We’ve been on a magical ride for the past 20 years or so with cellular, and later smartphone technology.
Not one devoid of bumps and bruises, but yesterday’s science fiction is becoming today’s reality.
In some ways we have even surpassed our parents imaginations expressed in Scifi movies.
We’ve seen phones that can function underwater, shatterproof smartphone screens, attachments that allow your phone to function as a projector, and a myriad of apps that have brought a new genre to gaming.
We’ve seen all the way to apps that can measure the wind speed or even recognize songs. My current phone has a camera that is almost 2 x’s better than the $250 camera I was given as a gift back in 2008. Considering the quality of pictures on the old flip phones to how far we’ve come in less than 10 years is nothing short of spectacular.
While thinking about all the features we have now, it's only a short step further to begin speculating on what will come next. If the past is anything to go off of, our imagination’s the limit- but here are some things we think we might see happening sooner rather than later!
Camera, Display, and Audio quality
The first one isn’t too surprising really.
With almost every launch, smartphones have been improving in these areas, sometimes in leaps and bounds, and at other launches the improvements may be more modest.
Camera’s have come a long way since the first cell phones, from barely recognizable, to some phones sporting up to 21 megapixels, and others with dual-lens rear cameras. Displays can be expected to come in at even better resolutions, with bezel free displays on the horizon, and speaker technology is on the rise.
In the next few years, you may not even need to buy speakers to fill your room or house with music.
Battery life is a feature that has simultaneously been neglected by developers, but also, with each advancement in battery technology, phones have required more power for the new apps and features, causing for a net zero-gain in battery life.
While some phones sport better battery lives than others, the popularity of slim designs among all smartphone developers has left somewhat of a void for customers.
More consumers everyday are showing that they value battery life in their smartphone, and we should expect the technology and developers to respond in kind. There is a day on the horizon where you won’t need a mid-day charge for your phone, even with active use.
Solar and Kinetic Charging
Speaking of battery life, it's likely that smartphones are going to be looking to go green.
Solar charging, either through the screen or another sensor, is in the works- although don’t plan on letting replace your wall-charger just yet, it's intended to help with when you’re away from a power source, such as camping and hiking. In addition, kinetic charging, currently theorized to happen by spinning your phone, if you’re daring enough, is also in development. It is unclear currently, just how much spinning would be required for a full charge and just how safe this will be for your phone (and your face).
Smartphone Frames and Screens
Cracked screens and busted devices are a constant concern and complaint for smartphone consumers, and developers have several ways they are trying to address the issue.
New research has developed a material that can stretch to roughly 50 x’s the original size. Although other phones have featured similar materials, this one is now also able to conduct electricity, and as such, suitable for screen technology. Whenever there is a break or scratch, the molecules attract back to themselves in order to heal it.
Perhaps farther out in the future are flexible frames. Although there have been half-hearted attempts in the past, this is one direction we expect to see further researched, although its popularity with consumers is hard to speculate.
In a similar vein as the flexible frames, other developers have been looking into smartphones that are foldable or rounded to be smaller and less-intrusive for transport or when not in use. In addition to this, foldable devices can protect the screen better from wear and tear, and prevent screens hitting the ground when dropped.
That’s right, in the near future, Tony Stark and characters in Star Wars won’t be using a futuristic technology to build iron man suits and send rebel messages- you will be too.
Look for upcoming phones to leave the world of 2D behind and explore the capabilities of holograms and 3D. It’s expected that along with this technology, movement and interaction with the holograms will follow.
Much like Stark, you’ll be able to resize, move, pull, open and close apps and pictures and interact with your phone via the holographic displays. The adaptability for this is limitless, besides having an interactive photo gallery and gaming possibilities, this technology could revolutionize design and architecture.
Debuting now on the Cat S60, thermal imaging should be on the radar for major smartphone developers as well.
There’s a variety of uses that can be had with this kind of technology in your phone cameras, such as the obvious, being able to see in complete darkness without a flashlight, useful in situations where you can’t afford light pollution or when searching for something.
In addition, you can use it to detect heat loss around windows and doors, find moisture leaks, missing insulation, or show what devices in your home are producing too much heat.
Building upon existing fingerprint technology, biometric technology is going to see further development, such as use with keystroke dynamics, which may become standard for phones.
This is where keystrokes can be measured and evaluated, such as the time between each letter, depressions, and a number of other factors which are unique to a user. This can be useful for security purposes and also for medical diagnosis and/or monitoring.
Apps can utilize this along with deep learning and cloud technology to turn your phone into the first point of contact for medical professionals and ease off some of the pressure clinics and hospitals face.
Another of the common woes that smartphone users face is water damage.
While some phones have been resistant up to certain depths and certain amounts of time, no phone has been truly waterproof, and damage can occur through corrosion oftentimes, and not just the water itself. Developers are experimenting now with technology that is designed to expel water out of speakers and/or other ports with air.
While the smart route is still going to be keeping your phone out of the water, this development can help avoid a lot of the complications and damage that come from a phone’s immersion in water.
It is already quite surprising the breadth of sensors that are available in smartphones, but look to see even more coming soon.
Researchers have developed new chemical sensors that are small and low-cost that can, in a smartphone, allow you to detect trace amounts of various toxins and harmful gasses in the air.
This, while not likely necessary for the average every-day user, can help especially when in dangerous or questionable environments. This can be incredibly advantageous for those who work with chemicals and gasses on a daily basis, as well as for those serving in armed services. The sooner this becomes part of the normal smartphone features, isn’t soon enough when safety is at stake.
In addition to toxin sensors, it is quite likely that other sensors will follow, allowing for medical evaluation and diagnosis- imagine a world where your smartphone can monitor your blood sugar or blood pressure accurately for you without other invasive devices.
Qualcomm, Samsung, and others have been rumored to be investigating this one for a long time now, and an expectation for release can be had for sometime in 2020. For those who don’t know exactly what this means- 5G will be looking to improve upon current 4G technology. Improvements will include things such as:
- Better data rates in megabits per second where users are densely close together, such as in metropolitan areas
- 1Gb per second for users in the workplace
- Improved coverage and signal
- Reduced latency
All in all, expect to see your coverage and data rates improve, you’ll use less data and your connections should be faster all around.
Full Voice Control and AI
Siri, and other similar programs such as Moto and Cortana, have already had a huge impact on the smartphone industry, and have introduced a new depth to smartphone use.
While now it is situationally useful and a novelty, look for this technology to be heavily focused on becoming more intelligent, user-friendly, and intuitive. Instead of answering basic questions and applying google searches along with limited app interaction, think (again, like Tony Stark) of having a virtual assistant that can intuitively respond to your queries and demands. Deep learning technology is evolving by the day, and soon Siri may present a personality and be able to conversate with you while you use your phone seamlessly.
With imagination and research applied, there’s seemingly no limit to where smartphone technology can take us, and while this list looks at what to expect in the next few years, it nearly impossible to predict where we’ll be in the next 20 or so years.
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