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The smart phone of the future

Mobile phones are the fastest growing man-made phenomenon we’ve ever seen and commentators are forever asking “what more can a smartphone actually do?” The reality is the possibilities are almost unlimited. Features and functions we still associate with science fiction may become reality sooner than we think. RL360 has narrowed down some of the more interesting options in its article The Smartphone of the Future.

According to the United Nations, 6 of the world’s 7 billion people had a mobile phone in 2013. To put this into some kind of context, only 4.5 billion had a toilet! Globally today there are now more mobile devices (phones and tablets) than people. Mobile phones are the fastest growing man-made phenomenon we’ve ever seen. 


It’s estimated that around a third of all mobile phones in use today are smartphones, a percentage that’s certain to grow in the coming years. For the first time, 2014 saw smartphones overtake desktop PCs as the most used device to view the internet. 


When Apple launched the iPhone 5, many commentators openly asked “what more can a smartphone actually do”? 


The reality is the possibilities are almost unlimited. Features and functions we still associate with science fiction may become reality sooner than we think. 


Here are our predictions on what the smartphone of the future might be like.


Short term

  • Ever dropped your phone and smashed your screen? That may soon be a thing of the past as manufacturers make their phones more robust with scratch and shatter proof ion infused glass as well as liquid metal cases
  • Paying for features you don’t need? When fully customisable, modular phones are launched you’ll simply select from a menu the specific features you want on your phone, allowing you to “build” a phone that’s perfect for your needs. You’ll also be able to upgrade parts of your phone without buying a whole new handset
  • Although screen resolutions of current top of the range phones are approaching the limit of what the human eye can process, expect 4k displays (4 x HD screen resolution) on your smartphones within 4 or 5 years
  • The smartphone of tomorrow will feature an in-built projector, enabling you to use your phone as an interactive gaming console or home -cinema – you won’t even need a TV screen, just a flat surface!
  • Expect to see considerable improvements in Voice Control. The limitations of Siri will give way to more advanced, intuitive and eventually 2-way voice control technology in the near future. Web searching as we know it today could disappear entirely – instead our digital assistant will find what we’re looking for
  • Most intriguing are the possibilities of ID verification. Fingerprint verification is already available on later iPhone models and expect this to become widespread, either through fingerprint or retina recognition. This unique biometric verification of an individual person opens up the possibility of your phone being used for secure transactions and payments and as your “signature”.


Medium term

By 2025 we anticipate some of the inherent limitations of today’s smartphones to be overcome. 


  • The limitation of a small screen will disappear with the launch of the long anticipated foldable (or flexible) screen. You will be able to fold and unfold your screen thanks to Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) and advances with the new wonder material, graphene. Paper thin screens will display information on both sides - handy for delivering presentations
  • Indeed, your whole phone will be flexible, meaning you can fold it up to put it in your pocket
  • An enduring problem for smartphone users is battery life. While the holy grail of the everlasting battery may be some way off, the development of titanium dioxide gel (which stores charge much more efficiently than current batteries) looks set to revolutionise battery life. This will combine with much faster-charging batteries
  • More functionality needs faster processing speed. If you think 4G browsing today is quick, the next generation wireless mobile network could be rapid enough to download an HD movie in under 30 seconds
  • The concept of services being available on one of your devices but not others will disappear. Your activity will seamlessly switch from one device to another - activity will no longer be tied to a device, instead it will be tied to the user
  • Phones will be packed with more camera lenses and microphones, enabling 3D or augmented reality functions. There are already 3D smart phones on the market (such as the LG Optimus 3D) but the next great leap will be holographic projections. Imagine watching a football match in 3D right in front of your eyes.


Longer term

Already the word “smart phone” is misleading – the “phone” feature is becoming marginalised. In the UK, texting overtook talking all the way back in 2012. So expect future “phones” to no longer even feature a phone. 


Children in 2040 will laugh as their parents recount tales of how they had to actually hold their phone to operate it. It’s already starting with wearable technology and devices like the Google Glass headset. Headsets that look like regular glasses will project information onto your glasses lens, which will also contain outward-facing cameras to provide augmented reality experiences. Don’t like wearing glasses? Choose from a Smart watch or even a smart bracelet, both with holographic capability. 


It’s unlikely to stop there. How long will it be before we no longer need a physical device at all? 


Imagine wearing a smart contact lens that would display messages, information and video literally right in front of your eyes. If it sounds fanciful then consider that contact lenses with some computer circuitry are already in existence, to alert diabetics to dangerous glucose levels. 


Nano technology (and the miniaturisation of technology this enables) opens up the possibility of even having our smartphone actually implanted inside our body. The line between man and machine really would begin to blur. 


So as cool as you think your smartphone is today, we may still be at the very tip of the iceberg of what this extraordinary bit of kit that even didn’t exist 30 years ago is capable of delivering. The future may be exciting, even a little scary, but without doubt it’s going to be digital. 


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