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future mobile phonesIf you could go back in time ten years and give yourself a sneak peek at the smartphone you own now, what would you think? Would you be amazed by the brilliant display? Would the fast hardware capture your attention? Or would you simply scream “but time travel is impossible!?!

What about if you could jump ten years forward from today’s date? What do you think you’d see? Predicting the technology in future mobile phones is a difficult business – but it’s also fun.

Super-Duper-High Resolution Displays

future mobile phones

Now that the touchscreen The 3 Steps To Setting Up Your Android Tablet's Touchscreen Keyboard The 3 Steps To Setting Up Your Android Tablet's Touchscreen Keyboard Over a year after the initial launch of the iPad, we are finally seeing some decent tablet alternatives on the market. Recent legal quarrels between Apple and Samsung indicate that competition will be fierce. Obviously,... Read More has become the interface of choice for new phones, advances in display technology will become a priority for all manufacturers.

We already have the “qHD” display, a new term for a resolution of 960×540. Ten years from now however, we’ll probably be looking at mobile phones that offer resolutions well beyond that.

720p? Why not? You may need to stick your nose to your phone to see the difference in quality, but I’m sure the marketing department of every mobile phone manufacture wants to slap “720p display” on their device. After that, 1080p will become the goal. And after that? Who knows – but it will most likely be whatever the TV industry decides on as a successor to 1080p.

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Wireless Charging

future mobiles

Charging is a pain in the butt, and one of the least futuristic activities we perform with our current phones. We can transfer files wirelessly, browse the web, and play games online – but when it comes to charging, well, it’s time to get out the power cord.

Eventually, with future mobile phones this will stop being true. There are already wireless phone chargers Does The Duracell myGrid Really Charge As Well As A Power Cord? Does The Duracell myGrid Really Charge As Well As A Power Cord? Power cords are an increasingly antiquated concept in today’s wireless world, but so far they remain a necessity. No one wants to be forced to tie down their electronics to a rat’s nest of cords... Read More available in the form of mats that can charge phones placed on them, but they usually require bulky adapters that have to be placed on the phones, which somewhat defeats the point. The new Qi standard provides some hope, but it is still just a year and a half old.

The possibility doesn’t end with charging via a pad, however. Some versions of inductive charging can work over ranges measured in inches or feet, as is evident by new inductive charging solutions purposed for electric cars.

If there’s any obstacle to this technology, it’s safety. Some have raised concerns about the impact this could have on people with pacemakers, for example. On the other hand, similar doubts have been raised about many wireless standards, but progress in wireless has still been swift.

Say Goodbye To Ports

future mobiles

If power goes wireless, then we’ll achieve a goal that would make Steve Jobs proud – the phone with no ports.

When it comes to phones, ports really are a flaw, not a feature. The fact that I have to hook my phone up to my computer via USB to transfer some files is an issue. Apple has been making headway in this area, as have Android app developers How To Write Your First Google Android Application How To Write Your First Google Android Application Want to know how to write Google Android apps? Most Android applications are written in Java – a relatively easy to learn, friendly language for new developers. Aside from the possibility some money, you could... Read More . Plus there are cloud services like Dropbox that offer apps.

Some geeks may be wondering – what about HDMI? Nvidia has certainly been making a big deal about it whenever possible. Yet there is no reason why HD video can’t also be streamed wireless (given the capabilities of future hardware), and HDMI on phones is actually a pain in the butt, not an advantage. Why would you want your phone tied down to your TV when watching video? What if your mom calls? Now you have to pick your butt up off the couch.

Newer technologies like near field communications (NFC) will only hasten the death of ports. I hope they’ll perish sooner rather than later, as their demise will allow for smoother, thinner, more attractive phones and will encourage better solutions for syncing files between phones and PCs.

Operating System Integration

future mobile phones

Currently, the smartphone market is dominated by two monsters, iOS and Android. Both of these operating systems were originally developed for mobile devices only, which was necessary then and is still necessary today. Smartphones are very different from traditional computers, and have hardware that remains far less powerful than your typical PC.

Yet both of the world’s major commercial operating system developers, Apple and Microsoft, have started to make it clear that they wish to bridge the gap between phones and computers. The latest version of OS X Apple's New Mac OSX Lion: What You Need To Know [News] Apple's New Mac OSX Lion: What You Need To Know [News] Apple recently announced the July release of the new Mac OSX Lion, which comes as the successor to Mac OS Snow Leopard. Mac Snow Leopard users will be able to download Lion using the Mac... Read More includes many concepts from iOS, like the App Store and the new Launchpad Interface. Microsoft is taking an even more extreme approach with Windows 8 What You Can Expect To See In Windows 8 What You Can Expect To See In Windows 8 No sooner had the dust settled over the bumpy transition from Windows Vista to Windows 7, than Microsoft started fueling interest around its upcoming new operating system, codenamed Windows 8, which is expected to be... Read More , an operating system that will run on both ARM and x86 processors and include an interface specifically tailored for input via touchscreen.

We’re still at least several years away from either company offering a single OS that can run on everything from a mid-range smartphone to a high-end desktop (Windows 8’s Metro UI is targeted at tablets, remember), but the direction is clear. These behemoths want you to be able to use their OS on all your devices. And I think consumers will like it, because it will make wireless home networking between mobile devices and computers much easier.

Conclusion

So, what will a cutting edge future mobile phone look like in 2020?

It will have a large display. Taking away buttons and ports may have allowed for a completely edge-to-edge display design, placing a 720p display in a 4.5” format. Thickness will probably not be much different from today’s Droid X, minus the funny bulge, but there will be nothing to blemish the design. With your phone you’ll receive a small “charging station” that will automatically charge your phone whenever you place it within a few feet of your phone. And you phone will run Android, iOS or Windows – just like your tablet and computer.

Or maybe that’s not right. What do you think? Will phones instead embrace 3D technology? Will they go all-out with built-in cameras? Will they cram in as much power as a modern day Intel Core i7-3960X? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

  1. MG
    June 11, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Wait a minute...They already have built in camera's(all of them), they already have 3D(LG Optimus 3D), the Galaxy Nexus has a 720p display( checked gsmarena just to be sure. It has). The only prediction that might only become true by 2020 is the CPU one, but that will probably happen in the next 5 years anyway. All they can still get is full 1080p HD, better processing and the same OS, then we will see the day I dream of: Where my phone is also my desktop, when I get home I just plug in my screen, mouse and keyboard, (our wireless them in, I guess) and it becomes my desktop PC. It will also be my games console and basically everything else as well.

    • Matt Smith
      June 15, 2012 at 7:43 pm

      The idea of phone as personal computer as an interesting one, but I'm not sure it will become true, at least not any time soon. A bigger device is always going to be faster, and people will find use for that. We also may end up bound by battery life unless some magical new battery technology comes down the line.

      I also think the phone-as-PC idea has some ethical issues - for example, what would you do at work? Plug in your phone? But then your employer would literally have access to all you data. What happens if you lose your phone? You're really screwed. How will these devices be priced? Are they going to be tied in with data contracts? There are some practical hurdles that are not insurmountable but will require some thought.

  2. Tilman
    January 31, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    I think that wireless charging will remove "charging your phone" from people's vocabulary!! The whole point of wireless charging is that you don't have to think about it anymore. If you anyway have to keep the phone within a few feet of the charging station, it doesn't make a huge difference (at least for me) whether there is a cord or not. Instead, I think that there will be charging areas that cover an area like WLANs do today – and your phone automatically charges itself when it finds a charging network. You would have such a charging network also at home so that your phone will charge automatically whenever you are home. You might need to set a percentage in the settings how low the battery should discharge before it automatically starts recharging again. Depending on how dense the charging network will be and how often we will move out of coverage of charging networks, the higher the percentage, the smaller the chance that we run out of battery. This is how I see charging in the future :)

  3. John DM
    December 23, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    even 10 years may be enough to do away with phones. The connections between people and computers will eliminate such stopgap bridges, especially for those who grow up already wired to their networks.

    • M.S. Smith
      December 28, 2011 at 10:41 pm

      Don't move so quick. Remember that most of today's cell phones in use are still basic and feature phones. We may start to see the first fully completely "wearable" communication devices in the last decade, but it will take awhile for them to be adopted. 

  4. Mark Levine
    December 22, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    It's odd you don't mention the camera mp upgrades. I am holding on steady to my N8 until android comes out with a 16mp camera phone. I would also say I'm waiting for the day when babies are "chipped" with a phone number and will be thinking instead of speaking to their phone.

    Would anticipate in 10 years we'll have hologram displays.

    • M.S. Smith
      December 23, 2011 at 5:46 pm

      I don't use my phone's camera much so it slipped my mind. I agree we'll see continuing updates of camera technology. I don't expect phones will ever fully take over for cameras, however, because full-size camera tech will also be advancing.

  5. Eric Marsee
    December 22, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    I hope phones don't adopt 3D... I hate it with a passion... I just hope this 3D run will die out like the last 2... But the rest of the predictions seem pretty spot on. Also, with the HDMI issue, by that time TV's will be able to stream and will be essentially massive tablets.

  6. Carl Snyder
    December 22, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    We are talking 10 years, not 5.  I expect to see 3D projected displays with Kinnect-like gesture controls, if not full voice recognition in the phones of 10 years from now.  They will also have a puny 10 T of storage, while our home tablet will have a measly 20 Exabytes of storage, 1T RAM and a 32 processor cluster.

    • M.S. Smith
      December 23, 2011 at 5:44 pm

      Is a 3D projected display really practical? How do you use that with one hand doing something else? What if you don't have enough space for the projected display? Speech recognition and intelligent predictive behavior seems more likely. 

  7. Drew Perreault
    December 22, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    aren't there already 720p displays on some phones? I might be mistaken but I thought the galaxy nexus was 720p lol AND there are solar powered charges already at radio shack, so if manufacturers could build that tech into say the back of the phone or something, as long as you're out and about you're charging a bit (plus battery tech will get better and last longer)

    • M.S. Smith
      December 23, 2011 at 5:45 pm

      "qHD" is the highest resolution I'm aware of on phones except the iPhone right now, which isn't 720p either.

    • Joses Lemmuela
      May 17, 2012 at 4:37 am

      So... Resolutions greater than 720p("A little" greater lol) for smartphones(& phone-tablet hybrids) are already in place just a few months after the article is made. Will resolutions surpassing 1080p be available in mobile phones 10 years from now, or will it probably stops by 1080p and focus more on battery lifes and wireless techs, or probably holograms, maybe?

  8. James Bruce
    December 22, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Actually, I think your predictions are pretty spot on here. Nothing revolutionary. Though, I do think this idea of large screens is overrated - handheld is called that for a reason. 

    Looking further than the next 5 years though? Forget everything you know about the phone - Apple will bring out wearable phone with flexible display that wraps around your arm! They will call it, the iControl. 

    *runs off to register a new domain!*

  9. Bumferry Hogart
    December 22, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    I'd like to think that phone manufacturers will have developed stronger materials for a real "scratch resistant" screen and harder than nails cases that dont fall to bits.

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