About 10 years ago, no-one could imagine how much smartphones would evolve in a decade. However, smartphone technology has accelerated so much that the first smartphones now seem primitive.
Modern smartphones are now the platform of choice when it comes to accessing information. Years ago we used countless devices to check the weather, take photos, read email or listen to music. However, today we find everything on our smartphone
Mobile phones have become an extension of ourselves, and have changed our lives forever. 80% of the world’s population has a cell phone and over a billion of these are smartphones. We look at our phones an average of 150 times a day, and some people become extremely anxious if they forget to bring their phone with them.
Although the pace of development seems to have slowed recently, smartphones will continue to evolve. Some predict they will become like remote controls for our lives while others think that they could disappear into wearable devices such as glasses or watches.
Screens are also expected to get brighter and fold in different ways; the cameras will be so advanced that they will threaten high-end SLRs, and the digital assistants inside them will be even more intelligent.
But what could our phones really look like in the next 10 years? Here’s what we think will happen.
Over-the-air charging: Say goodbye to wired chargers
Imagine that you run out of battery and you don’t have a charger with you. That won’t be a problem in a few years’ time, as it is expected that the next smart devices can be charged wirelessly over the air. It won’t be like current wireless charging: radio waves could be used, which would also be better for the environment.
There are plenty of rumours that Elon Musk could be planning to launch a smartphone, dubbed the Tesla Model Pi . What little is to be found online is mainly speculation, but paints a picture of a flagship-level device whose battery could be charged by solar power.
Other, more predictable rumours say that Musk intends that the phone will have deep integration with Tesla vehicles, but there’s no word on when it might be released.
6G technology: Download movies in seconds
6G, as its name suggests, is the sixth generation of mobile connectivity. Although 5G isn’t yet available in all territories, Samsung – together with the University of California – is already testing early versions of 6G modems. They could offer download speeds 50 times faster than 5G, which is already capable of multi-gigabit speeds.
6G is a considerable technical challenge, since it would be necessary to expand the spectrum to 3,000 GHz (3THz – Terahertz), as well as build new antennas and other infrastructure.
Recently, a group of Chinese researchers managed to send 1 TB of data in one second 1 km away. That’s about 8000 Mbps, or 8 Gbps. The Tsinghua School of Space Engineering in Beijing managed to broadcast more than 10,000 high-definition videos simultaneously. China, therefore, seems to be taking the lead in this type of technology: more than 40% of the patents in this field come from this country.
However, what would the arrival of 6G mean to our lives from a practical standpoint?
Much faster web browsing, even lower latency, the ability to download a movie in seconds, greater energy efficiency, truly immersive augmented reality (including holographic communications, and interconnected, automated artificial intelligence).
6G technology, which is expected to become available in devices around 2030, would have the ability to connect to much more complex devices, such as autonomous cars, flying vehicles and drones, among others.
Will folding phones become popular?
Foldable phones can change the way content is consumed. These devices can change to a different size to perform a specific task. When unfolded, they can go from being a small smartphone to a tablet -type device. Smartphones and tablets , therefore, could merge.
Once again, Samsung is leading the way with 9 out of 10 folding phones sold so far carrying the firm’s brand. The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 has been the favoured foldable with a 52% market share.
Other brands like Huawei, Honor, Oppo have also been working for a long time on developing their folding phones, and rumours say a folding iPhone isn’t far away.
Currently, though, folding phones are still too expensive to compete with “normal” smartphones and we’ll have to wait a few more years for foldables to drop in price. By 2030, foldable phones are expected to account for nearly 10% of all smartphone sales.
Smarter Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence will become even more powerful in the next 10 years and will play a very important role in our lives. If AI is already a key feature in current smartphones, in areas such as voice assistants, photography, augmented reality or real-time language translation, future devices will be even smarter.
The artificial intelligence of the future could make more complex and human-like decisions. It could be the hub of a suite of smart devices such as entertainment, connected cars or home automation, able to make restaurant reservations for you, recommend new experiences, read the kids a bedtime story, manage your schedule and organise your purchases.
In the not too distant future, artificial intelligence could even understand our emotions. Huawei is already working on that. Your device could act as a psychologist: it will cheer you up if you feel sad and advise you if you feel overwhelmed. It could even become your friend or confidant.
Holographic displays: They are no longer science fiction
Holograms have been part of some science fiction and futuristic fantasy films in recent years including Star Wars, Blade Runner 2049, I, Robot and Iron Man.
Smartphones in 2030 could have holographic display technologies which could render 3D images or videos that would float above the device and be viewed from any angle without the need to wear 3D glasses.
Smartphones without ports or buttons
Another trend in the coming years is to create mobile devices without ports or buttons, just screens. In fact, many of today’s smartphones have already done away with the 3.5mm headphone jack and encourage the use of Bluetooth instead.
The USB port on mobile devices is also expected to disappear completely. Vivo and Meizu have already developed the first concepts including Vivo’s 2019 Apex. Some laptop makers are also exploring port-less models. But once again it’s China that is spearheading this approach.
What if the smartphone disappears forever?
We cannot predict exactly what technological changes mobile devices will bring in the next ten years, but what we do know is that smartphones have become an essential part of our lives.
The big question, of course, is what technology will replace the smartphone? Bill Gates recently declared that electronic tattoos will be the new device to usher in the next generation of technology. Yet to be developed, these would involve printing microchips onto a patch that sticks to your skin in order to monitor and collect personal information, such as medical or exercise data.
Currently, in-depth studies are being carried out on possible electronic tattoos with the collaboration of companies such as Google or Chaotic Moon Studios, an American company that sees the potential of the technology and is investing in its development.
Elon Musk, envisions a time when we’ll merge with machines, allowing us to change bodies when ours no longer serves us well enough, or even transplant our memories in the event that our brain stops working properly. His point is that if we don’t, artificial intelligence will make us irrelevant.
What’s more, this technology is already being developed at the Universities of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Washington. Incredible, eh?
Many of these predictions are simply that. By 2030 we may see very different technologies than those we envision today. If they do come true, are we prepared for them? That, of course, is another subject entirely.
This article originally appeared on PCWorld in Spanish. Translation by Jim Martin.