The status quo of the Chinese mobile phone market you see online is likely to be fake

If you often go to the digital circle, you may have had this doubt: every day online discussions are always inseparable from flagship phones. Is this all the mobile phone market? Are some things that people often say, such as small screens, 5G development, etc., are all correct?

This also reminds me of another slogan: Some people like to use the joke of "I am in the United States, just got off the plane" to tease the discussion of Zhihu that "seems very advanced, but in fact it is out of reality."

Similar phenomena occur from time to time in the mobile phone circle. Statements such as "Flagship per capita" and "Anyone who understands mobile phones will look at the price-performance ratio" often represent a prejudice that is disconnected from reality. In the real Chinese mobile phone market, there is actually a lot of "common sense" that has been ignored and misunderstood by us.

▲ Picture from: CNET

Recently, the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology issued two research reports , and made detailed statistics on the 2/3/4/5G ratios of new domestic devices connected to the network in the past 5 years, communication capabilities, screen size, camera parameters and other characteristics. .

The report data comes from the database of the Tyre Terminal Laboratory. Since this laboratory itself belongs to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and is also responsible for the network access testing of new domestic machines, the authority of the report is convincing enough, and it can also give us a more intuitive and in-depth understanding of domestic Some status quo of the mobile phone market.

5G has been in commercial use for a year, but there is still a market for pure 2G mobile phones

The first is the proportion of 5G mobile phones. If 2019 is the first year of domestic 5G commercialization, it has been more than a year so far. In theory, the proportion of new 5G phones should also be relatively high.

But the conclusion of the report is not so. In the fourth quarter of 2020, there were a total of 156 mobile phones that applied for access to the Internet in China. Among them, 94 mobile phones supported 5G, accounting for about 60%. This means that there are nearly 40% of new mobile phones that still only support 4G or even 4G. 2. 3G network.

Compared with foreign countries, China's 5G development is actually relatively fast. It can also be seen from the data graph that the first wave of new 5G devices in China appeared in the fourth quarter of 2019, accounting for about 40%; and now, this proportion has reached 60%, which is equivalent to saying that every 10 new devices At least 6 mobile phones on the market support 5G.

But why, we still failed to eliminate the 2, 3G feature phones? And from the data graph, in the past five years, the number of pure 3G mobile phones connected to the network has become less and less, but 2G mobile phones have remained firmly in the market.

This is also related to the domestic mobile network infrastructure and the evolution of 2/3/4G. In fact, 3G and 4G both appeared for the development of mobile Internet, so the two will overlap each other in many scenarios. So in today's highly mature 4G, 3G does not actually exist.

But 2G is different. Now we use mobile phones to make calls, and when the signal is bad, we will drop to the 2G network, not to mention the remote areas in China, many of which only have 2G network coverage.

This proves that pure 2G mobile phones still have its usability. If the 2G network is directly cleared, basic communication cannot be guaranteed, and many people may not even be able to make calls.

▲ Many pure 2G feature phones of China Mobile and China Unicom can also be bought on JD.com

However, the three domestic operators also have their own ideas on the issue of "guarantee 2G or 3G". For China Mobile, 3G chose the embarrassing TD standard that year, and it couldn't integrate with the mainstream, so it will clear 3G first while retaining 2G.

If it is replaced by China Unicom, which has a more mainstream WCDMA 3G system, it tends to retire 2G first.

5G mobile phones have different frequency bands, but they have nothing to do with real and fake 5G

In addition to the proportion of 5G mobile phones, the report of the Institute of Information and Communications Technology also counted the frequency band support of 5G mobile phones.

The report shows that the new 5G mobile phones that entered the network in the fourth quarter supported the two frequency bands N78 and N41, but nearly half of the products did not support the two frequency bands N79 and N28.

This is also the point where the "real and fake 5G mobile phones" were noisy. In principle, two mobile phones with different costs and prices will indeed have a certain gap in the 5G support frequency bands, but the lack of some frequency bands will affect our 5G experience? The answer is no.

Last year, China Unicom also marked the terminal frequency band requirements in its " 5G Terminal White Paper ", of which only the N78 and N41 frequency bands are listed as mandatory options.

The reason is that N78 is a 5G frequency band shared by China Unicom and China Telecom, and is also the main frequency band for 5G worldwide; N41 is a wide coverage frequency band for China Mobile's 5G.

This also means that as long as a 5G mobile phone supports these two frequency bands, it can currently use the 5G networks of the three operators.

As for N79 and N28, these two frequency bands are both 5G frequency bands that China Mobile will use in the future, and also involve China's fourth largest operator: China Radio and Television's 5G frequency band.

But the problem is that China Mobile's N79 is still in the testing stage, and the radio and television industry has not yet been commercialized. It is equivalent to saying that it is "not available now, but may be useful in the future."

To figure this out, you can also adjust your purchase plan for a 5G mobile phone: If the mobile phone is a fast-moving consumer product to you, you will need to change it every 1-2 years. You don’t have to worry about what the Internet says "No XX band is "Fake 5G mobile phones".

But if you have the need to travel abroad, such as Europe and Japan, then the N77 frequency band is still very important; or if you plan to buy a 5G mobile phone for four to five years, the frequency band will be more complete and it will be more secure.

In 2020, you can still see the new machine of Android 6.0

The third point of concern in the report is the system version distribution of domestic Android phones.

Although the official version of Android 11 was released in September 2020, in the fourth quarter of the same year, 41.5% of newly listed Android devices in China had this version of the system pre-installed. It can be seen that manufacturers are still very timely in following up on the new system.

However, the fragmentation problem of the Android system still exists. As can be seen from the figure, many of the new phones launched last year are equipped with Android 6 and 7 systems two or three years ago, and they may still be mostly unknown small brands and elderly phones.

The residence period of an old version of the Android system in China is also longer than I expected. For example, Android 7.0, released in 2016, accounted for a higher proportion in the fourth quarter of last year than Android 9.0.

This also makes people very curious about which manufacturers are so "nostalgic."

The market for small screen phones is still there, but they are mainly feature phones

The Institute of Information and Communications Technology also has a second report on the hardware characteristics of mobile phones, focusing on the distribution of parameters such as screens and cameras of new domestic mobile phones.

The first is the screen size. Large screens are undoubtedly the mainstream now. The report also mentioned that in the fourth quarter of 2020, 80.6% of the mobile phone screens are more than 5 inches, and basically more than 5.5 inches.

But if you look at the whole year, there are actually nearly 20% to 30% of the new phones in the domestic market, using 3.5-inch or even smaller screens, which are basically feature phones that can only use 2G networks.

Next is the mobile phone screen resolution, which also has obvious differentiation.

On the one hand, there are new 5G phones with a resolution of 720p and above, accounting for 77.7% in the fourth quarter of last year, and most of them are FHD+ and FHD levels.

But on the other side, the 480×320 resolution camp composed of 2G mobile phones and feature phones also accounts for two to thirty percent, which is not a small number.

Finally, the screen-to-body ratio. At present, models with more than 70% screen-to-body ratio have reached 72.9%, most of which are newly listed 5G mobile phones.

But you can also see that there are also more than 20% of mobile phones with a screen-to-body ratio of less than 50%, which is obviously the legacy of feature phones.

From this, you will find that although smart phones have been developed for more than ten years and screens and other technologies have made rapid progress, in fact, on the other end of the market, quite a few users are still stuck in the hardware era of 2/3G mobile phones.

Their mobile phones have very small screen sizes and low resolution, and are likely to be equipped with traditional nine-grid buttons.

These three data also revealed a message: in the second half of 2017, the screen of domestic mobile phone products ushered in a significant upgrade.

Comparing the data chart, you can see that before the third and fourth quarters of 2017, there are not many mobile phones that can reach the standard of "5.5 inches or more, 75% or more screen-to-body ratio, FHD+ resolution", but after that, these three items The indicators have achieved significant growth and gradually become the mainstream of the market.

▲ Picture from: Gizmodo

Investigating its root causes, the emergence of "full-screen mobile phones" in the second half of 2017 should be the origin of this evolution.

Due to the removal of the buttons on the front of the mobile phone screen and the narrowing of the frame, these changes have significantly increased the screen size and screen-to-body ratio, and ultimately promoted a wave of screen technology upgrades.

In this part of the screen, there is another result that does not match our usual observations: the screen material.

Among the new phones in the fourth quarter of 2020, nearly 70% of mobile phones still use TFT-LCD screen materials, while screens such as OLED and AMOLED, which are often seen in high-end mobile phones, account for just over 20%.

This also proves that most mobile phones on the market are still based on LCD screens. After all, LCD still has its advantages in terms of technology maturity and cost; as for the popularity of OLED screens, it is currently only reflected in mid-to-high-end products. on.

Not all new mobile phones come with a camera

Finally, let's talk about the camera.

According to the statistical results, the new 5G phones currently on the market will basically no longer use the front lens of less than 5 million pixels, and the specifications of the rear camera will mostly be higher than 13 million pixels.

These are all expected results, but what we don't know is that there are still quite a few new machines on the market without cameras.

This ratio is not a lot. Looking back at the entire 2020, basically every quarter about 20-30% of new mobile phones are not equipped with a front camera, of which, naturally, 2G mobile phones are the main ones.

The situation with the rear camera is similar. Only 40% of 2G mobile phones have a rear camera, but none of the specifications exceed 5 million pixels.

I also went to JD.com to search and found a lot of 2G feature phones without cameras, such as the Nokia 105, which is priced at 139 yuan, without a front and rear lens.

The other Nokia 150 also only carries a 300,000-pixel rear single camera, which is basically the imaging level of a feature phone more than ten years ago.

The wake of the era of feature phones

All in all, the two reports from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology can still reflect the current status of China's mobile phone market and some development trends.

Many people think that the world has long been occupied by smart phones, and we will not be able to return to the era of feature phones. But the fact is that old products such as "old man phones" and "student phones" that are extremely low-priced and can guarantee basic communication requirements are still Active in the corner of the market.

Whether to completely eliminate these "outdated products" has also become a headache for operators now. In May last year , the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology put forward the statement "promoting the migration of existing 2G and 3G Internet of Things services to narrowband Internet of Things, 4G and 5G networks." It hopes that major operators can transfer existing customers to other networks as soon as possible for the development of 5G networks. Free up frequency bands and base station resources.

This is not an easy task for operators, and it will definitely take time to grind. But with better mobile networks, mobile phone products can move to the next stage more quickly and allow continuous technological advancement. Thinking about it this way, maybe we can also support 5G mobile phones both physically and spiritually.

Source of title image: Oregon Live

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