- The smartphone and video game industries are coming out with some big innovations, like foldable smartphones and cloud gaming.
- It’s no coincidence that these innovations are emerging right when 5G is becoming a reality.
- Foldable smartphones on mobile 5G networks will dramatically enhance the smartphone experience, while 5G and cloud gaming will mark a paradigm shift for the video game industry.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Two major, multibillion-dollar industries – smartphones and video games – are suddenly coming out with some big innovations.
Those innovations are foldable smartphones, in which phones can fold out to become tablets; and cloud gaming, in which a game console is essentially being replaced by an internet connection. If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that those new technologies and the rise of 5G have seemed to happen in tandem.
“It’s not a coincidence,” Qualcomm’s president, Cristiano Amon, told Business Insider.
5G is the next mobile network we’ll be connecting to after 4G LTE. The telecoms industry is touting that 5G will bring 10 times the speed of current networks, as well as near-zero latency. Soon, waiting for things to happen after a tap on a screen may be a thing of the past.
Foldable smartphones are the perfect opportunity for 5G.
Foldable smartphones are the size and shape of a smartphone you can fit in your pocket, but they can unfold into a tablet when you want to do more than your typical smartphone can handle. While the phones are technically complex, the concept sounds almost crude: Just add more screen.
You could argue that foldable smartphones might come without 5G, especially when you consider that something about current smartphones needs to change to revitalize the plateauing market. Foldable phones without 5G might still ignite people’s interest in buying smartphones again.
But with 5G, you can almost see the gears spinning in the smartphone maker’s heads when they’re thinking about foldable smartphones and the option to turn your smartphone into a tablet.
5G would boost smartphone productivity — and so would a larger screen.
- Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
We already do a staggering amount of computing on our smartphones, and the larger screen offered on foldable smartphones would only increase that amount.
“Bigger screen, higher speeds … you have more productivity,” Qualcomm’s Amon said.
Indeed, larger screens like those on foldable smartphones allow for multitasking with multiple open app windows, as you see above. You could have your calendar app, email app, and web-browsing app all open at the same time, giving you the convenience of glancing at different apps instead of flicking between apps as you do on a regular smartphone.
As for the faster speeds and responsiveness of 5G, it’ll offer the pace of work you’re used to when you’re on a WiFi network, except you could be anywhere on a mobile 5G network.
Bigger screens and better network performance could make more complex tasks doable – or at least more comfortable – when you’re not next to your tablet or laptop.
With 5G, the everyday ways we use our smartphones will be significantly enhanced.
- Ken Cedeno/Corbis via Getty Images
And then there’s video.
Combined with 5G, foldable smartphones will prove their worth when you can watch a crisp, sharp 4K resolution video on a tablet-size screen when you’re out and about, away from a WiFi connection.
“Consuming high-quality video is going to be as easy as [streaming] music,” Amon said.
The importance of streaming video on our smartphones can’t be downplayed – it’s something more and more of us are doing on our smartphones each year. If it’s not important to you, it was important to almost 170 million people around you in 2018 in the US alone, according to data from Statista.
But for many people, the most noticeable benefit of 5G-enabled foldable phones will come in the form of connecting with friends and family.
With 5G and foldable smartphones, Amon is projecting a time when we’re connecting with friends and family instantly in high-resolution everywhere, not just in our homes.
“Things that existed but have never been successful, such as video chatting, are going to be awesome because it’s 4K [with] instant response [and] no lag … it’s like virtual presence,” Amon said. “Every person in the world will be a broadcaster with a 4K camera in their hand.”
I’d actually argue that video chatting is successful today – I’ve been doing it for some time with few issues. But then again, I haven’t tried lag-free 4K resolution video chatting on 5G. Based on what Amon was telling me, it’s going to be a lot better on 5G than it is today, and we’ll look back at the 4G LTE days and wonder how we ever managed with choppy, laggy, pixelated video-chatting.
When it comes to social media, the experience shouldn’t be that much different than if you were connected to a fast and responsive WiFi network. But 5G, and the promises the industry is making about 5G, means we can bring that experience wherever we are, not just with a WiFi connection.
So think about all of that, and then consider it on a screen that’s two or three times the size of your phone screen now yet still pocketable. It’s pretty simple: 5G on a foldable phone will make the social-media experience better.
5G calls for foldable smartphones, and foldable smartphones call for 5G.
5G will enhance just about everything we do on our smartphones.
“People can use more innovative applications and can have far better and enhanced augmented experiences in more consistent ways when you use premium content [enabled by 5G],” Malik Saadi, the vice president of strategic technologies at the tech market advisory firm ABI Research, told Business Insider.
There are 5G skeptics out there, but I’m remembering how far we’ve come since the first days of the smartphone and the first iterations of mobile networks that connected to the internet.
Could you image going back to the first iPhone in 2007 and streaming a video on the incredibly slow 2G “Edge” network? You wouldn’t be able to do half or less of what you do now on your smartphone. My phone can barely load a modern website full of ads and high-quality photos when it connects to 3G in a spotty reception area. Video chatting or streaming decent-resolution video outside a WiFi network wasn’t a great option before 4G LTE. And watching a video on the comparatively small smartphones of yore was a placeholder until you got to a computer to get the full experience.
Each generation of mobile “G” network has brought about new capabilities and use cases, and 5G for the smartphone market calls for the foldable smartphone, and foldable smartphones call for 5G.
The rise of 5G also has a hand in the biggest innovation in video games: cloud gaming.
- Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider
There’s a lot of talk about “cloud gaming” these days, like Google’s new Stadia platform in which pretty much any game of any size and league, whether AAA titles or small indie games, can stream instantly to almost any device you own, even a TV, without owning a game console. Microsoft is also developing its own cloud gaming platform, called “Project xCloud.”
Cloud gaming isn’t just solving the problem of buying and owning a console – it’s bringing games to all the devices we own. The concept was unfathomable just a few years ago, because you always needed powerful machines to play big AAA games, and you were always limited to playing those games at home.
“We are not just only talking about enhanced experience through higher bandwidth and low latency networks, but we are talking about a huge paradigm shift in the gaming business models and the way games are delivered, distributed, and monetized,” Saadi said.
One of the visions with cloud gaming and 5G is that you can play a game on your TV at home, then pick it up again on your smartphone on, say, your commute. Foldable smartphones with larger screens, and cloud gaming, and 5G go hand-in-hand.
But we’re not there just yet.
- Flickr/Mike Mozart
Technological innovation often comes with false starts and delays.
Right now, all of us have to wait to play big AAA games on our smartphones on mobile networks.
And we were meant to be using foldable smartphones by now, but those are off to a rocky start as well. I played around with Samsung’s Galaxy Fold and Huawei’s Mate X foldable smartphones when I had the chance, and I loved them. I hope smartphone makers can figure out their issues with the complexities of folding screens.
On top of that, 5G hasn’t exactly arrived just yet. It’s coming, there’s no doubt about that – it already exists in a few cities on a few carriers.
But when and where is the big question right now. There are lots of estimates and projections of when and where 5G will be more ubiquitous, but ultimately, we’re at the mercy of mobile carriers and their announcements.
For now, most of us outside cities where 5G is already activated will have to wait patiently.