10 mobility predictions for 2020: AI, 5G, foldable phones, and more

Jack Wallen gazes into his crystal ball and makes his mobility predictions for 2020.

Smartphone's on the counter of a electronics store

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Are you ready to say goodbye to 2019? I know I am. Why? For many, many reasons. Tucked within that long list is the excitement of what 2020 will bring to the mobile world. Although 2019 wasn't exactly a banner year, it certainly set the stage for a lot of new technology trends to come.

And thus, I pull out my +10 Ball of Prognostication and gaze deep into its shadowy realm to see what the upcoming 366 days--2020 is a leap year--have in store. Won't you join me?

SEE: 5G: What it means for IoT (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature) | Download the free PDF version (TechRepublic)1. Google will double down on AI

If the Google Pixel 4 proved one thing, it's that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not only here to stay, it's going to continue to lead the mobility charge. I'm fairly confident that Google will push to weave AI deeper into the fabric of Android, leading to improved photos, better Assistant interaction, and drastically improved battery life (thanks to what it learned from the Pixel 4).

More than that, I believe Google will insert AI into other areas, one being security. AI could be used to predict when/if a user is about to install an application that contains malicious code and automatically report the software to Google. AI could also detect if a device has been stolen and is being used differently from the original user.

SEE: Hiring kit: Android developer (TechRepublic Premium)

2. 5G will become the standard

5G technology has struggled; with almost insurmountable hurdles, carriers are hesitant to adopt the standard, and OEMs haven't pushed to develop 5G-capable devices. I'm fairly confident that 2020 will see big changes in 5G. With more 5G-ready devices on the market, it will only take the first carrier to flip the widespread switch. Once consumers experience the speed of 5G, it will become the new standard. 

Although Android is the global leader in smartphone operating systems, the iPhone tends to be the device to push technology standards in the US. Sometime around Q3 of 2020, Apple will release a 5G iPhone, and then 3/4G will have to take a back seat. 

3. Foldable devices will take off

The foldable device will finally hit the market en masse in 2020, though I believe it's the wrong way to go because moving parts tend to fail. This trend will be led by the fashion-forward, not technologically-inclined, and these foldable devices will be more a trendy accessory than a tool. In addition, the price will remain cost prohibitive for most. It will be 2021 before we start seeing foldable devices with a reasonable price tag; by then, two things will have happened: OEMs will have perfected the foldable screen, or my concerns will be verified and foldable devices will fade into obscurity.

SEE: Android gift guide: The best gifts in 2019 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

4. An Android smartwatch will dethrone the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is the leader in smartwatch technology, but 2020 will tell a different story. Samsung has already proven it can release a good smartwatch with the Galaxy Watch Active 2, which no other Android smartwatch can touch. This device will launch a good amount of competition; in fact, I think the first Android smartwatch will overtake the Apple Watch in 2020. It wouldn't surprise me if Google released a Pixel watch along with the Pixel 5, and should that happen, it could be the watch to have in 2020.

5. Bigger mobile security threats

From the office of "no brainer predictions" comes bigger and badder security threats. We've witnessed a steady rise in malware attacks on Android, but I believe 2020 will see an increase in the number and severity of those threats. This might be the perfect storm--with 5G, the resurgence of always-connected smartwatches, and a continued push from adware attacks--for an ideal incubator for the security threat of all security threats. Users should be alert, work smart, and never let their guard down with their devices.

SEE: The best Android phones of the past decade (TechRepublic)

6. Facial recognition: The new mobile security standard

Although the Pixel 4 has some serious issues with battery life, it comes with impressively accurate and fast facial recognition technology that renders the fingerprint sensor obsolete. OEMs will soon realize facial recognition is a better biometric security tool and move away from fingerprint sensors. Just like the fingerprint sensor replaced the PIN, the fingerprint sensor will be replaced by facial recognition by the end of 2020. With the widespread use of facial recognition, mobile users will enjoy a heightened level of security with their devices.

7. Samsung Galaxy S11: Goodbye notch, hello full screen

2019 is the last year we'll see a widespread release of Android devices with a notch. The Samsung Galaxy S11 will arrive with either a pinhole camera or a "behind the screen" camera, doing away with the notch and bezel and proving--once and for all--that a full screen smartphone can happen. It will be the most sought-after device on the market, and if OEMs don't follow suit, every device they release will look antiquated and clunky against Samsung's flagship phone.

SEE: 10 biggest Android flops of the decade (TechRepublic)

8. Samsung Galaxy S11 will be the hottest selling mobile device

See #7 above. The Samsung Galaxy S11 will outsell every new device on the market, including Apple's first 5G device, which will pale in comparison. Samsung has already shown it can design some of the most elegant devices on the market. Once Samsung jettisons the bezel, there'll be no stopping the company. The Galaxy S11 will be the must-have device and will skyrocket Samsung's bottom line and solidify the company as the OEM to beat in the mobile space.

9. Google will focus on battery life for the Pixel 5

The Pixel 4 isn't really the failure most people/reviewers say. Although the Pixel 4 may not have the best battery life on the market, its camera cannot be beat, and the 90Hz screen is truly something to behold. The battery life is a deal breaker for many, and Google will go back to the drawing board with its flagship devices and rethink its priorities. When rumors start to fly about the Pixel 5, they will focus on a new battery technology that will give the Pixel phones an unheard of battery life. The Pixel 5 will wind up the best phone Google has released to date.

SEE: Cheat sheet: Google Pixel phone (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

10. The return of the flip phone

The Razr used a foldable screen in a way no one saw coming. This return to form offers an interesting take and will have other manufacturers scrambling to follow suit. There are rumors that Motorola has its own flip phone in the works, which will lead to copycat flip phones and might be the only viable option for the foldable screen. Won't it be splendid to get back to hanging up on people with a flip of the wrist?

There you have it. I've gazed into the crystal ball, and it has spoken. Either way, here's to a successful, secure, reliable, joyous, and productive 2020.

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