Are Laptops Heading Toward Obsolescence? Smartphones Hope So
LaNada Peppers uses her Samsung Galaxy Note 5 for nearly everything. As a journalist and communications manager, the 35-year-old relies on her smartphone to take photos, update social media, write stories, book interviews, capture video and send emails. When she needs to type fast, she connects a portable keyboard. If she needs to edit audio, an app does the job.
"Essentially, I live on this thing and don't know what I would do without it," she said.
Yet she still lugs around a laptop for things her phone can't do as well: editing photos and video and storing and backing up files.
That gap could close Tuesday when Samsung's fierce rival Apple unveils its newest iPhone. After spending past iterations increasing the size of the phone, improving its screen, honing its camera and, as of last year, getting rid of the analog headphone jack, design leaks suggest that the new phone's main selling point, aside from being sleeker and shinier than iPhones past, will be the breadth of its capabilities.
"That's going to be the next big battleground," said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "The next big horizon is doing more with your smartphone than just checking Facebook and email. It's about allowing us to do what we've been doing with our desktop PCs for the last 25 years, but in a smaller form factor."
Among the rumored features are an edge-to-edge OLED screen that does away with the home button and bezel (the half-inch strips that frame the top and bottom of the screen), augmented reality and virtual reality capabilities, more storage and faster processing.
"When you remove some of the visual distractions from the front screen of the phone, it makes it more conducive to being used like a multimedia device," Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing at consumer deals site DealNews.com, said of the edge-to-edge screen. "The bigger the screen, the easier it is for people to watch video and TV on the go."
That's already popular among customers, who turn to their phones to browse the Web and watch videos. But it could also appeal to those who want to film and edit videos, tidy up photos, and use their phones as tools of productivity as opposed to devices of distraction.
Mobile use accounted for 65% of digital media time spent in 2016, according to a ComScore white paper. And in 2013, ComScore research found that 18% of millennials were mobile-only users, which meant 1 in 5 people ages 18 to 34 did all their Internet browsing, emailing, social networking and online news reading on a smartphone or tablet. The number is likely to be higher today.
"If I'm lazy, I just watch HBO on my phone instead of my laptop," said Annette Lin, 28, an arts writer and designer. "If I could type better on a phone, I'd probably go everywhere without a computer."
The move to make the newest iPhone a do-everything device is typical of maturing markets, analysts said. The first generation of smartphones replaced flip phones, GPS systems, and MP3 players. They later added functions familiar to PC users, such as Web browsing. Newer phones have cameras comparable to low-end DSLRs. And many phone users can now accomplish most of the things they need to do online on a device that fits in their pocket.
"I know a lot of people who prefer to do everything on their phone. They almost don't want a computer anymore," Sakraida said. "But there are some tasks still too difficult to do on a phone. Apple is trying to solve that hurdle for people. It could make the iPhone an exciting product again."
For a company trying to reinvigorate consumer excitement for what has become an annual more-of-the-same iPhone launch event, a new phone that is noticeably more powerful, does more than before and improves productivity could just do the trick.
Peppers, who has no brand loyalty, would be willing to switch from her Samsung phone to a new iPhone if Apple further upped the ante on its camera and made it as easy to edit audio and video on her phone as on her MacBook Pro.
"It would certainly be more efficient for me to use a phone," she said. "I just need the right tool to keep my life straight."
© 2017 Los Angeles Times under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. All rights reserved.