IT device expert “PeterGuang” talks about the future of mobile phone, connected devices and tech war

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Many people might have been familiar with the way we functioned “push-button phone” of the 19070s and early 80s with 12 keys. Today, dtac blog sat down to have a talk with the developer of Thai language keypad-based phones, Peerapol Chatanantavej or widely known as “PeterGuang”. He brings his 20-year experience in Telecommunications to lead Device Portfolio unit at dtac currently.

“I have spent my time in IT industry since I was a university student. After my graduation, I joined a factory and oversaw its TV manufacturing line. Later on, I moved to Nokia and initially took charge of network equipment. But by the time analogue mobile phone industry started to emerge, I was assigned to oversee Nokia’s mobile-phone operations. At that time, mobile phones were bulky and heavy. Each one cost Bt50,000. That was very expensive,” Peerapol said.

His career has extended beyond Nokia. Peerapol had changed jobs over the years, working for several big brands including Motorola. During his stint with Motorola, he took part in the development of handwriting input feature for the world’s very first smartphone models. The result was considered an innovation of the time. Then, during the golden age of blackberry, Peerapol joined dtac. 

Rise and Fall of Mobile Phones

“I came to join dtac’s Device Strategy Unit. My job is to work with all mobile phone manufacturers and select phone models that are good in terms of marketing and technical aspects. To do my job, I need to have solid understanding of communication technologies and innovations,” Peerapol explains.

When it comes to communications technology, there are two important parts. The upstream part is network, and the downstream part is mobile phones. Communications will be made only when there are both parts. In the beginning, the focus was on radio-signal development to prevent signals from interfering with one another. In the 1G era, it was easy to tap a phone conversation. But when the 2G era started, communications began shifting from analogue to digital system. Over the time, wireless communications had been seriously developed. Efficiency increase has gone to the point that the 4G era has arrived. In the era, service users can enjoy streaming services and work remotely without any interruption. Consumers’ needs, in all, are well fulfilled.

Phone developers have created their devices in response to consumers’ needs, since the time people mainly used line-based home phones to the time people have carried wireless communication devices. Today, mobile phones enable their owners to do much more than just talking to one another. Mobile phones now are good for typing documents, writing emails, editing VDO, and taking pictures. Simply put, a mobile phone has already functioned like a small computer. Mobile-phone developers and related factories have kept improving to deliver increasing device efficiency to consumers. For example, mobile-phone screen is no longer LED screens. They are now interactive displays with 4K resolution. In terms of camera quality, pictures taken by mobile phones now have high resolutions just like what full-frame cameras can offer.

“It is undeniable that communication technologies have already shaped consumer behaviors drastically in recent decades. Probably, the market is now saturated. Smartphone features have already fulfilled consumers’ needs in every aspect. Consumers have a vast range of chipsets to choose for their smartphones. So, the imminent challenge of mobile-phone developers is how to develop devices based on what consumers will want at the time consumers themselves have not yet known they want that kind of things. To survive in the saturated market, developers must deliver a must-have, not nice-to-have features,” Peerapol explains.

Age of Connected Devices and 5G

Presently, consumers have chosen smartphones based on the quality of “screen, camera, and battery”. A great screen means clearer display paving way for them to fully enjoy entertainment such as streamed VDOs, which are now available in HD formats. In regard to camera performance, some smartphones now offer 108-million-pixel images and the 100x zoom. Also, consumers now want long-lasting battery for their smartphone – the type that allows the devices to function all day long with just a single charge.

Recently, an increasing number of brands have created gimmicks like folding smartphones and curved screens as new selling points. Peerapol, however, sees these moves as just something to color up the industry a bit. For these gimmicks, consumers need to pay between Bt40,000 and Bt70,000 per device. Some of the most expensive models fetch nearly Bt100,000 apiece.

From now on, the development of smartphones and connected devices will have to focus on compatibility with 5G technologies. It is true that some models have already been compatible with 5G. These models, however, are expensive due to the high cost of chipsets involved. It will take time for the mass market to adopt the new technologies before the Economy of Scale can be achieved.

Another interesting aspect of 5G development surrounds IoT devices for “health” such as smart watches that can measure heart rates, blood-pressure, and blood oxygen levels. These gadgets look set to receive a warm welcome from the market.

“In IoT era, smartphones will be the command of connected devices. This means smartphones will become even more indispensable,” Peerapol added.

Thailand and Tech Battles

Today, “technologies” have determined the advantages of superpowers like China and Western countries. So, as the world is stepping into 5G era, tech war has started to intensify with players trying to secure an upper hand. China, at present, has owned not just “advanced” but also “affordable” technologies. Lately, Chinese gadgets as a result have enjoyed growing popularity. China’s success on technological front stems from the Chinese government’s solid R&D support. All tech-owning countries like the United States, Britain, Japan and South Korea have created ecosystem that is favorable to “Startup”. In other words, their ecosystem encourages innovators to bring ideas to reality and foster commercial potential.

In Thailand, there are just a few tech startups. With very few startups specializing in tech/innovation development, Thailand largely remains a tech user. It should also be noted that the country has been losing its potential as a manufacturing base because Thai labor cost is now much higher than that in China, India, and Vietnam. 

“In the 5G era, the Thai government should create more and more spaces for startups of Thai innovations and technologies especially agricultural technology, travel, logistics, personal healthcare, and so on, and let them to go to the market. Such approach will curb Thailand’s dependence on imported technologies,” Peerapol concludes.

Peerapol’s Favorite IT Gadgets

  • Samsung Note: It enables fast & easy writing
  • iPhone 11 Pro: It operates on iOS that is famous for stability.
  • iPad: It is great for out-of-office meetings.
  • Airpods: It is great for listening to music and watching movies.
  • Aftershockz: It is used for working out
  • Plantronics: It is used for phone and conference calls