There was a time when the word ‘smart’ in a smartphone used to indicate a mobile phone that offered internet-based services. As internet penetration increased, smartphones gained popularity and started the demand curve for features, user interface, cameras, connectivity, memory, battery, and so on. For smartphone players, this opened the doors for innovation and adaptation of advanced technologies to compete in the fast-evolving internet-connected lifestyle of consumers; thus giving rise to smartphones.
By 2020, India’s online community is projected to swell past 700 million — about the combined populations of Nigeria, Brazil, and the United States. This phenomenal growth of internet accessibility has revolutionized the way we think of a smartphone today. In coming times, with the introduction of IoT, and AI learning, a smartphone will be a gadget that controls almost everything around us. That’s when the smartphone will become INTELLIGENT.
The growing presence of AI in human interactions
AI is indeed taking the market by storm. With the advent of AI and its growing inception in our technology-led environment, smartphone applications have come to the forefront. With India being the world’s fastest-growing market for mobile applications, the app ecosystem is evolving like never before — from being mere extensions of business services to intelligent end-user applications – capable of making decisions and predicting behaviour. AI is already a part of our daily live. When using a smartphone, we interact with AI-enabled features from built-in smart assistants to numerous features in-camera. When using social media or search engines, the newsfeed on a timeline, advertisement pop-ups and notifications are curated based on our own search history that was fed through AI capabilities of the device. More such common examples are video recommendations on YouTube, Netflix, expense tracking apps such as ET Money, GPS navigation using Google Maps, voice-enabled smart devices like Alexa, Google Smart Home or Siri and so on.
By 2025, Servion Global Solutions estimates that AI will power 95 percent of all customer interactions. This, of course, includes live telephonic conversations, digital and online communications that will supposedly mimic human behaviour to the extent that users will find it hard to ‘spot the bot.’ By 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be ‘voice searches,’ signifying a compelling shift from text to AI-based voice commands.
Changing expectations for smartphones
New AI-enhanced apps and the smooth customized functionality they offer are getting mainstreamed into the very technology that is deployed in designing these phones. This trend makes it imperative for mobile manufacturers to focus on investments and provide AI-led features; that meet continually evolving consumer expectations. In fact, in some respects, the focus on hardware has plateaued in comparison, with AI becoming the bellwether of mobile app technology.
Users today are more and more comfortable with genuinely ‘smart’ smartphones, and that trend defines the strategic importance that AI brings to the Indian mobile market.
A tectonic shift to the ’SMARTER’ smartphone
As discussed earlier, the rise of internet-connected devices has led smartphone players to focus on AI integration in their devices. From cameras that can automatically detect a scene and adjust the white balance and saturation level automatically (to name a few), to a user interface that can optimise the phone’s performance when playing a game, AI is the need of the hour. Smartphone players have no option but to shift their innovation focus towards differentiating AI-enabled features.
Researchers believe there will be a remarkable shift in adoption with smartphones getting smarter with AI. According to Counterpoint, three out of four smartphones are forecasted to have dedicated AI processors by the end of 2022. The research also projects that sales of AI smartphones will increase to 1,250 million units in 2022 from 190 million in 2018.
The all-new 5G experience – future of artificial intelligent smartphones
Generation Z is always on the move with the constant requirement of connectivity with their friends and family via social media; which needs a better and faster network. The rollout of the 5G network technology is on the anvil, and this arguably will be the most defining mobile technology ever, poised to change the AI landscape altogether. ‘Faster’ and ‘more intelligent’ are going to be the buzzwords associated with the new applications that will run on the 5G platform. 5G enabled devices will boost innovations that could potentially change our lives dramatically by adding dimensions to network performance. Also, sectors such as automobiles, healthcare, technology; and inventions in products and services will revolutionize with 5G digital connectivity and automation of tasks by AI. Let’s take automotive; which is one of the most high-tech industries in the world; for instance. AI is accelerating the automotive transformation and the most significant, most curiously awaited revolutionary innovation is ‘self-driving cars’. We already see a self-parking feature in some of the cars in India. Driven by step-by-step innovative inventions in the industry, automobile companies have started taking a mature approach to AI deployment. This is being equally witnessed in the healthcare sector. With medical science becoming advanced in treating illness, adopting to robotics for faster production and increased efficiency; artificial intelligence goes hand-in-hand with the digital revolution.
With 5G coming in, we will have impressive network speed anytime anywhere such as – in a moving car, underground metros and crowded places (where network gets shared). The amalgamation of disruptive technologies is set to impact global economies leaps and bounds, and the smartphone sector will empower these advancements in the coming years.
Redefining smartphone experience
Mobile phone usage has always been central to ‘experience’. With the addition of smart features, apps; and technology, consumers have witnessed a tangible shift in the way they use phones today. As smartphones become smarter, the demand for AI embedded features will increase multifold to navigate the entire ecosystem of connectivity. A simple handheld device could be as powerful and intelligent to identify, connect; and operate almost every equipment a customer interacts with. Voice-enabled devices such as Alexa, Google home assistant are already offering smarter control to the users. In the coming years, smartphone manufacturers will be faced with even bigger demands from consumers to introduce products that provide advanced AI capabilities. Innovation will play a crucial role for players in the industry to sustain consumer mindshare in a fast-paced market like ours.
The author is Director of Brand Strategy at Vivo India.
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