The smartphone has been the most successful electronics product ever, having absorbed in itself the capabilities of the PC, camera, TV, sat-nav, and more along the way. The smartphone has opened massive doors of innovation and opportunity within technology. It is our constant digital companion and go-to device for almost everything: communication, web browsing, listening to music, watching a video, shopping, socializing. The list goes on and on.
However, there are several reasons why analysts predict the end of the smartphone domination in the near future:
• Almost everyone who can afford a smartphone already has one;
• In many countries the market is saturated – walk around any phone store or browse online, and you’ll find rows of similar looking rectangular shaped smartphones with similar features;
• Our smartphones are over-filled with clever features that most of us don’t even know exist and certainly, have never used. That’s why people are unwilling to upgrade their phones, and, instead, they look elsewhere to spend their money on new technology, such as digital assistants and head-mounted devices;
• We’re tired of carrying smartphones around, losing them, and, if to be honest, fed up with often terrible battery life;
• After many years focused on the smartphone sector, investors are starting to turn their attention to the artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics market.
It’s well-known fact that every technology rises, and then falls.
But what’s next? What will replace the smartphone?
To understand how the future may look, it makes sense to look at our history.
Until 2007, we lived in the age of personal computers. PC was a hot-ticket item you’d need to replace every year or two. Then suddenly computers became boring and the arrival of the original iPhone in that same year heralded a revolution in how we use computing power, transforming it to something that we carried in our pockets and accessed all the time.
As a result, the PC market collapsed almost entirely being replaced by the smartphone. It, of course, doesn’t mean that PC died out entirely back in 2007. It means that PC found its niche and fossilized. As to the smartphone, it has taken about ten years to get from its first version to near complete. And now the end of smartphone domination is just around the corner.
During the next decade, we will start to transition to the next era of computing and connected devices, which we will wear and command using our voices, gesture, and touch. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), computer vision, conversational UI’s and new breeds of sensors are about to fundamentally change not only the way that we interact with information but will have far-reaching impacts into how to live, work and experience life.
The smartphone is responsible for birthing these new technologies, but these new technologies will one day displace the smartphone and reduce its importance. They promise a new kind of digital reality. And this reality is already here.
The smart home:
• Amazon Echo
• Google Home
The latest AI devices from Apple (HomePod), Amazon (Amazon Echo) and Google (Google Home) enable us to control lighting, check the weather forecast, consult our diaries, listen to music, book a taxi, and much more — all just by talking. And furthermore, there are already advanced smart home features like smart doorbells that perform face recognition, climate control per peoples’ behavior patterns, and smart irrigation and water management, etc.
It’s clear that the home is a key access point to consumers’ hearts and wallets. As the consumer IoT and smart-home markets progress, we will see less and less reliance on the smartphone.
• Earbuds that have biometric sensors and speakers (e.g. AirPods)
• Rings and bracelets that can sense our motion (e.g. Xiaomi Mi Band)
• Glasses that record and display information (e.g. Vuzix, Solos, ODG)
• Smartwatches that have an almost complete functionality of a typical smartphone (e.g. Apple Watch)
These are just some examples of clever hardware with enormous potential for the mass market.
By putting a mobile data connection in the watch we’ve taken our first step towards eventually replacing the phone. Will we still want to carry a phone when we can call, text, email, listen to music, and run apps on a device that we naturally wear?
For example, Apple Watch now has a full LTE connection inside of it, so you can stream music or answer calls entirely without a phone. That doesn’t mean people will instantly stop buying iPhones, of course. What it does mean is they will encounter more occasions when the phone can safely be left behind. The same with Apple’s AirPods – building a voice controlled device with a mini computer in it is one more step towards replacing the smartphone.
The main challenge here is how to package the wearable devices. They need to be light and untethered on the one hand, but to have very powerful processors and long battery life on the other hand. This combination poses a significant challenge for chip makers who need to find an ultra-efficient solution. And there are still certain types of interactions that won’t work as well on a wearable such as reading large amounts of texts, viewing media or interfaces that require sorting through large amounts of data.
The iPhone X is somehow the technology of the future, specifically adopting OLED screen technology for the first time in iPhone history, as well as using a glass and stainless-steel form factor, offering wireless charging, and removing the home button in favor of introducing Face ID, a new authentication method using advanced technologies to scan the user’s face to unlock the device, as well as for the use of animated emojis called Animoji. The new, nearly bezel-less form factor marks a significant change to the iPhone user interaction, involving swipe-based gestures to navigate around the operating system rather than the typical home button used in every previous iteration of the iPhone lineup.
Many of the design changes in the iPhone X seem aimed at deemphasizing its mechanical nature, turning it more into a window through which to access information in new forms, such as augmented reality.
An eSIM is an electronic SIM card. As the name suggests, it will replace the physical, plastic SIM card all current smartphones use with a virtual embedded equivalent that cannot be removed. One of the benefits of an eSIM is that it’s absolutely tiny, just a small fraction the size of a nanoSIM. This is what makes it so well-suited to ultra-compact gadgets like watches, which simply don’t have the room for a normal SIM.
It’s clear that the need for eSIM is growing, and its flexibility is no doubt attractive to a large audience. And yes, eSIM is further evidence of the end of the smartphone era.
The smartphone will, most probably, remain the most important personal electronics device for consumers for the foreseeable future, but as technology progresses, we will not rely on or be limited to the smartphone forever.
We’ve gone from numerical keyboards to touchscreens. We’ve changed from wired headphones to wireless, wired charging to wireless, and from phones that fold, slide, or flip to ones that are solid, thin and waterproof.
And now we’re moving into a new decade of innovation, where new technologies will have an even greater impact on our lifestyles. Less technological distractions and more balance is the motto of our future. The future in which physical and digital world will become the same thing.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below.