Where Do Smartphones Go From Here? [You Told Us]

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The smartphone revolution is in full swing, with these small (unless you’re a Galaxy Note owner) handheld devices replacing the need for various other single-use products. While a swathe of the population still owns feature phones, which hold a certain nostalgic appeal, smartphones are slowly but surely taking over the world, with Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry (at the time of writing) providing the backdrop to our mobile lives.

While smartphone addiction is a legitimate problem, the benefits of these Internet-connected portable computers far outweigh the negatives, even if the occasional annoying conversation with someone busy typing on their phone is an inevitable consequence of their ubiquity. This is the present, but what of the future?

The Results

We asked you, Where Do Smartphones Go From Here? This question got a fair number of responses, most of which varied in their predictions or wishes for the future of smartphones.

The major trend seen through the comments is the idea that the smartphone form factor we know today won’t be around for ever. They’re already more than just phones, with the “smart” part of the name being much more in keeping with their main usage, and the future is only going to see that trend continue.

Whether it be wearable augmented reality devices such as Google Glasses, or integration into other hardware (which we’ve already seen in a small way with the Galaxy Camera) the idea of carrying around a handheld device may soon be an old and outdated concept. Until then the hardware and operating systems that power it will continue to improve in small increments.

Comment Of The Week

We had great input from the likes of Rajaa Chowdhury, Chris Lucier, and Clint Norwood, to name just a few. Comment Of The Week goes to Lisa Santika Onggrid, who, as well as the respect of myself and hopefully everybody reading this, receives 150 points to use for MakeUseOf Rewards.

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Aside of being bulkier and stop being ‘mobile’? Seriously, not much more or they should rebrand it into ‘mini computer’. If you ask me how much a phone can be expanded, I’d say we’ve reached the limit. It’s now so bloated and no longer just a phone. For better or worse, phablets would become increasingly common in the future. and with alternatives to charge on the go, you’ll be carrying full-fledged computer in your pocket.

Do we actually need it to be that fast? Do we actually need a machine capable of doing anything a laptop can do? I don’t think so. Even if it’s capable, many things are more comfortable done with bigger screen (and other environment factor). I think with the rising amount of apps available for phones of all OSes and platforms, I can already do anything I want my phone to do. We, the all-curious all-demanding humans decide to push it even further. Take a look around at app store of your favorite mobile OS. Some apps are so niche I can’t believe someone actually made such things.

Moving on to OS war, I think Android will catch on iOS soon. As ‘innovative’ Apple is said to be, as I pointed earlier, we’re already stretching everything from a phone. In a long run Android’s more open system would enable users personalize it to suit their needs and expanding the OS. With Ubuntu now trying to make an entrance to mobile OS ground, things are getting more interesting.

Currently makers like Nokia, Samsung, and Apple are facing what game console makers used to face. It doesn’t matter anymore who make the hardware. It’s the software that counts. We used to be tied to manufacturers because they dictate every feature in the phone (back before smartphone and J2ME), but now we can choose what to use and install by ourselves. Perhaps, as unlikely it might sound, one day we would assemble our own phones just like we build our own PCs.

This comments brings up several important points. Firstly, at what point do smartphones stop being smartphones and instead move into the realm of pocket computers? There are already large numbers of people who have switched many of the tasks they used to do on their computer over to their phone. If this evolution does occur then will smartphones go the way of PCs and be more open and interchangeable, clearing the way for self-builds? It’s an intoxicating prediction for the future.

We will be asking a new question tomorrow, so please join us then. We Ask You is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. We ask you a question and you tell us what you think. The question is open-ended and is usually open to debate. Some questions will be purely opinion-based, while others will see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps for your fellow MakeUseOf readers. This column is nothing without your input, all of which is valued.

Image Credit: Jacob Botter

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Comments (14)
  • android underground

    1) The trend of phones getting bigger and bigger will reverse when flexible displays allow for bigger screens in smaller devices.

    2) Battery capacity will lag even further behind the rest of phone technology. Battery chemistry today is not much different from a dozen years ago.

    3) One day Apple will have to face the fact that homescreens with nothing but icons are a relic of the past.

    4) Advances in smart phone technology will slow down to the point where phones will last 5 years or more without becoming obsolete. The same happened to computers and mp3 players.

    5) The number of free apps will go down, because most developers don’t make any money from the ads in their apps.

  • Aaron

    One of the things that will still need major improvement is that of battery life, which is still a concern for many of the larger-screen smartphones, especially the Android models.

    I’m also hoping that in the near future that the software across platforms will become more integrated– that is, something like Google Drive for all platforms but with better word processing tools, presentation features, etc… This will make it easier for people to compose things on their phones, pull them up on their laptops, share it on their tablets, and so on without a loss of formatting or features.

  • Muo TechGuy

    That comment is ridiculously naive I’d say; mobiles and computers in general will become increasingly LESS hackable, if anything, as these devices become consumer electronics and not “hobby computers”. Tablets, laptops, all in one touch screen PCs – they have already gone that way. What on earth makes you think mobiles would do the opposite?

    And yes, of course they will become more powerful; market forces and product differentiation demand it, and technological progress ensures it. Expect them to be become more intelligent along with the power; the core focus will be on AI now that we finally have the processing to achieve something useful. Siri 2.0!

  • ed

    Well, I think that the only thing that keeps me coming back to my computer is that there are still many things I can’t do on my phone… like “work”. but what if lets say yo could have every program and file you need on the cloud (files,photos, music, apps, even full programs like photoshop and stuff like that) and then your just sit in front any tv on your house and stream everything in there from your phone. you could even use your smart phone as a multitouch trackpad and keyboard. (you could also connect other stuff via bluetooth like mouse and full keyboard, but the idea is to have everything on a single place) you could have the feel and look of any computer desktop.

    that for me is the future. my phone is my computer and all my stuff is on the cloud.

    • Doc

      I, for one, don’t trust the “cloud,” with outages on Google Docs and Amazon ECS making headlines recently. That’s what SD cards and onboard storage is for, anyway.

  • Scott Macmillan

    I think improving the operating system and higher quality display.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.