The era of the smartphone is rapidly becoming a post-smartphone era, a key tech industry analyst said on Sunday ahead of the opening of the world’s biggest technology show.
Shawn DuBravac, chief economist at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), told a gathering that the smartphone has become so successful it is become a hub for people’s digital lives, and increasingly less of a communications device.
“I think we are entering a post-smartphone era,” he told journalists ahead of today’s opening of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the biggest trade show of its kind.
He said 65 percent of time spent on smartphones now is for “non-communication activities” such as apps for health, entertainment or other activities.
“We have moved away not only from telephony but from communications being the primary part of these devices,” he said.
“So it is not just a communications devices, it is a hardware hub around which people build services ... the smartphone is becoming the viewfinder for your digital life,” he said.
DuBravac said this is among the key trends being watched as tens of thousands gather to show off the latest wares of the global trillion-dollar technology sector.
Another trend are the high-density screens which are being developed for smartphones, tablets, computers and larger devices such as televisions.
“This has implications for the Web generally,” he said.
Because people have higher quality screens, “we are going to demand high-resolution images, and that will have an impact on a variety of Internet services,” he said.
“We see it happening at the smartphone level. But this is a shift that is happening across all screens,” he added.
Meanwhile, a report released on Sunday by the CEA and GfK Research showed the global tech industry has become a tale of two sectors, with mobile devices surging at the expense of older electronics that are struggling.
The report projects modest growth of 4 percent for the industry expected to generate sales of US$1.1 trillion this year. However, half of the revenues will come from mobile, connected devices — smartphones, tablets and mobile computers.
The report said last year’s sales, which a year ago were expected to rise 5 percent, ended up falling 1 percent, dragged down by weakness in Europe.
Steve Bambridge of GfK said that with many big economies in recession it will be hard to rev up tech sales.
“We’re no longer talking about double digit growth,” Bambridge told reporters in Las Vegas. “We’re talking about a recovery in growth but a much more modest recovery.”
Steve Koenig of the CEA said tablets were the clear star last year and that sales are expected to jump another 50 percent this year.
“Tablets were a must-have item for both Western Europe and the US,” he said, calling the devices probably the biggest growth item in the history of the industry.
However, he said the surge in tablets and smartphones has meant people are forgoing other devices such as laptop computers, small televisions for the bedroom or kitchen, or even digital cameras, since many of these functions can now be performed by a tablet or mobile phone.
“A lot of these old technologies are turning into apps,” Koenig said. “We may end up seeing the whole hardware industry turn negative because it’s all going into the cloud, into services.”
Videogame sales are flat or declining, he said, while mobile computers may be gaining some traction with new form factors: “Convertible” or “hybrid” computers that can function as tablets may erase memories of the failure of “ultrabooks.”
While many consumers are using tablets instead of a second television, Koenig said interest is growing in “jumbo” TVs with screens of 60 inches or larger.
“More and more sales are starting to happen at this super jumbo size,” he said.
However, so-called ultra HD televisions remain slow to capture the market because of their steep price tags of several thousand dollars. according to the CEA/GfK forecast, which showed the segment capturing just 5 percent of the US market by 2016.