions, which have matured in recent years, can offer protection by preventing, detecting and remediating mobile attacks, research firm Gartner said in a recent report. Key use cases include mobile phishing, app vetting and compliance, and the MTD market "continues to have organic growth," Gartner said. "By 2020, 30% of organizations will have MTD in place, an increase from less than 10% in 2018."

Unified Endpoint Management

Meanwhile, Unified Endpoint Management solutions--which provide a central console for managing both PCs and mobile devices--are also maturing, according to Gartner. "UEM tools continue to mature as buyers migrate PCs away from legacy client management tools," Gartner said in a recent report. One notable evolution in the UEM space includes the integration of UEM solutions with client management tools (CMTs) and processes, the research firm wrote. "This is because of the ongoing migration of PCs from legacy CMTs to UEM that Gartner witnesses in a majority of end-user organizations," Gartner said. The leading UEM vendors currently are VMware, Microsoft, MobileIron, IBM, BlackBerry and Citrix, according to Gartner.

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