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2019 Best smartphone trends

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  • Smartphones took a big leap forward in 2019 in terms of camera performance, screen quality, and design.
  • Some of the biggest smartphone trends of 2019 included triple-lens camera systems that include standard, telephoto, and ultra-wide-angle lenses, as well as new bezel-free smartphone designs.
  • Foldable phones also had a moment in 2019 thanks to the Samsung Galaxy Fold, Huawei Mate X, and Motorola Razr.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Each new generation of smartphones offers some improvements over its predecessors, whether it be larger screens, water-resistant designs, or new camera features. But many of the upgrades that have appeared on mobile devices in recent years have felt more iterative than innovative.

That started to change in 2019, as major smartphone brands like Samsung, Apple, and OnePlus started bringing new features to mobile devices that add meaningful improvements or changes to the ways in which we use our mobile devices.

From ultra-wide-angle lenses to cameras that pop out when needed and disappear when they’re no longer in use, here are the trends that dominated the smartphone industry in 2019.


Triple-lens cameras

Foto: The iPhone 11 Pro’s triple-lens camera.sourceHollis Johnson/Business Insider

The introduction of triple-lens camera systems was arguably one of the biggest smartphone trends of 2019. Apple, Samsung, LG, Huawei, and OnePlus all released new phones in 2019 that had camera setups boasting three separate lenses: a standard lens, a telephoto zoom lens, and an ultra-wide-angle lens.


Ultra-wide-angle cameras

Foto: The Samsung Galaxy S10 lineupsourceAntonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

Ultra-wide-angle cameras may not be entirely new, but 2019 was certainly the year they became a trend. Nearly every major smartphone maker released a new phone in 2019 with an ultra-wide-angle camera that’s capable of capturing a much broader scene than the standard lens.

The field of view varies depending on the phone, but devices from Samsung, Apple, and OnePlus have lenses that are roughly 120 degrees wide. The iPhone 11 Pro’s ultra-wide-angle camera has a 120-degree lens, for example, while Samsung’s Galaxy S10 has a 123-degree field-of-view and the OnePlus 7 Pro’s has a 117-degree field-of-view.


Foldable screens

Foto: The Samsung Galaxy FoldsourceHollis Johnson/Business Insider

After years of teases and hype, the first crop of foldable smartphones arrived in 2019 from companies like Samsung, Huawei, and Motorola. While all of these phones have a foldable design in common, the their shapes and sizes vary.

The Samsung Galaxy Fold, which the company announced in February, opens and closes like a book. A 7.3-inch screen is located on the inside of the device, while a 4.6-inch cover screen sits on the front to display information when the gadget is closed. Samsung was supposed to launch the nearly $2,000 device in April, but it delayed the launch until September after some reviewers experienced technical issues after just a couple of days of use.

Huawei’s foldable $2,400 Mate X, which the Chinese tech giant also revealed in February, has a display that bends backward rather than folding in like the Galaxy Fold. It has an 8-inch screen when unfolded, and a 6-inch display when closed. The phone launched in November after being delayed twice.

Motorola’s recently announced $1,500 Moto Razr is a revival of the classic flip phone from the early 2000s. It has a 6.2-inch screen that bends in half so that it can snap shut just like a vintage flip phone, and a smaller 2.7-inch display on the front for showing notifications.


Borderless screens with notch-free designs

Foto: sourceOnePlus/Business Insider

Smartphones with edge-to-edge screens have become increasingly common over the past two years. But those borderless designs also introduced the „notch,“ a cutout near the top of the display for housing components like the selfie camera and facial recognition sensors.

Now, in 2019, we’ve seen a growing number of companies implement new designs to eliminate bezels and notch cutouts, getting one step closer to achieving a look that resembles a seamless slab of glass.

With its Galaxy S10 lineup, for example, Samsung introduced what it calls the „Infinity-O“ display, which essentially looks like a hole was punched into the display to accommodate the front-facing cameras. This makes the camera cutout slightly more subtle than it is on the Galaxy S9, which has a thin border above the screen for the camera.

Other smartphone makers have taken a different approach to eliminating the notch and bezel. OnePlus and Asus, for example, have both released new smartphones with pop-out cameras that emerge from the device when needed and remain concealed otherwise.


Screens with higher refresh rates for smoother scrolling

Foto: sourceCrystal Cox/Business Insider

Both the OnePlus 7 Pro and Google Pixel 4 support refresh rates of up to 90Hz, which is higher than the average refresh rate for a smartphone screen and should make the phones‘ display feel faster and more responsive.

They’re not the first smartphones to support refresh rates that are higher than usual for a mobile device. Last year’s Razer Phone 2, for example, has a 120GHz refresh rate. But the notion that higher refresh rates are coming to more smartphones – especially ones made by large companies like Google – suggests that it may be on pace to become the norm.


Lower prices

Foto: sourceHollis Johnson/Business Insider

Flagship smartphones still hover around the $1,000 price range, but major players in the industry have launched more affordable devices over the course of the year. Samsung, for example, launched a version of the Galaxy S10 that’s about $150 less expensive called the Galaxy S10e.

Apple also positioned its least expensive new iPhone, the iPhone 11, as it’s flagship model this year. At $700, the iPhone 11 is also $50 less expensive than last year’s iPhone XR was when it launched.

And Google also released the Pixel 3a in 2019, a lower-end version of its flagship from 2018 that starts at $400, which is half the price that Google charged for the Pixel 3 when it debuted last year.

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Radeon RX 5600 XT with new vBIOS boost shows impressive new benchmark scores – TechSpot

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Recap: This battle between AMD and Nvidia essentially started at CES 2020, shortly after AMD announced its RX 5600-series. EVGA, presumably with Nvidia’s blessing, then unveiled what seemed a preemptive response in the form of RTX 2060 KO graphics cards, starting at the same $279 price as AMD’s RX 5600 XT.

Then, we learned that AMD pushed out a new vBIOS to its AIB partners as a response to Nvidia’s price cuts on the RTX 2060 in what’s been a back and forth volley between the two companies at the $300 price point.

The new vBIOS ratchets up the TBP (Typical Board Power) to 160W, a 10W increase from the original 150W TBP. This in turn affords AMD’s board partners a higher margin for core and memory clocks. Which brings us to Sapphire, one of AMD’s premiere AIB partners.

As we previously reported, Sapphire’s RX 5600 XT Pulse is now boasting increased base and boost clocks of 1,615 MHz and 1,750 MHz, up from the previous 1,560 MHz and 1,620 MHz. The memory clock is now running at 14Gpbs effective, as opposed to 12Gpbs.

Now, Twitter user @TUM_APISAK has sniffed out a leaked benchmark showing what kind of performance uplift the new vBIOS can create.

The benchmarks are, in order: Time Spy, Fire Strike, Fire Strike Extreme, and Fire Strike Ultra. Doing the math between the new and old scores, the new scores net an impressive 10% – 11% uplift in performance, depending on the benchmark.

As with all synthetic benchmarks, these don’t necessarily indicate what users can expect in the real world. However, it’s certainly a nice preview of what we can expect from the RX 5600 XT. AMD and Nvidia will likely continue to insist that this was the plan all along, rather than either company admit to being one-upped by the other. However, the more pertinent question is: are there any more cards left to play, or have AMD and Nvidia showed their full hand?

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Telus offering $75/20GB plan with unlimited data – MobileSyrup

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Telus is offering its 20GB Peace of Mind plan for $75 per month, which is discounted from its usual price of $95 per month on bring your own device (BYOD).

The 20GB Peace of Mind plan offers no data overages and unlimited data, but speeds are throttled to 512Kbps after you exceed your allotment.

Telus’ Peace of Mind plans include unlimited Canada-wide calling and text. They also include call waiting, conference calling, call display and Voicemail 25.

This promo expires on January 21st, so act fast if you’re interested.

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Microsoft didn't win the PC turf war. Sony never showed up. – PCWorld

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This week, Kotaku reported that PlayStation 4 exclusive Horizon: Zero Dawn may come to the PC in the near future. And let me first say, it’s interesting this became big news because when Quantic Dream announced that Detroit: Become Human was coming to PC last year—another Sony-published game—it didn’t inspire nearly the same levels of pontificating about Sony’s intentions for the PC.

Of course, people generally praised Horizon: Zero Dawn and disliked Detroit. Maybe that’s the only difference, that Horizon is seen as one of Sony’s “prestige” games. 

It does have me thinking about the PC though, and specifically about the PC as an arm of Microsoft—because that’s what it’s become to some people. The PC is seen as an extension of the Xbox platform, or perhaps the Xbox is an extension of the PC. Hell, I even wrote that the Xbox Series X “sure does resemble a PC tower” when Microsoft teased it at December’s Game Awards.

Xbox Series X Microsoft

And it’s fascinating how times have changed. Only a little over a decade ago, Games for Windows Live seemed like a colossal overreach. Microsoft’s first attempt to wed PC and Xbox manifested as a buggy launcher with buggy authorization and buggy multiplayer functionality and it sucked. It wreaked havoc on the PC, and continues to do damage even today. Just this month Rockstar pulled Grand Theft Auto IV from Steam, citing a lack of Games for Windows Live keys as the reason.

With that failure, Microsoft pseudo-abandoned the PC again—or at least, that’s what PC gamers claimed. Really this period of benevolent neglect was the start of the PC’s resurgence. Windows 7 kicked ass. Valve built an empire. The average PC’s performance pulled way ahead of console hardware, and that status quo held even upon the release of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in 2013.

A bigger audience meant more money, which meant developers started returning to the PC, the ports got better, and the PC began feeling like digital Switzerland. It was neutral territory, or ostensibly neutral. 2014 and 2015 were the heyday of the “Console Exclusive,” games that were either coming to the Xbox One or the PS4—but which were definitely coming to PC as well.

That’s how we started this console generation.

Grim Fandango Remastered Grim Fandango Remastered

Grim Fandango Remastered is still on PC and PS4 but not Xbox—even though Microsoft now owns Double Fine. Console exclusives! Wild!

The situation’s changed though. Maybe five years ago now, Microsoft started quietly integrating the PC and Xbox again. The process has not always been smooth, nor subtle. The all-but-forced move from Windows 7 to Windows 10 proved controversial. The early years of the Windows 10 store even more so.

Valve tried to secede from Windows entirely, dreaming of a Linux-based future with SteamOS and Steam Machines. Epic’s Tim Sweeney penned a letter for The Guardian decrying the UWP format, calling it a “distribution and commerce monopoly.”

This was just four years ago .

And listen, I’m not going to act like the PC and Xbox are the same platform now. They’re not, and ideally never will be. But Microsoft’s done quite a bit with the PC in the last five years.

  1. Windows 10: Windows 10 has proven, if not as beloved as Windows 7, at least a decent follow-up.
  2. Xbox Game Bar: I still think it’s bizarre how much Xbox-branded software is on my PC, but the Xbox Game Bar’s various overhauls have made it one of the best ways to snag in-game screenshots and video clips, especially if you don’t use an Nvidia card.
  3. New controller: Since 2016, Xbox controllers have included Bluetooth so you don’t need to buy a specialized dongle anymore.
  4. Xbox Play Anywhere: Every Xbox first-party exclusive has been “Xbox Play Anywhere” since 2016, meaning you buy it once and own it across both the Windows 10 Store and the Xbox. Save progress also syncs between systems.
  5. Xbox Game Pass: As of last year, Microsoft brought its Game Pass subscription to the PC. Confusingly titled “Xbox Game Pass for PC,” it nevertheless is a separate subscription with a different lineup of games—but it’s easily the best subscription value on PC at $5 a month, and brought the PC up to parity with the Xbox’s services.
  6. The prodigal son returns: Then in late 2019, the walls came tumbling down. Microsoft started putting its games on Steam again, after years trying to force people into the Windows 10 store. The irony? The Windows 10 store might be a better deal at this point. Sure, you can buy the games on Steam—or you can pay $5 a month and get them through Game Pass. Why force the change and needlessly anger people if you can entice them with a better deal, yeah?

Again, not every move Microsoft’s made has been successful. Enough of them have though, and the result is that in 2020 the PC feels firmly like “Microsoft Territory” again. Thus when Sony wants to bring a game like Horizon: Zero Dawn to the PC it’s seen as a Big Statement.

And that’s disappointing, because it simply didn’t have to be this way. Microsoft does make Windows—that’s not in dispute. Perhaps this was always the most obvious outcome, given Microsoft can entrench the Xbox name at the OS level. Sony will always be an outsider of sorts.

Xbox Console Companion IDG / Hayden Dingman

The Xbox Console Companion, one of many Xbox-branded programs in Windows 10.

I still get occasional activity on a tweet from five years ago though. With the specter of Games for Windows Live looming overhead, Microsoft announced Xbox Live would be built into Windows 10 at the system level. I, like many others, reacted with alarm. Would we have to pay? What fresh hell was this? And Xbox’s Larry Hyrb, otherwise known as Major Nelson, replied with “Not charging. Xbox Live Gold will not be required for online multiplayer gaming using our service on Windows 10 PCs and Phones.”

[Side note: Remember Windows Phones?]

And it wasn’t. Xbox Live support on PC is barely noticeable, especially outside the Windows Store. I bring this up though mainly to illustrate that people didn’t want Microsoft and/or Xbox meddling with PC gaming. The PC was proudly independent, even from its parent.

Nowadays Microsoft’s presence is seen as largely a net positive though, and it’s no wonder some have started to view the PC as an Xbox fiefdom. Still, I’d argue it’s equally the result of Sony’s inattention as Microsoft’s generosity.

There was a period between 2010 and 2015 when developers were slowly remembering the PC existed again after a decade spent pretending otherwise. EA, Ubisoft, Bethesda, Capcom, Square, Activision—they all began putting more money into their PC ports, catering to the PC with dedicated servers and 4K texture packs. I began spotting PCs at trade shows more often, both on-stage and in behind-closed-doors demos.

Bloodborne Bloodborne

Really I’m just mad Bloodborne never came to PC.

Sony simply never showed up. The DualShock 4, a fantastic controller that’s sported Bluetooth since day one, only “mostly” works with the PC. You can’t play Uncharted 4 on PC, or Bloodborne, or God of War, or Until Dawn. And I’m not going to say that was a bad choice for Sony. It undoubtedly sold hardware. I own a PlayStation 4 Pro that I’ve played…maybe six games on. Pretty much the ones I just listed, plus Horizon: Zero Dawn.

I won’t turn Sony away, either. I think every game should come to PC, and if this is the start of Sony’s big push? Great. I’d love to go into the PlayStation 5 era neutral again.

Bottom line

It feels like perhaps it’s too late though, that even Sony has come to the conclusion the PC is Microsoft’s domain. We’ll get the one-offs, the ports that are either too old or too niche to matter much. And why not? Microsoft is all about services, about the Xbox platform, and it’s built that belief and brand into major parts of modern PC gaming. If God of War were to come to PC now, it would feel a bit like a capitulation, even if Microsoft doesn’t benefit monetarily.

If Sony had come to the PC with everyone else, I don’t think it would feel so weird. I don’t think we’d see people weighing in on Sony’s plans for the PC as a platform, because back in 2013 and 2014 it was still surprising to get a competent PC port of any game, publisher be damned. “Wow, a fully-functioning port of the Tomb Raider reboot? And they even did work to make the hair look better on PC? I can’t believe it.”

Under those circumstances, a God of War port would’ve only seemed as far-fetched as Halo on PC. And yet in 2020, I can load up Halo: Reach through Steam. Who would’ve guessed, right? It’s a shame Sony ceded the battle without ever mounting an offensive. Here’s hoping the Horizon: Zero Dawn rumors prove true. 

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