Back when smartphones first appeared, the technology behind them was a mystery to most. More importantly, things like bright touchscreens, accelerometers, GPS tracking, Bluetooth, and a long list of other features were unheard of – at least packed into a single device.
Over time, phones evolved and became what we know today. Take a look at your phone, sitting on a table nearby, placed in your lap, or even in your hand. Do you truly understand the full capacity of the device you’re holding? Do you know how much it’s capable of? You essentially have a desktop computer – the full power of one – in the palm of your hand.
We take this capability for granted. With the launch of every new device, modern components and technologies are expected. Things like fingerprint and biometric scanners, dual cameras, contactless payments through NFC and much more are common in nearly all devices you can buy today. That wasn’t the case not long ago.
This begs the question of what technology is yet to come. What will cell phones be like in five years? What is the future of smartphone technology? What are some innovative components or enhancements that we will see more of in the coming years?
Take a Look at the Future of Smartphones
There is no way to know exactly what smartphones will look like far into the future. It’s possible they will be paper-thin. It’s also possible they will shrink down even more, or grow to be as large as a tablet.
There are some things in the works that will influence what those future devices can and will do. Features like water repellant or waterproof coatings, bendable screens, AR and VR tech, optimized components like under-screen fingerprint scanners and much more are already on the way.
Foldable Smartphone Screens and Flexible Displays
Lenovo and Samsung both have prototypes for flexible displays, which are close to mass production. If you’ve been following the smartphone and tech scene for a while, you know that flexible screens have been touted as the ‘next big thing.’ It seems they’re finally here.
The Samsung Galaxy Edge and Edge S7 were unique devices that changed up the game. While the display on these devices is not flexible, it does include a beveled edge on the side that can be used as additional real estate, including for notifications and alerts.
But what are flexible, stretchable, and bendable displays going to be good for when they land on the market? At the very least, they will be used to create more durable, drop and shatter resistant devices. Imagine a phone that can absorb the shock of being dropped by folding up or compacting in size.
Other applications including folding up phones to make them easier to carry or store, standing them up or sharing displayed content.
Alternate Biometric Authentication Hardware
Fingerprint scanners are just the start. Additional biometric authentication technology will soon appear. In fact, iris scanners, voice-authentication and more already exist. The idea is that these highly unique traits define your identity and can be used to verify that. So, when you pick up your device, it will be able to analyze and recognize who you are simply by scanning various biometric signals or traits.
For example, it might know your voice or the shape, color, and size of your eyes. Other phones may use the contours of your face to discern your identity.
One thing is for sure, this upcoming cell phone technology is becoming more and more commonplace, and it’s advancing in accuracy at an alarming rate. With any luck, future smartphones won’t require you to input a passcode or pattern. It will just know whom you are using the signals and data scanned from hardware inside the device and make the system available to you in a seamless way.
Embedded Fingerprint Scanners
The scanners on most devices today are right out in the open. The Google Pixel and Pixel XL did things a little differently, housing the fingerprint scanner on the rear. Samsung embedded their sensors in the bottom button on the front of their latest devices. But the scanners of the future will be even more integrated.
Similar to how you can interact with a touchscreen through gestures and multi-touch support, it’s likely we will see fingerprint support added as well. Several brands are already working on hidden or under-screen scanners like Samsung, LG, Synaptics and many more.
LG’s sensor can’t be felt or seen, which means it will work seamlessly for added convenience. Imagine rubbing your finger or swiping across the screen to unlock your phone, sign in to apps or authorize purchases. In this way, interaction and engagement will improve.
Augmented and Virtual Reality Technology
Pokémon GO and apps like it are just the start. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Pokémon GO is an AR or augmented reality game that places digital content and characters in the real world. Players can capture creatures known as Pokémon, which show up on their device display through a combination of the camera and virtual environment. In the near future, this technology will be adapted for a wide variety of applications and scenarios outside of entertainment.
Google Lens is an excellent example of this. The technology uses machine learning algorithms to provide detailed and actionable information. That information is all relayed in the real world through a mobile device.
Not to focus solely on Google here, but another project by the company called Google Expeditions will allow students and scholars to take virtual trips to faraway places without ever leaving home or school. This is possible thanks to a similar but more immersive technology known as virtual reality.
To think, all of these capabilities will be packed into the phones of the future.
Mobile or Contactless Payments
NFC or near field communication is a growing technology modern smartphones employ. The most common use is to quickly pair up a device with another via wireless Bluetooth. For instance, to sync your phone with a Bluetooth speaker, you tap the NFC enabled portion of the phone to the appropriate area of the speaker. It makes the process quick and effortless.
This technology is also ideal for mobile and contactless payments, which we will see become a more accepted medium in the future. Through services like Android Pay, Google Wallet, Apple Pay, Paypal and Square, we’ll soon be able to pay for goods and services at most brick-and-mortar stores with our phones. The next time you’re out shopping, pay attention to the credit or payment terminal at the cash register. You’ll notice many of them already support services like Android Pay and NFC connections.
In the future, our smartphones may be the only thing we need to bring to give a detailed presentation to coworkers at a meeting. Rather than worry about bringing the right cables, equipment or adapters, you could just take advantage of the built-in mini projector on your phone. In this way, you can cast the content on your screen onto a wall or nearby surface for everyone to see.
The concept of mini projectors is not unheard of. Samsung offers the Galaxy Beam which has an integrated projector, and Motorola offers a modular projector for the Moto Z – a phone that you can expand by installing various attachments. Lenovo even has one that will turn into a projector and a speaker. Imagine that!
3D Screens and Holograms
Holographics take the idea of built-in mini-projectors and bring it squarely into the realm of science fiction. The two technologies work similarly, except the content holographic devices display looks much more real and is 3D in nature. While this is definitely something stolen right out of sci-fi films like Star Wars, it’s becoming more real every day.
MasterImage 3D is hard at work developing a 3D projection system, which they debuted at Mobile World Congress. The technology is capable of not only producing holograms projected into space but also 3D screens without the need for glasses or visual assistance. Yes, that means fully 3D content that doesn’t require glasses may be viable someday soon.
Advanced Voice Commands
Thanks to virtual assistants like Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa from Amazon’s Echo devices, we can control a wide variety of our devices and tech using just our voice. This is possible thanks to a combination of big data, machine learning and modern AI. But today’s version of voice controls and assistant platforms is nothing compared to what will be available in the future, even just a few years from now. These platforms continue to grow and evolve every day, as more and more people use them.
Going forward, voice controls will become more accurate and more seamless. As the developers and manufacturers iron out the kinks in these tools and further improve their functionality, they will become much more accurate and useful, which is good news for us.
The smartphone of the future will allow you to take full advantage of seamless voice controls. You likely won’t need to press any buttons or interact with any prompts to activate the voice system. Instead, you can just talk with natural language just as you would to a family or friend.
Indoor Positioning or Indoor GPS
With modern GPS, you can find your way through crowded areas, strange places and even large open spaces simply by looking at your phone and current location. But GPS is unreliable in some locations where signal is a problem, such as indoors.
Imagine the opposite being true, however. Not just that your GPS system works indoors where it usually wouldn’t, but that it can also provide directions and situational information about where you are. Your phone could do things like show you a virtual map or floorplan of the current location you’re visiting.
Companies are already hard at work on the technology, dubbed RTLS, which stands for real-time locating system. Scattered nodes send out a signal similar to sonar to get an idea of how a location is designed, shaped, and laid out. The nodes relay this information to your phone, which can display a makeshift map or virtual representation.
How awesome is that? You’ll never have to ask where the bathroom is again.
Seamless Wi-Fi Networks
Cell phone and mobile networks are incredibly convenient. Unlike Wi-Fi, you don’t have to scroll through a list of available networks, choose one and wait for your device to connect. Instead, it just syncs up with the mobile network for your carrier providing you wireless access anywhere you have coverage.
Wouldn’t it be great if Wi-Fi worked just like this? Believe it or not, the Wi-Fi Alliance and Wireless Broadband Alliance are working directly with several companies – including wireless carriers – to make this a reality. Right now, it’s being called Wi-Fi Passpoint and works similarly to the system used by wireless carriers. When you leave your house, head out to shop or travel to a new location your phone will automatically connect to these trusted Wi-Fi networks providing you more accurate, faster connection speeds. This is also great news for anyone that doesn’t have an unlimited data plan, as it makes it easier to cut down on the amount of data you’re consuming.
Passpoint is expected to begin rolling this out later this year. Of course, the biggest concern then becomes how to keep these wireless access points secure and trustworthy.
Future Smartphone Aesthetics Will Improve
Just as they have already, smartphone aesthetics and design will continue to improve as new features and innovations are introduced. The under-screen fingerprint scanner, for instance, will allow manufacturers and designers to hide this component better. Rather than have unsightly buttons or scanning spaces, they can hide the technology from view.
Foldable smartphone screens and displays will drastically change the look and function of modern phones. You’ll be able to bend or warp your phone to make it stand up, provide better viewing angles and much more. This will certainly alter the look and feel of phones, perhaps even to an unrecognizable form.
But it’s impossible to say how and what future smartphones will look like, even knowing all this. In fact, it’s just as difficult to imagine the overall shape and design changing considerably. The standard candy bar shape that we’re all familiar with works well, especially for one-handed use.
It’s likely that the general appearance will remain intact, while the performance and features continue to evolve.
Modern Smartphone Performance Is Starting to Plateau
For a while there, it seemed like there was no such thing as an incremental hardware or software update for phones. Brands and technology companies were making advancements at an incredible rate. This allowed them to shrink devices, grow display sizes, thin them out and boost performance and capacity. But those days are coming to an end.
Manufacturers have hit something of a wall when it comes to adapting the form factor, size, and design of modern phones. Aside from some minor improvements, lateral moves are more or less the only thing we’ll see for a little while. In short, it means we won’t see many devices that stray from the usual palm-sized candy bar form. Phones won’t change too dramatically – until someone reinvents the wheel, that is.
The same goes for performance and internals. One area that could always use improvement is power and energy efficiency. Maybe someday we’ll see more phones that last longer than a day at a time. For now, though, things are pretty stagnant in that department. There isn’t much more brands can do to boost the power of these devices, especially with the form factor and size they need to be.
That is what has contributed to the innovation in other areas, like with the unique technology mentioned earlier. Smartphone manufacturers and device designers have to come up with fresh, engaging and captivating ways to improve their product lineups. Hence, the fingerprint scanners, NFC, AR and VR tech, embedded projectors and more.
To differentiate, companies no longer focus on the power and performance but on the application of said devices. It will be interesting and exciting to see where things go in the near future.
How to Keep Up with the Rapid Change
Whether it’s a device with a bigger screen, more memory or a sweet new fingerprint scanner, you may have to wait for upgrade periods, new phone plan opportunities or sales. Some do have the money to buy new phones as soon as they hit the market, but that’s not true of everyone.
That leaves many of us on the sidelines, looking on jealously at all the cool new smartphone technology companies cram into their latest releases – stuff we won’t get to experience until much later. But there is a way to stay on top of things and keep up with the rapid changes in the industry. How, you ask?
You can take your old phone – or current one if that’s more relevant – and resell it. Then you can take the money and put it into a new phone, upgrading the power and features of your arsenal. Companies like The Whiz Cells, allow you to get a reasonable and fair price for older devices, tablets included. The process is simplified too, so you don’t have to deal with a complicated marketplace, unscrupulous users and bogus offers.
Wouldn’t you like to experience some of those amazing and exciting features we’re talking about as soon as they arrive? Reselling your old phone to pay for a new one is one of the best ways to make it happen.