Future of Smartphones

Seven years isn’t a lot of time in the great scheme of things, but in technological terms it most certainly is.

Seven years ago, Apple launched the iPhone – before which we were all walking around with Nokias and playing Snake II. At the time, those feature phones seemed decent enough but the iPhone showed us that things could be better. Much better.

However, as as Chris pointed out back in April, 2014’s smartphones have been a bit, well, disappointing. Where’s the innovation, he asked.

The good news is that it’s coming. Maybe not this year, but in a few years’ time we could be carrying very different devices with a whole host of new capabilities.

As well as the flexible screens that we’ve looked at in our plastic electronics feature, I’m particularly excited about graphene. This new material, which we investigate here, goes hand-in-hand with plastic screen and could allow flexible batteries that last for a week and charge in 30 seconds.

Talking of charging, Intel has come up with a charging bowl which wouldn’t look out of place in many homes today. The idea is that you can place several compatible devices in the bowl and they’ll automatically charge up. That should put an end to the inevitable hunt for those misplaced USB cables.

A lot of effort is being put into software development, too. At a recent developer forum, Intel Principal Engineer Lama Nachman showed a demo which used a smartphone’s accelerometer and gryoscope to detect if it was being carried by its owner, or someone else.

The technique involved monitoring the walker’s gait. Since everyone has their own gait, the software could almost instantly detect whether the gait of the person carrying the phone matched the owner’s saved pattern. If the probability hit a certain threshold that it wasn’t the user carrying the phone, it would automatically lock. However, if the owner was deemed to be carrying it, it would automatically unlock when turned on.

Future of Smartphones

Presumably, when the technology makes it to market, you’ll get an alert (maybe to some other wearable kit – or perhaps a mundane email) telling you if someone has walked off with your device.

So, forget gimmicky curved screens and refocusing cameras: the smartphone of the future should have some genuinely useful features.