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Wireless Solutions Advance Work from Home Trends

Despite a challenging backdrop from the ongoing effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the negative impact on fifth-generation (5G) wireless supply chains has been minimal compared to the wider mobile smartphone market.

This led to 5G mobile devices becoming more diverse, brought to market quickly at a variety of price points, thereby accelerating affordability and adoption. The mobile market is transitioning to 5G and many leading vendors are now exploring the low-priced 5G smartphone segment.

According to the latest worldwide market study by ABI Research, 681 million 5G handsets will be shipped in 2022. Therefore, the race is on for OEMs to find that all-important level of differentiation in their flagship portfolios to help boost margins and improve market share.

5G Wireless Market Development

Vendors continue to drive the adoption of new product designs, screen technology, chipsets, and camera setups -- notably within the flagship smartphone segment. Meanwhile, the leaders seek alternative points of differentiation to focus more on meaningful innovation and an enhanced user experience.

"As the market will bear witness over the next 12-18 months, and with the quickening ubiquity of 5G, upcoming flagship smartphones from key vendors will need to embrace a host of additional features and functionalities to continue to provide industry-leading high-end products," said David McQueen, research director at ABI Research.

Upcoming launches of 5G flagships from leading device vendors, such as Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, and OPPO, are expected to incorporate new features and form factor innovations such as ultrawideband (UWB) and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, super-fast charging technologies, foldable and rollable displays, and improved camera set-ups.

According to the ABI assessment, these smartphone capabilities are all designed to help spark further evolution in device user interfaces, the growth in technology ecosystems, and enhanced user experiences.

While 5G is quickly penetrating smartphones, there is anticipation that 5G integration and always-on connectivity will appear more readily on media tablets, Chromebooks, and PC notebooks as the portable computing and mobile value chains continue to converge.

The onset of the Coronavirus pandemic has boosted demand and increased the utility for these mobile compute products, with notable improvements being made in their productivity features to aid with an increase in distributed workforce, remote learning, and online gaming.

With a multitude of new smartphone models due to be launched next year, 5G is set to become a more prominent feature of these device types -- with Samsung, Apple, and Huawei all about to create more 5G connected compute devices, benefitting from their vertical integration approach.

Cellular connected compute devices have only accounted for a small proportion of sales due to their mostly nomadic use case and high price differential, but it is expected that dozens of always-on 5G portable device models, tablets, notebooks, and ultrabooks will reach the global market in 2021.

Outlook for 5G Mobile End-User Device Growth 

According to ABI Research, sales of these 5G devices will exceed 10 million by 2022. The advent of 5G connectivity, notably in the 2021 Apple iPad Pro, may improve this share if new 5G business models and aggressive pricing can also stimulate demand.

"Ultimately, this is another crucial step toward establishing a wider 5G ecosystem that extends beyond smartphones and leverages the technology to the mass market and a variety of vertical marketplaces," McQueen concludes.

That said, I believe that we'll also see more enterprise CIOs and CTOs explore new IT infrastructure for remote employees that work from home. While some home-based workers will choose to upgrade their wireline home network routers to the Wi-Fi 6 standard, others may decide to adopt 5G cellular 'unlimited' offerings from mobile service providers. Some may adopt both technologies.

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