If 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
Now that the touchscreen 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.
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 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
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. 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
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 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, 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.
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.