The smartphone production line has showed few signs of slowing as we head towards a busy launch schedule in 2015. A number of the world’s biggest developers will be releasing new flagship devices in 2015- but is the industry getting a little stale? Aside from larger screens, improved specs and a few novelty features, the industry as a whole has produced largely the same devices in recent times.
To keep you from abandoning the biennial refresh and holding onto a device, expect feature such as these to receive the most attention in future smartphones.
Thinking outside the rectangle
Smartphones are instantly recognisable by their slim rectangular form, and you’ll find almost all devices stick rigidly to this formula. Some innovation has been forthcoming, but only to the extent of the enlarged screen. ‘Phablets’ as they were coined for their smartphone-meets tablet-appearance, have been a huge success with the consumer, leading to a declining tablet sales. Further experimentation is expected with regards to the screen then, with a number of innovative devices already on the market.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge sports a curved screen that hugs the edges of the device, offering greater functionality. The LG G Flex is a similar concept, featuring a horizontally curved screen that lends itself well to viewing media.
These devices represent the first tentative steps towards alternative displays. At this year’s Mobile World Congross, Kyocera displayed a concept tablet with an unconventional design. Bending in the middle, Kyocera’s tablet removes the impracticalities of tablets, allowing you to slip it in your pocket.
Wearable tech is also experimenting heavily in screen designs. The EmoPulse Smile is a wrist-mountable smartphone. Operated by Linux, the Smile is a chunky bracelet with speech-recognition, gaming, digital assistant functions and even emotional sensors to gauge the mood of the user.
One final avenue for alternative displays is projectors. We’ve already seen new tablet devices with inbuilt projectors hit the market, notably in the Lenovo YOGA 2 Pro. For an even better solution to the smartphone’s intrinsically small screen, expect inbuilt projectors some time in the near future.
Virtual Reality is pretty big in tech at the moment. At least that’s what we keep being told. Such is the quality of smartphone displays today, they can be a cost-effective method for introducing yourself to the concept of VR. If the hype is to be believed, we’ll soon be consuming media such as live concerts, the latest films and AAA gaming titles in immersive virtual reality. Indeed, there is an ever expanding collection of VR apps on the Android store today. And as companies such as Valve and Oculus finally release their headsets, the industry is only going one way. For an introduction to VR, your best bet is with VISR, a £15 VR headset that harnesses the power of your smartphone.
From VR to AR. Augmented Reality is a little more exciting based purely on its blending of the digital world and the real world. Microsoft have thrown their support behind Augmented Reality with their device, the Hololens. Smartphones could become the perfect platform for projecting holograms into the real world. In fact, some apps exist on the market today that combine your phone’s camera and GPS signal to beam live information onto your display- the location of local bars and cafes being an example. Indeed the smartphone itself could become an AR device in its entirety. One creation mused online sees a smartphone interface projected onto your arm via a wearable wristband.
In a method not too dissimilar from VR, smartphones could grow in to the ideal gateway for AR tech to evolve.
Another concept floating around the smartphone world is that of the modular mobile. Google were first on the scene when they announced Project Ara, an ambitious attempt to revolutionise the way we look at the smartphone.
Think of it as Lego for your phone. Instead of upgrading your device biannually, thus throwing away a perfectly sound one in the process, a modular mobile has upgradable components. Much like a PC-builder would today, users can swap out their phone’s camera for more megapixels, or upgrade their RAM for a beefier spec.
Minimising waste and maximising personalisation, Project Ara was launched by Google and Motorola in 2014. The concept has since been adopted by Puzzlephone, who are looking to release their modular smartphone range at some stage in 2015. Google announced in January that they will be running a pilot programme in 2015, so expect progress on Project Ara as 2015 develops.
Smartphones are becoming ever more prominent as the focal point of our lives. Originally concerned only with phone calls, the mobile phone has rather greedily become our music player, our camera, our newspaper, our torch and our map. Far from content with stopping there, smartphones is now becoming the epicentre of your smart-life, the hub of the Internet of Things.
The process is already well underway. Almost all smart-home devices are paired to a smartphone app, allowing you to take greater control over your home. Smartphones are becoming the key to your front door, the switch for your lightbulbs and the wallet for all your cash. Aside from the smart-home, smartphones will also threaten the everyday pillars of technology as their functionality increases. Tablets are already under threat, and PCs and TVs could one day bite the dust.
All thanks to the all engulfing emperor of technology, King Smartphone.
To help run our ever-more complicated digital lives, you need an assistant. Voice recognition has been the subject of considerable interest since Siri was held hostage inside millions of iPhones from 2011. Android and Microsoft have both launched their creations since, with the latter’s Cortana of particular interest for the future.
Cortana uses the latest in speech recognition and Artificial Intelligence to understand natural language and learn about you. Recognising contextual cues previously thought to be exclusive to human consciousness, Cortana is the first tentative steps towards a consumer AI product.
Best of the Rest
Improving the few niggle’s that still grind on consumer’s gears will also become a key concept in the future of smartphone tech. Central to which is connectivity. The Internet of Things needs a vastly improved network if dreams of connected world are to become a reality. To do that, we need to discard the already sluggish 4G network and adopt a super-duper-mega fast network, 5G.
More applications means more power consumption. Battery power is not quite progressing at the same rate as other aspects of smartphone tech. Expect manufacturers to roll out devices that take us back to a nostalgic age when mobiles would last for an entire week, rather than just an entire day. Perhaps the use of alternative power sources, such as solar, could also be utilised to save you from carrying out adapters and spare batteries wherever you go.
Finally, wearables! If smartphone tech is becoming a little stale, then wearable tech might soon be ready to step into that void. The next level in consumer convenience, the smartphone will probably find itself mounted on your arm or your face sometime in the near future. Tech companies are still experimenting with smartwatches and smart-eye wear, but upon the Eureka moment, technology could find itself shifting away from the traditional interface of a handheld mobile phone.