Chances are, you’re reading this article on your phone. You were probably directed to it by a friend sharing it on Facebook – which you were checking out after checking your emails.
For 5.15 billion of us worldwide, our phones have become no less than our life support system as we rely on them for everything from doing our banking to doing business.
It wasn’t so long ago that mobile phones could do two things – make and receive calls and, send and receive text messages.
In just a few short years, the humble phone has become more powerful than anybody could have imagined. As we get ready to ring in the year 2020, we take a look at the shape of phones to come in the not-too-distant future.
A flexible friend
As with so much of today’s technology, the future design of our phones will aim to address common pain points of users.
One such pain point is the fact that the size and solid shape of our phones means that we need a bag or pocket big enough to pop it into.
Smartphone companies are already working on the idea of a phone which can be bent and folded to fit even the smallest of pockets. You may be surprised to learn that Nokia was working on this back in 2008 when it introduced the idea of the ‘Morph Phone’ which could be snapped apart, bent in half and even wrapped around the wrist for easy transportation.
Although we don’t, as yet, have a flexible phone available on the market for commercial purchase, with several companies on the case, it’s unlikely to be too far off.
AI on the line
As artificial intelligence begins to creep into every aspect of our daily lives, it’s not difficult to imagine it coming to a phone near you in the very near future.
Techy types have begun envisioning a phone which will double up as a virtual assistant.
We know that the phones we have now can remind us of appointments, hold our shopping lists and connect us to all of our various accounts. The phone of the future will be able to do so much more.
Forward thinking companies are working on AI-integrated phones which will learn about our behaviour in order to help manage our daily lives – for example, your phone will alert you to the fact that you’ve overslept and, whilst you’re still dragging yourself from dreamland, will be notifying your work and calculating the fastest route to get you there on time.
In 2011, Julius Tarng began looking at his concept with his Modai phone which would manage daily events by adapting to different situations in much the way a human being would.
In terms of business, AI is likely to become even more important to marketers who, in the future, will be able to use social listening more proactively.
Increased use of our phones will mean that marketers are able to gather even more data in real time and, therefore, will be able to interact instantly with customers.
As we become more and more reliant on our technology, we’re also becoming increasingly aware of the ways in which this technology drains our planet’s resources.
Leading phone companies have been pondering on this issue for some time, trying to figure out ways of making our phones more eco-friendly. Ideas that have been put forward so far include the use of biodegradable materials for the construction of our phones and methods of charging which use cleaner energy.
Kyocera is one such company and, at the 2016 Mobile World Congress trade show, it showcased a new prototype phone which runs on solar power. Although the company is still ironing out some kinks in the concept, this could prove to be a very real solution to the eco issues surrounding our phones.
Sci-fi or Sci-fact
Although green AI based, bendy phones are no doubt on their way, there are a few predictions which are still way off.
In the last few years, there’s been talk of mobile phones which would be capable of projecting holographic images and virtual displays onto the top of the screen for superior interaction. In 2014, rumors were abound that the iPhone 6 would contain this technology – rumors which proved to be just that.
Although this has not been a feature in the iPhone 6 – or the iPhone 8, for that matter, the idea shouldn’t be dismissed completely. Queen’s University in Canada has been working on a prototype of its ‘Holoflex’ phone which will be holographic and flexible; meaning that users can bend the handset to change the 3D holographic display. For the time being, however, portable holographic devices remain the realm of Hollywood movies.
One of those pain points we talked about is the fact that, at the moment, in order to use our phones, we have to sully our delicate hands by touching them.
“As voice recognition becomes progressively more accurate, there are those who believe that our future phones will never leave our bag or pocket – as we’ll be able to access calls, texts and the internet through two-way voice control” says Fernando Angulo Head of Partnerships, Semrush. This means that we can look forward to a future of overhearing some very odd conversations as we go about our daily business.
A future without phones
Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting that, in the future, we’ll be shunning our phones in favour of real life interaction.
However, if we’re talking waaaaaay into the future then, it’s reasonable to assume that technology, as it continues its warp speed advancement, will bring about some changes.
There are those who feel that, in years to come, we’ll no longer have to carry an actual device around with us. There’s a possibility that, at some point, our phone technology will be provided by a tiny chip inserted into our skin, allowing us to carry out all of our necessary tasks instantly and, without a physical piece of equipment – which gives an entirely new meaning to the term ‘hands-free’.
There’s no doubt that the future of mobile phones will look and feel very different to the present day, however, it remains to be seen as to just how many of these predictions are just impossible and, which are just around the corner.