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2020 set to usher in age of 5G always-on portable computing

Analyst identifies key 5G trends that will bear fruit in new year and pours cold water on one hyped technology that it thinks won’t make it

An advisory from global tech market analyst ABI Research predicts that 2020 will see the launch of a wide range of always-on 5G portable devices, notebooks and ultra books, with volumes exceeding 10 million units a year later, but there are some challenges still to be addressed.

The 54 Technology trends to watch in 2020 note identifies 35 trends that will shape the technology market and 19 others that, although attracting huge amounts of speculation and commentary, look less likely to move the needle over the next 12 months. It adds that after what it calls a “tumultuous” 2019 that was beset by many challenges, both integral to tech markets and arising from global market dynamics, 2020 looks set to be equally challenging.

The top trends forecast by ABI are that while smartphones will dominate the 5G market, 5G always-on PCs will emerge and proliferate, while always-on connected PCs have been a big challenge for the industry so far.

“Time to market, an optimised balance between performance and device battery life through highly integrated designs centred around 5G connectivity, and the ability to distribute these devices across both consumer and enterprise channels will be the key factors for large-scale deployments,” said David McQueen, 5G devices, smartphones and wearables research director at ABI.

The analysis predicts that the market in 2020 will be heavily contested between traditional notebook OEMs such as Dell, HP and Lenovo, and mobile phone OEMs such as Apple, Samsung, Huawei and LG.

As 5G rolls out, mobile device manufacturers will be stepping up their efforts to provide consumers with the devices to support the new communications technology, which offers increased data throughput, enhanced signal reliability and better coverag, said McQueen. “As consumers increasingly aim to embrace the latest feature innovations and technologies, mobile devices with access to 5G will become increasingly popular in 2020,” he added.

“The market will be dominated by smartphones, but 5G is also expected to make significant headway in penetrating other mobile broadband device sectors, including tablets and notebooks. 5G will help shape the smartphone market in 2020, with network coverage and device affordability earmarked as the key drivers to accelerate migration, as most, if not all, smartphone manufacturers are expected to release more and more models and devices across varying price tiers throughout the year.”

Looking at what it does not think will take off during the year, ABI was bearish about the prospects of 5G-based wearables. “Component manufacturers have yet to announce any 5G chipsets for wearables, and are not expected to do so in 2020, as the market potential is small, with few device shipments compared to other mobile devices,” said Stephanie Thompsett, 5G smartphones, devices and wearables analyst at ABI. The requirement for the technology is low, as 4G is capable enough to support them, and there is the added complexity of fitting the required 5G components in a small form factor.”

The study predicted that such a take-off would not happen until 2024 at the earliest.

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