Mobile phones have grown to become an essential part of life. That is not an exaggeration, but reality. These devices have developed to where they are more than a means for communication and should not even have the word phone in them anymore. They are tools that make everyday life easier, helping with everything from locating retail stores to measuring your pulse.
The first commercially available portable phone hit stores worldwide in 1983. It was the DynaTAC 8000X, and the American telecommunications giant Motorola was the company behind it. It cost $4,000 and took ten hours to charge, which allowed you half an hour of speaking time. However, it took years before at least one member of an average household had a mobile device. Many users are not aware, but the first smartphone, the Simon Personal Communicator, came out in 1992, created by IBM. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until the BlackBerry series came on to the scene that the genre started to gain traction. Then, the original iPhone appeared on the market in June of 2007, and things changed forever.
Today, many still look at Apple as the premium smartphone brand, even though Samsung dominates the global market, with Chinese Xiaomi and Huawei presenting themselves as rising contenders. With plenty of worthy competitors vying for the top spot, such competition will inevitably drive innovation, leaving customers to wait and see who incorporates what next. Therefore, many are salivating at the thought of exciting new technologies becoming available from the palm of their hand. Below, we look at what the near future holds for mobile phones.
VR & AR Resurrection
In 2016, when Facebook came out with the Oculus Rift headset, it seemed like VR and AR technology would set the gaming world on fire. That same year, Bethesda Games announced a VR version of Fallout 4, and iGaming giant Microgaming showed samples of its work on a VR roulette title. Due to the rise of mobile casinos, at that time, interactive gaming developers were looking for ways to attract younger demographics, and VR seemed like a necessity. However, things did not pan out as expected, and this gaming genre never took off.
Over the years, companies have eased off the idea of spending money on developing VR/AR, and so did phone manufacturers. The failure of Google’s Daydream VR platform showed that the market was not ready for it. According to The Verge, phone-based VR officially died with the discontinuation of Daydream. In June of 2020, Samsung also discontinued its Gear VR headset and closed its accompanying store. Nevertheless, many believe that the success of AR titles such as Pokémon Go and Minecraft Earth is proof enough that there is still a place for this technology in a smartphone’s arsenal. Rumors are that Sony and Facebook both have plans to work with software developers to expand this sector in the future.
As most people were getting used to the 4G networks, news came out that 5G would soon replace them. Though telecommunication companies began deploying it in 2019, testing of this technology began as early as 2013. Its greatest asset is that it vastly boosts transmission speeds, so lowered latency allows for better remote execution. What does that mean? By intensifying the use of cloud-based technology, mobile devices depend less on their internal memory. Meaning, you can activate software remotely with similar efficiency, as if it were on your device, installed.
For illustration purposes, the average 4G transfer speed is 10 Mbps, and the max one is 150 Mbps. 5G networks average 50 Mbps, and they max out at 10 Gbps. So, in the theoretical best-case scenario, you can send a vast amount of data in less than a millisecond. The safe use of 5G has generated a lot of noise in the last two years, as it has been the subject of wild conspiracy theories. Fortunately, according to hard science, it poses no real danger to humans.
Expanding AI Assistant Technology
Virtual assistants have been around for some time now. They are software agents that perform tasks and services based on user commands. We can trace back the first iteration of this concept to 1952 and Bell Labs’ automatic digit recognition machine named Audrey. In the past decade, people have used the term chat-bot to describe these programs. However, today, this term is obsolete in the context of AI assistants. Now, it mostly gets used to describe auto-generated answers provided in online chat rooms.
As mentioned, though AI assistants are not a new invention, their usage and capabilities drastically expanded in the past decade. Thanks to Amazon’s smart speaker Echo, which connects to the AI service – Alexa, and Apple’s Siri. The latter has been a part of the iPhone series since 2011, while Amazon made Alexa available for Android phones in 2018. Windows also has its Cortana assistant.
Juniper Research claims there are more than 3.5 billion voice assistants in use today. The research company expects this number to rise to eight billion by 2023. Due to this staggering figure, tech juggernauts continue to invest in this technology, looking for ways to expand it. Predictions are that users will soon have streamlined conversations with their phone’s AI, which will better search the internet and offer a more individualized experience.
In 2016, at the Mobile World Congress tradeshow, the Japanese corporation Kyocera introduced a solar-powered mobile phone. Technically, a prototype of one. Exposing its panel to sunlight for three minutes provided it enough power for a one-minute call. In reality, Samsung was the first phone manufacturer to introduce these types of devices to market in 2009, with its Guru E1107.
Today, we have solar-powered chargers, but such phones are not yet mainstream. There is a myriad of reasons why such phones are not standard. They include sun-inconsistency, they take too long to charge, and size-wise, they are not practical-enough. Nevertheless, despite these current shortcomings, analysts expect tech companies to overcome these challenges soon. Mainly due to developments in the air charging field.