Technology behemoths are always coming up with new ways to make cell phones seem even more essential to daily life.
The “next big thing” in personal technology could not be a foldable phone or an immersive augmented reality headset. It might simply be learning new techniques for maximizing the capabilities of the phones we already own.
As businesses like Apple, Samsung, and Google unveiled new strategies to make our phones more useful, dependable, and private, that message sounded loud and clear throughout 2022. Instead of including enhancements that may extend life and increase the usefulness of our phones, this year’s offerings lacked the “wow” element that characterized the smartphone’s first decade. Longer Android software support for Samsung devices, free new privacy features for new Pixel phone customers, and improved iPhone safety features are just a few of the enhancements.
These minute but significant adjustments reveal a lot about the condition of the smartphone market. Since mobile devices are now more developed than they once were, yearly hardware upgrades no longer seem as significant. Tech firms increasingly rely on making phones seem more necessary in daily life to keep existing users hooked as it grows harder to captivate customers with innovations. Inflation has lowered demand for new cell phones, making it even more difficult to promote upgrades, so that is as vital as ever in 2022.
The safety net of your phone
It’s challenging to pinpoint exactly how smartphones evolved in 2022 since there isn’t a single, overarching trend like there has been in the past. For example, it wasn’t the year cellphones got quick charging or ultrawide camera lenses.
According to Aaron West, a senior analyst with Media who specializes in the smartphone market, “for the previous five, six years, smartphones have been all about how many cameras, how big the cameras were, screen size, and battery improvements.” And now it has sort of to a standstill.
But as you delve further, a few recurring patterns are apparent.
The first is peace of mind, which has a somewhat different meaning for each brand-new, significant smartphone we saw in 2022. When mobile networks are unavailable, the iPhone 14 can automatically identify traffic accidents and connect to emergency services through satellite. Accident detection has long been enabled by Google’s Pixel phones, but it’s a first for Apple. Additionally, it is one of the few characteristics that distinguish the iPhone 14 from the iPhone 13.
Given that Samsung will provide up to four generations of Android upgrades, the Galaxy S22 or Galaxy A53 5G won’t seem out of date any time soon. That even outlasts Google, which offers its Pixel phones only three years of major Android OS support. Both companies offer five years of security updates, but thanks to Samsung’s extended support, you’ll receive new features for your entire system for an additional year.
With a free, built-in VPN, Google’s Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro users have the option of browsing the internet more secretively. To access that feature, you would need to subscribe to Google One at the premium tier, which costs $10 per month. It’s yet another illustration of how Google is employing special software benefits to set its new Pixel devices apart from other Android rivals.
The issue, though, is that these features don’t necessarily persuade customers to purchase a new phone.
About the new safety measures on the iPhone 14, Josh Lowitz of Consumer Intelligence Research Partners noted, “Security is an emotional boost.” But it doesn’t affect how you live your daily life.
How vital your phone is getting
In 2022, tech juggernauts also made an effort to make phones seem like a more fundamental aspect of our daily existence. The digital wallets of Apple, Samsung, and Google each saw advances. Mobile payments have been around for a while, but in 2022 these businesses intensified their attempts to keep government IDs and other necessary information on phones.
The idea is to progressively displace your real wallet so that you can leave your house with almost nothing but your phone. The announcements coincided with a rise in the use of mobile wallets. According to Jack Hamlin, a global consumer insight director at analytics and consultancy firm Kantar, 32% of smartphone owners in nations including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the US reported using a mobile wallet in the previous month in September 2022. That is an increase of 3% from the prior year.
Another strategy used by phone manufacturers to increase the importance of their products is to widen their goals to make the phone the hub of all other digital services and gadgets we use. The items we saw in 2022 reinforced the notion that your phone is more than just a phone; it’s the entry point to the various apps and gadgets in our lives. This is not a new trend. For instance, Google unveiled the Pixel Watch, its first consumer smartwatch, in October. It’s perhaps the search engine giant’s boldest push in recent memory to entice customers into its Pixel world and emulate Apple’s approach.
Techsponential analyst Avi Greengart previously told CNET’s Imad Khan that one of the factors keeping people hooked into Apple’s ecosystem is the fact that once you buy an Apple Watch, it’s incredibly difficult to leave.
That’s merely one of the most notable instances of how tech firms are extending their respective ecosystems. By extending its fitness subscription app to iPhones and announcing plans to broadcast Major League Soccer matches on its streaming TV platform, Apple expanded offerings like Apple Fitness Plus and Apple TV Plus in 2022.
Now that it’s harder to sell new phones, creating an ecosystem is more crucial than ever for tech businesses. It not only prevents customers from switching to another phone of their choice, but it also allows businesses another avenue to pay devoted consumers. Owners of iPhones can purchase AirPods or the Apple Watch. They might even sign up for Apple Fitness Plus. Owners of the Galaxy S22 may decide to purchase Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 5 instead of a Fitbit tracker or the Pixel Watch.
It’s more difficult than ever to persuade customers to get new phones.
It cannot be sugarcoated: This year’s smartphone sales seemed gloomy. The international smartphone market declined for the seventh time in a row in the third quarter of 2022, according to International Data Corporation. The second quarter of 2022 wasn’t any better, with shipments declining 9% year over year, according to Canalys. Economic difficulties and less demand are cited as major causes in both corporate reports.
At the same time, people are using their phones for longer periods. According to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, 29% of buyers held their prior phone for three years or longer in the twelve months preceding the September 2022 quarter. Compared to the same quarter a year prior, when that figure was 23%, that represents an increase. According to Assurant, an insurance provider that also aids businesses in creating trade-in programs, the average age of gadgets returned through trade-ins also surpassed three and a half years for the first time.
You can also start to comprehend why annual phone releases aren’t as exciting as they once were once you realize this. Manufacturers of smartphones target owners of older models as well, not simply customers who upgraded their phones the previous year or the year before.
It’s fine and good to remark that there hasn’t been much development between an iPhone 13 and an iPhone 14, according to Hamlin. “However, given that users have been holding onto their iPhones for the past four years, that represents a user upgrading from an iPhone 10 to an iPhone 14.”
The fact that the phone as we know it is going to remain unchanged for the foreseeable future is perhaps the biggest lesson from 2022. Yes, smartphones will keep gaining faster processors and better cameras. However, despite the industry’s efforts to hasten the adoption of foldable phones, many consumers will continue to use the existing edition of the phone for a considerable amount of time.
Because of this, tech companies may need to exert more effort to maintain consumer interest, particularly as new features start to blend in with showy technological advancements from past phone generations.
Phones today are the proper size, according to West. “As good as the cameras can be, they are. The batteries function about as well as the size will allow. How else can we use them, then?”