These are the tech trends to expect this year, and the ones for which to brace your wallet.

    Foldable phones

    After years of rumours, Samsung unveiled a prototype of its foldable tablet-cum-smartphone in November 2018. The stage was deliberately dimly lit and there was no opportunity for the media to get any hands-on time with the device, but it’s expected that a consumer-ready version will make its way to market around mid-2019.

    Why would anyone want a foldable device? Well, assuming the panel can be made thin enough, it could serve as a phone when folded in half, and as a tablet computer when unfurled. That’s also going to mean updates are needed to the Android operating system (and to Apple’s iOS should it opt to join the fray). But fear not, Google’s already confirmed Android will support the foldable form factor.

    Rollable displays

    Intent on ensuring its countrymen don’t have all the innovative display fun, LG has been testing displays that roll up. So far, the demos have largely been limited to a TV display with a chunky base into which the screen disappears, but it’s the first step towards the sort of screen you can roll up like a sheet of wrapping paper and tuck under your arm.

    Whether the technology will trickle down to phones or tablets remains to be seen… but given its ability to grab headlines you can bet we’ll see more of it in 2019. Forget projectors, we could be watching movies at home on OLED wallpaper in years to come.

    5G phones

    Up to 100 times faster than current mobile data solutions, commercial 5G is going to start rolling out internationally in 2019, and be commonplace the year after. But to benefit from the blistering speed and low latency 5G offers we’re going to need 5G-capable devices. You can bet all the big names in mobile are already hard at work integrating the necessary hardware into their forthcoming phone designs. 

    In 2018 Vodacom became the first operator in Africa to launch a standards-based, commercial 5G network. The immediate benefit of 5G technology for Vodacom subscribers includes the quicker deployment of broadband services with fibre-like speeds. With early access to this new technology, entrepreneurs, industry shapers and government will in future be able to work with Vodacom to develop and incubate innovative applications to power digital transformation.

    We could see the first big-name 5G phone from Samsung in the form of its S10 and S10 Plus devices, but we’re also sure to see it pop up in some of the handsets that’ll be announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this February. Expect to see it start turning up in tablets, portable modems, and SIM-card supporting laptops around the same time.

    Clash of cams

    Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro packs three rear cameras. Samsung’s A9 packs four. Could we see five rear cameras before 2019 is done? It seems very likely indeed. But even if we don’t see the camera count jumping too much higher, what’s certain is we’re going to see ever more impressive use of these multiple lenses and sensors, and more impressive results from the software that analyses what they capture.

    Multi-camera setups and the processing clout of 2019’s mobile phones will be used to create more impressive composite shots, enabling features like on-device video stabilisation, better low-light results, and ever smarter artificial intelligence vision – whether to better adjust settings for optimal pics of your pooch, or to help you buy something from the comfort of your phone once you’ve snapped it out in the world.

    Punting privacy

    With smart assistants like Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa showing up in all sorts of devices, and companies like Facebook and Google being scrutinised for their handling of the reams of data they hold on consumers there’s a very good chance 2019 will be the year regulators start trying to genuinely rein in the tech giants.

    Expect to see privacy controls go from midway down the feature list of new products to front and centre, particularly when it comes to digital assistants, or fitness trackers, smart watches and other products that collect sensitive information like health data.

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    Craig Wilson