Recently picked up a new TV for 2018? Great work! Research shows that early months of the year are indeed the best time to purchase that new TV, and gap intelligence lists Super Bowl season among the year’s most strategic times for TV purchasing (Super Bowl-timed ads for TVs up 6% on-year!). Noting that gap intelligence’s latest analysis also shows that 66% of the current TV retail landscape is 4K, chances are that your new 2018 TV setup is within this Ultra HD class. Making this investment often represents a first foray into 4K for many, and while TVs facilitate 4K content consumption at home, it is easier than ever to create your own 4K footage noting the spread of the technology across the smartphone and digital camera industries.

4K-Shooting Smartphones Already Dominant

What if I told you that the majority of smartphones available to purchase in retail today are equipped for 4K recording? With premium displays to behold and ever-increasing premium price points, this makes sense, especially with 4K-technology being that trendy box to check-off on a product’s spec sheet. 4K surpassed 1080p as the dominant video recording type for smartphones placed in retail during the last weeks of 2016, making 2017 the first full year of a 4K-standard smartphone market.

Currently in Q1 2018, 49% of the smartphones available for purchase in the retail channel are 4K-equipped, up from the 25% share that the recording resolution held two years ago in Q1 2016. During this same time, 1080p-equipped models relinquished their 49% share to now hold 30% of the current retail landscape, illustrating the swift momentum that smartphone technology shifts over a two-year period.

As 4K-recording smartphones become commonplace, the technology is maintaining a premium over lesser-recording handsets. In Q1 2018, the average retail net price of a 4K smartphone was $684, a 4% rise since Q1 2016. Meanwhile, these past two years have seen a dramatic downturn in the price of 1080p smartphones as HD technology is now table stakes for the smartphone industry. A 69% drop was seen in pricing for 1080p smartphones since Q1 2016, yielding an aggressive average net price of $180 compared to $572 just two years ago.

While we accredit Apple with unapologetically testing the upper pricing threshold of what consumers will pay for a smartphone, the brand is lesser-known for establishing entry-level pricing for the 4K smartphone market. Covering a wide spectrum from $149 to $1,199, Apple’s iPhone SE and iPhone X set the scope for the 4K segment, with most competitors’ portfolios beginning above $400. Motorola and ZTE’s 4K models notably start sub-$200 as they court budget-savvy tech-seekers, while Google & Sony show a more premium strategy as the only brands without any 4K-recording smartphones priced under $599.

4K Cameras Growing, Long Way to go Before Dominant Video Type


With smartphones taking over the majority of picture taking from our point-and-shoots, the dedicated camera market has remained an arena for rich innovation, but just not in terms of 4K. Smartphones score another point against cameras as the perpetuation of 4K within their market outpaces that of the traditional camera industry. Although the quantity of 4K-equipped cameras in retail has skyrocketed 430% since Q1 2016, the segment still represents just 22% of the retail shelf, making it today’s second most-common video recording type.

As basic models evaporate from retail, average net pricing for cameras is on the rise across most video technology segments. 4K-equipped cameras have seen an average price uptick of 16% in retail since Q1 2016, while models shooting 1080p faced a 27% rise. Interestingly, the premium from 1080p to 4K has remained steady at $600 over this two-year period, which shows a somewhat protectionist strategy from brands in the efforts to maintain clear differentiation within product lineups.

Of the camera brands that are involved in the 4K market, Nikon’s portfolio covers the widest price spectrum with average retail pricing ranging from its $336 CoolPix to $6,496 pro-level DSLRs. Most 4K product portfolios start sub-$400 in an effort to show relevant features to comparison shoppers, while Fujifilm and Sony begin their 4K lineups at a higher $899 to warrant premium distinction. Canon stands out as the only brand without 4K products in consumer price bands, meaning that all of its 4K options are withheld above $3,000. This clear stratification of Canon’s camera portfolio reflects the vendor’s previously poor attitude toward consumer adoption rates of 4K, but it will likely cave by introducing its first consumer 4K models this year. To date, 85% of new camera models introduced for 2018 showcase 4K recording capabilities, which is a positive sign for the technology’s traction in the camera market… now who is ready for 8K?