What does the future offer for the smartphone, which has become the most sold consumer device in the world in just a decade?
Even when top manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung reveal new handsets with new features and improved performance, the sales of smartphones have leveled off and most of the major markets are largely saturated.
The next catalyst for smartphones could be the capabilities offered by the next 5G or wireless networks of the fifth generation, new form factors or advancements in virtual and improved reality.
But some analysts claim that something completely different can displace the smartphone.
Future Today, founder of the Amy Webb Institute, said in its annual report on technology trends that 2018 "marks the beginning of the end of traditional smartphones" and sees a transition to a new age of computers and connected devices based on voice, gesture and touch.
"The transition from smartphones to smart wearables and invisible interfaces-earbuds with biometric sensors and loudspeakers, rings and bracelets that sense movement, smart glasses that record and display information – will forever change the way we experience the physical world," writes Webb .
Other analysts say that the smartphone does not disappear quickly, even if the market pauses.
"The smartphone does not go away, but it can change its shape and shape," says David McQueen, analyst on connected devices for ABI Research. "The smartphone market has been around for many years."
McQueen said in a recent report that the mobile industry is evolving towards devices with more compelling touchless experiences, fueled by artificial intelligence, mixed reality and gesture control.
New devices can also see improved biometrics, such as facial recognition and changes such as folding screens.
ABI Research says that "Google and Amazon will lead and drive innovation around smartphones and related ecosystems over the next five to six years" because of their strength in these emerging technologies.
Worldwide sales of smartphones are expected to drop 0.7 percent in 2018 to 1.455 billion units, according to research firm IDC.
But IDC is slowly catching up with the general smartphone market and reaches 1,646 billion units by 2022.
"We still believe that the smartphone market will see healthy growth in the coming years, although finding and competing in those markets and segments is becoming increasingly challenging," said IDC analyst Ryan Reith.
In the United States, 91 percent of adults under 50 use a smartphone and 95 percent of teenagers have access to it, according to the Pew Research Center.
At the end of 2017, Europe had approximately 465 million mobile subscriptions, accounting for 85 percent of the population, with more than two-thirds of devices smartphones, according to the association of mobile operators GMSA.
Bob O & # 39; Donnell, founder of Technalysis Research, said that the sale of smartphones in the US and some other developed markets has slowed due to the end of carrier subsidies.
"Because people pay the full price for their phones, they hold them longer", said O & # 39; Donnell.
The market may get a boost in 2019 of 5G and a likely appearance of the first devices with foldable or flexible screens, according to O & # 39; Donnell.
"People have been talking about it for a while now (folding screens) and I think we'll finally see the first one next year," he said.
"It will be interesting because it opens the possibility of a larger screen on a smaller device."
O & # 39; Donnell claims that smartphones are still preferred by consumers, despite the arrival of new devices such as smart speakers from Amazon and Google.
But he said that the following innovations are probably devices that are even smarter & # 39; are then the current generation of handsets, with artificial intelligence that is built-in.
"If you have AI chips embedded in the device, you can do many things without a network connection," said Donnell.
The analyst said that the competition between technical companies now concentrates on smart digital assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple & # 39; s Siri and others.
This is going to be a "struggle for power over platforms that could affect the smartphone market", said O & # 39; Donnell, who noted that some things may change as the dominant player Amazon, which makes a series of devices, but no smartphones.
He still does not know what kind of devices the consumer wants, but that "it will look a lot like a smartphone at the end of the day."
© Agence France-Presse