After 5G, who is the next technology growth point?

The iPhone 4 can become a classic, at least two things cannot be ignored-

The first is that the iPhone 4 used a capacitive touchscreen, and in 2010, most touchscreen phones were still resistive. Some people may still remember the embarrassment of tapping the screen with their fingernails, the nails hurt and the screen was knocked out, but the phone still didn’t respond. During this period, the iPhone 4 with capacitive screen was so elegant that it only needed to touch the skin of the finger, and the content of the screen was driven along with it.

Another point is that the iPhone 4 supports multi-touch. This means that after opening the “Fruit Ninja” game, other mobile phones can only cut fruits one by one, but the iPhone 4 can cut several pieces at a time. To this end, the gaming experience has risen more than a notch. And this experience is also because the capacitive screen replaces the resistive screen.

In comparison, the advantages and disadvantages are obvious. When the screen of other mobile phones is full of scratches, the operation is not easy, and even a fruit cannot be cut well, the Apple mobile phone brings a new feeling to users. It is no wonder that in the beginning, Apple’s mobile phone became the “spokesperson” of smartphones, leaving other manufacturers behind.

Of course, the reason why the iPhone 4 became a classic is far more than the two points mentioned. It can even be said that the realization technology of these two points-capacitive screen is only the minutiae of Apple’s many technologies. After the gradual popularization of capacitive screens, the iPhone still maintains a unique position, and the self-developed A-series chips that Apple insists on starting from the iPhone 4 are Apple’s real nirvana.

Although the capacitive screen is just a “small trick”, when we look back, we can’t ignore the amazing time it once was. In the smartphone industry, or other consumer electronics products, the logic is often like this: some technical thresholds may not be too high, but the pain points and itching points are solved, which makes consumers feel fresh and pay for it.

The same story was once again a big success when Xiaomi mobile phones launched the “full screen” concept many years later.

So today, when the smartphone industry “enters the midfield” and it is difficult to arouse the desire for consumption, what will be the next technological growth point?

Before we start, it needs to be clear that “technological growth points” do not equate to technology. Because the former emphasizes that innovation is based on technology to stimulate user psychology in a targeted manner, so as to achieve growth in technology applications. The process of replacing resistive screens with capacitive screens is a good example.

As for the technology itself, because of Moore’s Law in the semiconductor industry, its progress always arrives on schedule.

Still taking Apple as an example, in 2010, the A4 chip on the iPhone 4 was Apple’s first self-developed mobile phone chip. It is a single-core design, Samsung 45nm process, using the ARMv7 instruction set Cortex-A8 architecture.

Looking at it today, even compared with the mobile phone chips of the same period, the A4 chip did not win too much, but it opened the era of Apple’s “soft and hard combination”. Before the iPhone 4, Apple used mobile phone chips designed and manufactured by Samsung. Although it was also at the top of the industry, it lacked personalized customization.

On the other hand, the mobile chip market at that time was not optimistic, and it was far less important than PC and server chips. Therefore, only on the basis of mastering the chip design by yourself can you avoid redundancy and waste on custom chips. Jobs showed great vision at the time. In 2008, Apple moved to acquire PASemi, a chip maker for embedded devices. Two years later, the A4 came out.

The advantage of “soft and hard combination” enables the chip to achieve maximum performance release on small terminals such as mobile phones. As a result, when the Android phone camp was a toddler, the iPhone rode the dust in a near-perfect form. Android will be stuck, Apple will not be stuck, it is the stereotype left from that time.

During the period of barbaric growth, the improvement of mobile phone performance is a technological growth point. Because at that time, the biggest pain point was the “card”. The Android camp has since begun an era of hardware competition and parameter comparison. There is no doubt that Xiaomi mobile phones are the “dragon slayers” at this stage.

In August 2011, the first generation of Xiaomi mobile phones was released on the Internet. It is equipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8260 dual-core processor, the configuration is full, but the price is only 1999 yuan.

Xiaomi’s “fever” is almost entirely based on the ultimate pursuit of parameters. It is claimed that the price is 1 yuan lower than the cost. After many years, Huang Zhang, the founder of Meizu, said yin and yang: “The slut is the cheap industry.”

Regardless of right or wrong, if we only look at success or failure, Xiaomi has clearly won. In the era of “the pain point is the card”, Xiaomi with heap configuration and parameter comparison has captured users, and it has also become a catfish in the industry, forcing other manufacturers to join the hardware war.

Even though arrogant as Meizu, they finally launched the Meilan series to create cost-effective products, but it was too late to join.

In the era of configuration chaos, Apple has not stopped. In 2013, on the last “small-screen flagship phone” iPhone 5, Apple’s A7 chip, known as the “desktop chip” on mobile phones.

This chip uses a 64-bit wide architecture for the first time on a mobile phone, paving the way for the ecological integration of the “family bucket” in the future. In terms of parameters, it uses Samsung’s 28nm process, and the number of transistors has exceeded 1 billion. In terms of architecture, the A-series chips at this time use the ARMv8 instruction set, and the updated architecture and process dividends make the iPhone 5 a “performance cannon.”

But since then, Apple’s development in chips has slowed down. From the perspective of user experience, iPhone 5 to 6s, except for the larger screen, there is almost no difference between Apple mobile phones during this period. It can no longer make a fuss about the architecture, and Apple has also embarked on the road of the core. Therefore, A8 and A9 are only minor repairs to A7, and the performance is generally improved.

The problem is that when the iPhone abandons its adherence to the small screen and embraces the big screen, it is difficult for technological innovations to emerge. With its excellent chip design and larger screen, the iPhone 6s has finally become a generation of “nail households”.

The concept of “nail households” is actually a pseudo-concept. In the semiconductor industry, there is a special law: Andy-Beer’s law. What Andy offers and what Bill takes away means that the improved performance of the hardware is quickly consumed by the software.

In the mobile phone industry, Andy-Beer’s law has been tried and tested. In the early days of the development of the Android camp, when the memory size was only 128M, people may regard 6G memory as “performance Godzilla”, but users at that time would not think that today, a “small and beautiful software” WeChat can take up dozens of GB of storage space.

For gamers, there will be no so-called excess performance. Therefore, when we have passed the era of “the pain point is the card”, when ordinary users talk about the ceiling of the mobile phone, it does not mean that the performance has reached its peak, but that the imagination contained in the mobile phone is gradually exhausted.

Looking back, this is not the first time the smartphone industry has been in decline. As early as 2014, the shipment of smartphones declined. From the previous review, it was the time when the pain points of the card were solved and the “cost-effectiveness battle” hit a white-hot period.

In terms of data, in China, according to the mobile phone industry data released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in the first quarter of 2014, the shipment of mobile phones was 100 million units, a year-on-year decrease of 24.7%.

Another data is that in the first quarter of 2014, 607 new mobile phone models were launched, down 9.5% year-on-year. This means that the mobile phone industry can’t even support innovation in categories. The process of “big waves washing the sand” is underway. Since then, brands that once appeared as game-breakers, such as Lenovo, Coolpad, Chili Pepper, etc., gradually faded out of the field of mobile phone consumers.

At that time, smartphones entered a long bottleneck period, and if you were an Apple user, you might remember the dullness of a few years. Since the 6th generation of the iPhone, through 6s, 7, and 8, almost only “color innovation” has been seen. The mobile phone has more and more activities, but the shape is the same. From this point of view, the nail household of 6s has its own reason.

It is still Xiaomi that amazes the market again.

In 2016, Xiaomi launched the first-generation MIX, which realized the mass production and commercial use of “full screen”. The screen of Xiaomi MIX has a size of 6.4 inches, which almost completely covers the front of the mobile phone, which is a considerable improvement for the experience of mobile phone users.

Starting from the MIX series, Xiaomi, which originally focused on cost-effectiveness, laid the groundwork for its future high-end route.

Since 2016, the trend of “full screen” has been out of control. And Apple, which has always been “hindsight”, has finally implemented a full-screen application on the iPhone X.

How urgent is this move? The iPhone X’s chip uses a double-layer motherboard design, but it does not handle power consumption control, which is completely inconsistent with Apple’s tonality. Some technicians speculated that perhaps in order to launch a full screen as soon as possible, Apple had to put a semi-finished chip on the mobile phone.

After the iPhone was replaced with a full screen, the mobile phone became what we are familiar with today.

However, this is not over yet. The full screen is just a side dish. Since the popularization of 5G technology, smartphones have really reversed the trend. This time, it was Huawei’s turn to be amazed.

Different from capacitive screen and full screen, Huawei’s shot this time brings hard technology. Huawei’s starting business is to do communication infrastructure, so it has almost no rivals in the 5G era.

In terms of data, in 2019, Huawei’s market share in China was as high as 41.2% (including Honor), which is equivalent to Nokia’s position in the past. In 2020, Huawei shipped 55.8 million mobile phones in the second quarter, surpassing Samsung’s 53.7 million, and became the world’s largest mobile phone seller.

Huawei is the biggest beneficiary of the commercial use of 5G technology, but it is not the only one. From the data point of view, 5G has revitalized the global smartphone market, and the aftermath has been rippling to this day——

According to data from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, in 2021, the total mobile phone shipments in the domestic market totaled 351 million units, a year-on-year increase of 13.9%. Among them, 5G mobile phone shipments were 266 million units, a year-on-year increase of 63.5%, accounting for the same period of mobile phone shipments. of 75.9%.

The question is, why can 5G turn the tide? From the perspective of user experience, eMBB, one of the three major characteristics of 5G, enhances mobile broadband and improves the transmission rate of mobile Internet, which is commonly known as “fast network speed”. Furthermore, MassiveMIMO, a new feature of 5G equipment, can achieve more efficient spectrum allocation, which means that in the past, at a concert site, the user’s mobile phone signal would perform very badly, but under 5G coverage, this problem is was resolved.

However, beyond the traditional explanation, the author believes that the breakthrough of 5G has special significance for China, which makes 5G mobile phones quickly sought after in the domestic market. In the 5G era, China has become one of the standard setters and one of the technology leaders. Therefore, this rare “overtaking technology” has aroused consumers’ desire to buy.

However, more than 4 years have passed since it was put into commercial use in 2018. According to the data, more than 80% of users have used 5G mobile phones. At this time, the stimulating effect of 5G has become very limited.

The fluctuation of the market is always more sensitive than human perception.

Coming to 2022, data shows that in the first quarter of 2022, global smartphone shipments will drop by 11% year-on-year. Because of the increasingly obvious decline, Strategy Analytics, an industry analysis agency, recently lowered its market expectations for the next two years. The agency believes that the global market can only achieve growth of 1% and 3% in the next year.

In the domestic market, the downturn trend is even worse. According to data from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, in the first two months of this year, the total domestic mobile phone shipments were 47.9 million units, down 22.6% year-on-year.

With a double-digit reduction, the decline appears to be even more intense than in 2016. According to media reports, many first-tier mobile phone brands, including Apple, have begun to cut orders.

A few days ago, Ming-Chi Kuo, a well-known analyst at Tianfeng Securities, said that the demand for Apple’s first new iPhone SE this year was sluggish, and its estimated shipments for the year were cut by 10 million units; China’s major Android phone brands have cut orders by about 170 million units this year. , accounting for 20% of the original 2022 shipment plan.

Everyone is looking forward to the next technological growth point, but who can take over 5G?

The future is difficult to predict, and it is beyond my ability. However, the external performance of a mobile phone is nothing more than the screen, communication, performance, and image. We can explore the possible areas of “growth points” by observing the layout of large factories-

The first is still the screen, and the imagination of the screen can be divided into two aspects: form and display. In terms of form, following the path of resistive screen-capacitive screen in the past, OLED panels are favored by manufacturers. Its flexible and bendable performance extends to a variety of forms such as curved screens and “waterfall screens”, and the peak form is “folding”. Screen”. For domestic manufacturers who want to hit the high-end, it is a ticket.

In terms of screen display, it is represented by Apple. From experience, Apple has always tested new technologies with the iPad series and performed well, and then released the iPhone, such as the previous “ProMotion” high brush.

Now, Apple has applied mini-led technology to the 12-inch iPad Pro, with a peak brightness of 1600 bits, which can perfectly display HDR video. Will people pay for a great screen?

In addition to the screen, the most concerned function of the smartphone is the imaging capability. However, the imaging capabilities now referred to have long been not increasing the CMOS of the camera, or stacking the focal lengths and stacking the back of the mobile phone into a “bathroom”. In its place is the rise of computational photography.

In 2020, Apple released the new iPad Pro, the most prominent change is that on the back, it is equipped with a lidar scanner with depth sensing function, also known as “LIDAR”. In 2021, LIDAR will come to the Pro series of the iPhone 12, which is still Apple’s consistent “decentralization strategy”.

What is LIDAR for? From the simplest point of view, because there is an additional depth parameter when taking pictures, the iPhone can cut out better pictures in portrait mode.

However, Apple’s ambitions obviously don’t stop there. Collecting 3D data through LIDAR, with the blessing of bionic chips, repeated training of 3D modeling data will accumulate resources for Apple in augmented reality technology.

Coincidentally, in 2021, Facebook changed its name to Meta, trying to fully enter the metaverse field. In the future, the AR/VR field has a clear and broad imagination space.

Of course, we can’t just stay on the surface, whether it is LIDAR launched by Apple or the concept of metaverse proposed by Meta, these technologies will eventually fall to the bottom. Artificial intelligence relies on the development of NPU chips, and image processing capabilities rely on ISP chips as a stepping stone, and ultimately balance the power consumption of GPUs. All in all, this is not something a camera can change.

In this context, we are also pleased to see that domestic mobile phone manufacturers lacking semiconductor “genes” have begun to attack chip research and development on a large scale in recent years. With few exceptions, manufacturers start with ISP chips, which also shows that the industry has greater expectations for the explosion of imaging functions, betting on it as the next technology growth point.

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