2024 Mobile Trends: On-Device AI, Next-Generation Smartphones, and Beyond

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The constantly changing and evolving landscape of mobile technology implies that what’s cutting-edge today could become an obsolete classic tomorrow. However, when looking at 2024 through the eyes of industry analysts, subject-matter experts, and annual trends, a more extensive and nuanced picture emerges. 

This year, five subjects are likely to dominate the headlines, determine the next industry jargon, and be at the top of every consumer’s mind. Expect to hear more about the “AI PC”, but don’t let that title mask the fact: Our smartphones — the most personal of computers — are also responsive to an artificial intelligence transformation.

And this is just the start, as you will discover more significant trends in the list below, all of which are already beginning to take form.

1. On-device AI adds ‘smart’ features to smartphones

The new Samsung Galaxy S24 series includes a live translation feature, powered by on-device AI.

June Wan/ZDNET

This year, generative AI features will be merged with smartphones, and on a large scale. From real-time, multi-language translation to enhancing the way our smartphone cameras collect and process light for photos and videos, we are already seeing how AI and mobile computing can combine.

For instance, Samsung’s recently launched Galaxy S24 smartphones all contain generative AI tools utilizing on-device processing and cloud-based servers to help users carry out everyday tasks more effectively. These features are powered by the company’s initial AI model for consumers, Galaxy AI, which operates on Google’s Gemini and Imagen 2. “We anticipate that over 1 billion Generative AI smartphones will be shipped cumulatively between 2024 and 2027,” says Ritesh Bendre, global content manager at Counterpoint Research.

Also: Apple research reveals some impressive AI technology could be headed to your iPhone

Qualcomm also plays a substantial role, with its premier Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset providing performance improvements across smartphones, including a 20% enhancement in CPU, 30% in GPU, and 41% in NPU — the latter is essential for devices to perform generative AI tasks efficiently. Anticipate more flagship Android phones this year, as well as VR and XR headsets, to be equipped with Qualcomm’s new processor, offering numerous AI-enabled capabilities.

2. Foldable devices are becoming better (and more affordable)

The Motorola Razr 2023 was the most economical foldable phone last year, selling for as little as $499.

June Wan/ZDNET

Arguably, 2023 was the year of the foldable, with nearly every major manufacturer (except Apple) entering the market with a shape-shifting device. Google initiated the trend with the Pixel Fold, followed by Motorola’s Razr revival and Samsung’s Galaxy Z series. To wrap things up, OnePlus introduced the Open, a $1,699 phone-to-tablet device that undercut its nearest competition. 

Now that the leading companies have joined the competition, the big question this year is: How much more accessible will foldable devices become? According to Avi Greengart, president and lead analyst at Techsponential, as long as consumers are content with the performance and high-tech components they are paying for, there is unlikely to be a decline in pricing anytime soon.

Also: Why foldable phones are still so pricey, according to analysts

“Foldable products inherently have a structure that is more expensive compared to standard bar-type phones, even in terms of the display alone,” adds Jene Park, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research.

Nevertheless, there is optimism. Wireless carriers, who frequently heavily discount the latest devices in return for customer loyalty (i.e., commitment to long-term installment plans), remain a primary source of US smartphone sales. Motorola’s standard Razr model, available for as low as $499 at the time of writing, is another sign of promising things to come. With that in mind, 2024 is shaping up to be a promising continuation of the previous year’s success for foldable devices in 2023.

3. Qi2 narrows a persistent gap in charging

The iPhone 15 Pro (left) next to the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (right).

June Wan/ZDNET

The Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), a committee consisting of Apple, Samsung, and Google, has been advocating for the standardization of Qi2 wireless charging for over a year, and 2024 may be the year when these efforts come to fruition. The second generation of Qi charging offers improved magnetic coils for more efficient and faster wireless power delivery (up to 15W) for both iOS and Android devices.

Also: iOS 17.2 will add next-gen Qi2 wireless charging support to iPhone 13 and 14

“Qi2’s perfect alignment improves energy efficiency by reducing the energy loss that can occur when the phone or the charger is not aligned. Equally crucial, Qi2 will substantially reduce the waste generated by replacing wired chargers due to broken plugs and the wear placed on cords from daily connecting and disconnecting,” stated Paul Struhsaker, executive director of WPC, in a statement last year.

The adoption of such technology closes a long-standing gap between MagSafe-compatible devices (iPhone 12 and up) and those without the feature, enabling Android users to also take advantage of magnet-based charging accessories. Accessory manufacturers such as Anker and Satechi have already started releasing Qi2-compatible docks and charging pads. Now, it is up to phone manufacturers to complete the second half of the process by integrating the appropriate coils on the back of their devices. Expect those to arrive very soon.

Also: The best wireless chargers for iPhone and Android phones

4. Periscope lenses extend camera capabilities to greater distances

The iPhone 15 Pro Max features Apple’s first true telephoto lens, which the company calls “Tetraprism”. 

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

Periscope lenses have been present on smartphones for some time, but over the past year (and most likely in 2024), we are witnessing companies placing even greater emphasis on producing superior long-distance cameras. 

A periscope camera consists of a prism for magnifying and refracting light, and a vertically aligned lens enclosed within the phone. With this technology, smartphone cameras can optically capture subjects at greater distances, avoiding the loss of detail and sharpness that would occur with digital zooming.

Also: The iPhone 16 Ultra camera will incorporate the most substantial advancement in photos since the transition from B&W to color: report

Companies like Samsung have long embraced periscope lenses to enhance their camera performance, and the most recent Galaxy S24 Ultra model is a prime example. While the device is equipped with a 200-megapixel primary lens, it is the 50MP telephoto lens, capable of 5x optical zoom, that users will rely on the most for long-distance shots. Chinese phone maker Oppo has also just released the Find X7 Ultra, which features not one but two periscope lenses. 

As companies continue to find ways to reduce the size and incorporate better components within the structure of smartphones, anticipate superior, more capable cameras in 2024 and beyond.

Also: The evolution of smartphone cameras: From megapixels to AI-driven photography

5. A fresh category of mobile devices

The Rabbit R1 debuted at CES 2024, featuring a design inspired by classic Tamagotchi toys.

June Wan/ZDNET

In the most fascinating trend of 2024, mobile devices are being presented in formats that challenge conventional design standards. I recently encountered one myself just a week ago at CES, when AI startup Rabbit Inc. presented its R1 pocket device. The R1, developed in collaboration with design firm Teenage Engineering, is likely one of many mobile gadgets to be released in 2024 that compel consumers to reconsider the appearance and feel of their current smartphones.

Also: Rabbit sells 10,000 of its R1 AI pocket companions in one day

Humane is another emerging player in the non-traditional mobile device category, with an AI Pin that latches onto your clothing — not your pocket. Similar to the Rabbit R1, the Pin prioritizes AI agents over human interaction with apps. This means that instead of requiring users to interact with app interfaces through tapping and scrolling, the device employs various AI models to interact with the services.

If an app-less future is on the horizon, expect devices such as the Rabbit R1 and Humane AI Pin to lead the way.

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