Can Foldable Phones Save the Mobile Industry?

Posted by Biju Nair on Mar 25, 2019 9:00:00 AM
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Foldable SmartphoneAfter months of planning and preparation, Mobile World Congress (MWC) now seems like a distant memory. With headlines and column inches over the past few months full of talk of 5G, 5G trials and 5G firsts, it comes as no surprise that the big focus for this year’s show was on the next generation of cellular technology.

Talk on 5G has progressed somewhat from last year’s show, though—and rather than the hype that surrounded MWC in 2018, this year, there was more focus on the technology powering 5G, and the real-life application of the technology. If there was any talk of 5G, you could also be sure that AI and IoT would be mentioned in the same breath.    

And as always, it wouldn’t be MWC if there wasn’t a launch or two of new devices. Samsung put its stake in the ground with the launch of its Galaxy S10 5G device. But along with an array of 5G devices, foldable devices were also the talk of the town, and Huawei stole the show with the unveiling of its Mate X (although you were lucky if you could get near it—not only was it kept behind a lock and key, but there was extra protection from the ever present crowd gathered around it).

According to Huawei’s boss, this stepping stone to foldable devices marks one of the “biggest changes” in the smartphone industry. But in reality, a foldable screen isn’t a big enough innovation to encourage the already cost-conscious consumer to purchase a device that costs almost $2,000, especially when it’s not clear what the use case for the foldable screen even is.

Are Foldable Phones a Fad?

So, if a foldable phone is unlikely to encourage consumers to buy a new device, could 5G be a better incentive?

The global smartphone market growth has stalled with only a 1.2% growth year over year in 2018, and it’s clear that the industry is crying out for innovation. But while foldable screens are filling the gap for now, in reality, the industry seems to be holding out for the greatly anticipated 5G.

As with any new generation of cellular technology, there is always a period of hype. I remember the hype around 4G LTE, 3G, and even 2G – it took many years for the use cases of each of these ‘Gs’ to come to light. History is once again repeating itself, and like time and time before it, the lines are becoming very blurred between what is hype, and what is a reality with 5G.

At MWC, 5G announcements were in abundance, with launch dates for 5G devices, set for the summer and towards the end of the year aplenty. But will we see these devices this year from the mainstream players like Apple and Samsung? Intel has not been discussing its 5G modem plans and Apple has been silent about its 5G roadmap and timing. It’s a story that is left to be continued…

Read Blog: "Will the pre-5G device hype be enough to boost mobile trade-ins in  2019?"

Sustainability within the mobile industry

Anytime there is a new generation of wireless technology, the positive effects are seen on the global smartphone market. But it’s not just the sale of new devices, an upgrade to cellular technology also provides a boost for the pre-owned device market. It’s an opportunity for operators and OEMs alike to promote their trade-in programs, give consumers an incentive to part ways with their older device, and upgrade to the latest and greatest on the market. HYLA and Deloitte estimate that consumers, annually, leave around 56M devices sitting in their drawers equating to approximately $8B in value. Rather than having these old devices sitting around unused, these devices can be put towards the cost of a new device, or even new accessories and insurance.  

At HYLA, we welcome new technologies like 5G to the industry, because of the positive domino effect it has on the secondary device market. Our friends at IDC have stated that total market value for pre-owned devices in 2022 will be an estimated $52.7 billion – while the pre-owned device market has been thriving in recent years, this growth may also be attributed to the next generation of devices hitting the market.

With the pre-owned device market continuing to grow, there is a great opportunity for all stakeholders in the market. From the operators to the end user, trade-ins are a model where everyone wins. Operators not only improve customer retention and increase revenues through the latent value of pre-owned devices, they also have an opportunity to upsell more products and services such accessories and insurance. Consumers also benefit, using their ‘useless’ devices as credit that can go towards getting a better device. And by ensuring that old devices are responsibly recycled, the environment benefits and devices get a second life, which could be providing connectivity in emerging markets, and avoid going to landfill.

Sustainability and social good are of growing importance to many players in the telecoms market and was in fact a topic that I discussed during a panel session at the show. I was joined by other companies who are currently looking to become more sustainable – from recycling plastic in Africa to recycling phones in America – and the session examined some of the best practices and practical experience for building social innovation into companies. While many of these players are new to sustainability, HYLA is somewhat of a veteran in this space – it’s at the heart of everything we do and have been championing sustainable practice for over a decade.

With MWC done and dusted for another year, we’re sure that talk of 5G will be here for the foreseeable future. With the industry geared towards 5G, we welcome the positive change it’ll have on the pre-owned device market.

If you want to know more about how HYLA can help you to run trade-in programs, and deploy sustainable practice, get in touch today.New call-to-action

Topics: Device Trade-in Solutions, Sustainability

About This Blog

The HYLA Mobile blog is a place for thoughtful dialogue that will ultimately change the perception of “used” phones around the world. Visit the HYLA website to learn more.

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