By Yun Peng
Source: Zhidong (ID: zhidxcom)
If you are not afraid of rolling, you are afraid of rolling all the time.
In fact, for the smart phone market, the Red Sea has long been the norm, but the phenomenon of involution is particularly obvious in the three months just past 2021.
The shortage of chips is just an appearance. Starting from the lack of innovation, we are trying to find out what is the dilemma of the supply chain of smart phones? In 2021, will 5g mobile phone break out or will it be the ultimate mobile phone involution?
The hardware is standing still, the software is mending,
Just after the Spring Festival this year, the smartphone market is very busy.
Up to 17999 yuan of Huawei mate x2 folding screen, down to 1999 yuan of Hongmi K40, many new machines rush on.
In the middle of March, Huawei, Xiaomi, Hongmi, oppo, vivo, realme, iqoo, Meizu, Red Devils and other manufacturers released flagship new machines. Although the new machine was a little late, Yijia also announced the joint plan of Hasu in advance, which captured a wave of heat.
As the media in the industry, smart thing has also been given the opportunity to start the new machine for the first time for many times. After the experience of starting four or five new machines, my biggest feeling is that there are still a few new things in the machine circle at the beginning of this year.
There seems to be no breakthrough in camera, charging, or even the user experience.
There are a lot of manufacturers who are the first to release snapdragon 888, and they all suffer losses in the fever. Samsung's 5nm capacity does not seem to be able to meet the market demand of snapdragon 888 at present. As a result, Qualcomm has repeatedly delayed the delivery time, and even placed an order now. It can't take delivery until October.
Because of this, Xiaolong 870 emerges as the times require. It adopts the previous generation TSMC 7Nm process, and its production capacity is significantly better than Xiaolong 888.
First of all, the performance of snapdragon 870 is obviously different from that of snapdragon 888. From the most intuitive running point, the running point of snapdragon 870 is about 670000, while that of snapdragon 888 is about 730000, and the latest game phone can even reach 750000.
And last year's Xiaolong 865 flagship run highest also came to 670000 or so. As ppt said at the manufacturer's press conference, this snapdragon 870 is basically the same as the snapdragon 865 in terms of technology, CPU and GPU core, but it has been officially overclocking, which has improved its performance to a limited extent.
This year, the screen refresh rate is basically fixed at 120Hz, and only a few game phones use 144hz or even 165hz screens for smoother display effect.
The resolution is mainly 1080p, and 2K resolution of some mobile phones can't be turned on at the same time as 120Hz high brush. Only oppo's new phone supports 2K 120Hz high brush.
This exposed a problem, at least from the past three months of this year, the screen hardware itself has not been significantly upgraded.
We usually use Samsung AMOLED screen, the maximum brightness can be set manually is usually only about 500nit, only iPhone can be adjusted to 760nit, and the peak brightness of screen in strong light is only about 800nit in daily use.
3. 64 megapixel war for three years
If we say which kind of mobile phone hardware upgrade is most likely to attract the attention of consumers, it must be the mobile phone camera. Whether it is the increase of camera aperture size, the increase of number or the change of shape, it is very intuitive and perceptible.
However, the mobile phone market at the beginning of this year obviously did not focus on taking photos. Huawei's mate x2 folding screen follows Huawei's mate 40 series flagship camera configuration, while Hongmi follows Sony's imx686 64 megapixel sensor of the previous generation.
In the whole year of 2020, 48 million pixels and 64 million pixels have been polished repeatedly, which is very mature in terms of supply chain and algorithm tuning.
So what about the flagship? Last year's 100 million pixel sensor was once again put on the flagship machine after a small upgrade. Although some manufacturers took out Sony's customized imx700 series sensors, they found that no significant improvement was made in terms of sensor size, pixel synthesis technology, pixel focusing technology or pixel number, or even standing still.
Of course, the improvement of the camera performance of mobile phones is by no means blindly piling up pixels and sizes, but the improvement of hardware specifications is equivalent to the upgrading of the camera infrastructure construction. With good hardware, there is more room for the algorithm to be used.
Last year, Huawei launched a periscope zoom lens that supports 10x Optical Zoom, which really brings the high zoom shooting capability of mobile phones to a new level. The launch of Samsung's 100 million pixel sensor also provides more possibilities for taking photos and further improves the image resolution.
But on the other hand, it also shows that the main shot has not been greatly upgraded, thus narrowing the gap with other sub shots. This is a trend of technological innovation slowing down.
4. When will the hundred watt fast charge arrive?
In addition to chips, screens, photos and other major aspects, the models at the beginning of the year also basically adopted the same specifications as last year in terms of charging, with the highest values of about 65w-66w.
Last year, the mobile phone fast charging suddenly went from about 30-40w to 120W or even 125w. It seems that the era of 100W fast charging has come. However, in fact, only one or two products of various manufacturers have adopted 120W or above charging power, and then they returned to the charging speed of the first half of 2020.
In addition, there are many factors to consider in terms of safety and battery loss. At the beginning of 2021, manufacturers are becoming more conservative, and the progress of charging technology is becoming slower.
5. Software optimization makes the article, star endorsement plays the slip
If the improvement of photographing is not great, the algorithm is optimized, and the AI is used to repair the pictures and add filters to the video. System animation continues to optimize, even a dynamic change can become a selling point of marketing.
It is true that a suitable brand spokesperson can highlight the tonality of the brand, and also get a lot of traffic and exposure. If the quality of the mobile phone product itself is excellent, it is also a win-win situation for the brand and artists.
However, seeing that the focus of the press conference frequently shifted from the product release in the first half to the guest dialogue, star message, and even singing and dancing in the second half, I can't help thinking about a problem:
Lack of innovation, lack of investment? Where did the money go?
Behind the inner scroll, there are both natural disasters and man-made disasters
Of course, there are many factors behind the slowdown of technological innovation, and not a single manufacturer can play a decisive role.
The slowdown in technology in early 2021 is bound to move forward. The novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic in 2020 should be called the black swan in the global technology industry.
From the data point of view, although both China and the global smartphone market showed a warming trend in the fourth quarter, it is undeniable that the whole mobile phone industry will have a severe winter in 2020.
According to IDC statistics, the sales of smart phones in China's market in 2020 dropped by 11.2% year-on-year. Even in the fourth quarter, the year-on-year growth of the shipment volume just reached 0.3%, which can be said to have just returned to normal.
The demand of mobile phone market has been restrained, and the capacity of mobile phone itself has also become tense. The release of new phones by manufacturers has slowed down, and the pace of new product planning has slowed down.
Technological innovation aside, for most mobile phone manufacturers and supply chain manufacturers in 2020, survival seems to be the real theme.
Therefore, selling goods has become the focus. Whoever has the goods to sell is the winner. And in the first half of 2020, the epidemic led to a few months of empty window period for offline stores, during which time online sales undertook a large part of the demand.
The e-commerce platform has made a lot of money during this period. Facing the online market, mobile phone manufacturers need products that are cost-effective and can quickly attract consumers. In addition, the epidemic has also made consumption more cautious and the level of purchasing power has declined.
Therefore, mid end models are often more popular, and it is difficult for these models to promote technological innovation in turn.
From the end of last year to the beginning of this year, it is obvious that manufacturers release the same series or similar products separately, that is to extend the life cycle of the same series of products and slow down the pace of product release.
In addition to the epidemic situation, another topic that cannot be avoided is the shortage of semiconductor chip production capacity worldwide. Of course, the shortage is partly affected by the aftereffects of the epidemic situation.
Nowadays, a smart phone uses more than one SOC. In fact, from screen driver IC to power management IC to CMOS image sensor chip, there is a shortage of chips. As a result, many suppliers are unable to use them effectively and face the dilemma of "no rice to cook".
Various driving IC chips
Most of these chips use relatively mature and low profit 8-inch wafer production capacity, so the head players of chip OEM are not willing to take risks to blindly expand the production line.
In fact, behind the shortage of chips, there are both natural disasters and man-made disasters. The wrong estimation of demand led many downstream manufacturers to temporarily increase orders. With the implementation of vaccines, consumer demand began to pick up, and the demand for orders increased again.
On the other hand, the power failure in Texas led to the shutdown of chip factories in the United States, the earthquake in Japan affected the semiconductor upstream material market, the production capacity was in a hurry, the price rose, and TSMC was in a drought again, so it was in a hurry to buy more than 100 water tankers.
Just like a domino, if it falls down, it will be transmitted to the whole consumer electronics industry chain, from raw materials to chips, from chips to components, from components to mobile phone manufacturers.
In the end, what consumers see is the slowdown of mobile phone technology innovation. New products seem to rush to occupy the market, but they are all familiar with the old faces.
In fact, mobile terminal manufacturers know better than anyone, how many goods are still in their warehouses, what technologies are still in their pockets, and how many breakthroughs and innovations are there in the new machines they release?
Whether the involution will become normal,
At present, the phenomenon of infidelity among mobile phone manufacturers has become obvious. However, in 2021, it has just passed a quarter, and the remaining three quarters, so there is still a lot of room for manufacturers to play.
In 2019, 5G began to commercially, and in 2020 it should be 5G mobile phone. However, COVID-19 and chip shortages have become the two major obstacles to the whole consumer electronics industry.
Therefore, many organizations are cautiously optimistic about the performance of 5g mobile phones in 2021. According to the prediction of strategy analytics, the global smartphone market shipment will grow by 6.5% year on year to 1.38 billion units in 2021.
The forecast of global mobile phone market share in 2021 by strategy analytics
By then, Samsung, apple, Xiaomi, vivo and oppo are likely to become the top five mobile phone manufacturers in the world. You know, from 2016 to 2020, the global smartphone market has been declining for four consecutive years, and 2021 is likely to be an important turning point.
Not only the growth of sales volume, but also the market structure will change. The game between giants will only become more fierce. Everyone wants to find opportunities to seize the market of Huawei and glory.
This year, with the progress of China's flexible AMOLED screen technology, the improvement of yield, the release of production capacity, and the increase of Samsung's AMOLED high-end flexible screen sales, the folding screen mobile phone form will also appear in the product lines of more manufacturers such as Xiaomi and oppo.
Folding screen mobile phone has a series of problems to be solved in screen material, screen glass material, hinge design, software interaction and so on, which is a test of the technological innovation ability of manufacturers and supply chain.
Suspected leakage of new Xiaomi folding screen
In terms of photo taking, Sony's imx800 series image sensors may be close to 1 inch in size, and are likely to be launched on Huawei's flagship aircraft, but Huawei's P50 Series in April this year may not be available for the time being.
Samsung's GN2 new generation of 50 megapixel image sensor has been released and will be launched in the flagship series of Xiaomi. The application of these new sensors requires the cooperation of lens manufacturers, module manufacturers and the joint training of mobile phone manufacturers.
Last year, ofI light demonstrated its periscope continuous optical zoom lens module. There is no doubt that from fixed zoom to continuous zoom will be one of the development trends of long focus photography in the future. How to solve the problems of power consumption, internal space volume, yield and cost of such a module is a very big test.
Optical periscope continuous zoom lens module
Off screen camera technology has also been popular with Android manufacturers for about two years. Although ZTE took the lead in landing last year, there is still room for improvement in terms of front camera effect and screen display effect.
Recently, it has also been reported that in the second half of the year, the 100 watt fast charging will really become the standard configuration.
The battle between the giants began regardless of cost, and the control of the supply chain became stronger and stronger. The survival of small factories became extremely difficult, the shipment volume was low, the supply chain was controlled by others, the profit was insufficient, and the innovation became difficult.
The involution of the mobile phone market is not a matter of the past three months, but an inevitable stage of industrial development. However, under the influence of epidemic situation, chip shortage and other factors, the phenomenon of involution has become more prominent.
Infidelity is not an absolute bad thing. In the increasingly competitive smartphone market, naturally, some people will go up and others will leave. After a hard time, the market will return to calm.
Who can grasp this era of involution and speak with hard power may stand out.
Conclusion: This is the best time, this is the worst time
In China's smartphone market in February this year, 5g mobile phones accounted for nearly 70% of the total shipment, and new phones accounted for nearly 60%. The domestic mobile phone market's overall shipment is as high as 240% year on year.
But in this context, the slowdown of technological innovation, product homogenization and white hot price war are problems that can not be ignored. Involution is what every participant in the mobile phone industry needs to face. How to survive in the fierce competition?
After so much bitterness from manufacturers, it's the consumers who pay the final price. Obviously, it is not a long way to go.
The PC industry was once known as the sunset industry, but with the entry of many mobile phone manufacturers, through technological innovation to bring more vertical segments and open up more new segments, the market has become active again.
Mobile phones are obviously much younger than PCs. Whenever a certain kind of product appears the trend of involution, it is often calling for a great change driven by innovation. Innovation is still an indisputable driving force for the development of the industry.