Phone makers may put devices on a much-needed diet
Feature-obsessed phone makers may be zagging to a more minimalist approach. Rather than continuing to add pixels and cameras and features, they are starting to heave the extras overboard, to simplify the devices and possibly save money as they get squeezed by 5G costs.
Phone chargers may be the first to go, following the lead by market leader Apple.
Multiple reports are citing a forecast by a Barclays analyst suggesting that from the iPhone 12, EarPods and power adapters will no longer be in the box and only available as options. A USB cable would still be included.
Apple never confirms such reports, but last month, the company conducted a survey of its customers asking how they were using their old chargers when upgrading to a new phone.
Apple may be leading a trend.
Samsung Electronics might be following, starting with handsets to be released next year. In local reports last week, anonymous suppliers to the phone maker were quoted saying “the company was discussing the removal of power adapters from the box, but is undecided when and how.”
For phone makers, the advantage is clear: cost.
As Apple and Samsung sell more than 200 million devices each year, leaving out the power adapter saves them several hundreds of billions of won. The move may also generate new revenue. Both companies sell adapters that are priced at around 20,000 to 30,000 won ($17-25). Products that support high-speed charging are sold for nearly 40,000 won.
Cameras are in the sights of the makers as well.
The Galaxy Note20, which may be introduced in early August, may have cameras less advanced than those in the Galaxy S20 Ultra, which was introduced in March. With zoom up to 100 times, they were actually the subject of customer complaints. Some said that the clarity was insufficient. They also said that the autofocus was slow.
The Galaxy Note20 may hit the market with just a 50-zoom lens.
This may keep prices down. The Note20 will be priced at an estimated 1.2 million won, while the S20 Ultra was 1.45 million won and the Note10 was 1.25 million.
One possible explanation for the “weight loss” is the increased production costs for handsets with 5G support. Over the past few years, the bigger handsets with more cameras and functions drove production costs and consumer price tags into the stratosphere. As the world enters the 5G era, the devices will require more complex, high-performance smartphone components and chips.
Qualcomm, the global leader in mobile application processors, may price its next-generation Snapdragon 875 with a system-on-a-chip (SOC) at $250, about $100 more than the Snapdragon 865 with an SOC. That could increase the price of Samsung's high-end phones by 100,000 won.
“Taking out accessories and functions is not entirely bad from the consumer’s perspective,” said a smartphone industry source. “If the increase of production costs is reflected in the consumer price, it won’t be difficult to see high-end models that cost more than 2 million won.”
BY JANG JOO-YOUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]