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2021: 6 Upcoming Smartphone Trends

December 30, 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic, which now seems to be the defining event of 2020, has changed the way millions of people across the world live, work, and have fun. Combined with the crisis that followed, the world economy experienced tremendous disruptions of both online and offline businesses. Since the mobile industry is no exception, these upcoming smartphone trends are building upon both technological and lifestyle changes. 

Smartphones, especially flagship models, have already started to compete with laptops when it comes to specs and performance. However, these features don’t make modern phones especially innovative, as most of them feature more of the older characteristics, albeit with more RAM and storage, as well as faster CPUs.

Upcoming smartphone trends start with both technological advancements and with the idea that they should spark new ways of adjusting to a new reality. Innovative or not, the new mobile phones of 2021 will promote new apps, more RAM, and better CPUs. But some older trends will also make a comeback in 2021. Here’s what you need to know about these upcoming trends: 

Under-display Camera Phones

The screen-to-body ratio is an important feature for mobile brands around the world, so it should come as no surprise that many brands are keen on jumping on the under-display camera trend. This is actually an upgrade to older technologies, ranging from pop-up cameras, notches, or small holes in displays, all of which emerged in the past years. ZTE Axon 20 5 G, the world’s first under-display selfie camera phone, was released in September 2020, prompting manufacturers everywhere to hop on the bandwagon.

Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi announced it will release new devices featuring under-screen selfie cameras in 2021, and many others are expected to follow soon.

Next-Generation Processors

Qualcomm announced the introduction of a new flagship chipset, Snapdragon 888 5G Mobile Platform, that is expected to power many flagships in 2021. This new type of chipset comes with three Image Sensing Processors, novel 5G technology, artificial intelligence (AI), gaming, and camera technologies. According to Qualcomm, these features “will transform premium mobile devices into professional-quality cameras, intelligent personal assistants, and elite gaming rigs.”

Considering the available next-generation CPUs, 2021 smartphones will definitely be a lot smarter and better equipped to satisfy our ever-expanding digital needs.

Ultra-fast Wireless Charging

Samsung made a point by enabling Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 for its Galaxy S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra devices in 2020. However, even though this new wireless charging standard can deliver a 10W+ charge, when it comes to wireless charging there is still room to grow. Xiaomi is already using ultra-fast wireless chargers that can fully charge a device in half an hour, and the Chinese manufacturer is expected to deliver an upgrade within the next 12 months.

Wireless chargers are not expected to overtake the traditional charger in 2021, but this doesn’t mean that we will not see important progress being made before the end of next year.

Mini Smartphones

After the release of the new iPhone SE and iPhone 12 Mini, one thing became certain: mini smartphones are bound to make a comeback in 2021. Companies such as Xiaomi, Oppo, Realme, and Vivo will release mini smartphones with flagship features in the following year, and other manufacturers seem to be eyeing the mini-trend carefully. However, not all small devices are actually going to be smartphones.

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, many people around the world found themselves spending more and more time online. With digital detox now on most people’s minds, non-smart flip and mini phones are also seeing a revival.

Flip Phones

Smart or not, flip phones are also expected to make a comeback in 2021, with some reports citing Samsung preparing to release not one, but four folding smartphone devices in the year to come. According to these sources, new foldable Galaxy phones will also include 5G support, with mass production likely to begin as early as August. While reports also indicate that the South Korean manufacturer might be planning to develop a rollable smartphone in the years to come, other companies are moving toward the foldable phone trend.

Samsung’s new flip phones might compete with similar devices from Oppo, Vivo, Xiaomi, and Google.

Budget Smartphones with Great Design

Affordable smartphones tend to feature plastic backs and details, but some companies have recently released devices with a more premium feel. This trend will probably continue in 2021, as more devices with color variations and better overall design will appear on the market. Bigger displays are also going to be more common on budget smartphones, as a perfect counterpart to the mini smartphone trend. Of course, performances are also expected to be a lot better on affordable devices in the following years.

Apple sold a record number of affordable devices in recent years and, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the crisis that followed still unfolding, the company is expected to continue developing budget smartphones in 2021.