If you think something is perfect, then you just don't want to look for ways to improve it …
The arrival of the first iPhone in 2007 spawned a tsunami of innovations that reshaped the devices in our pockets. Thanks to fierce competition between the largest smartphone manufacturers on the planet and a constant stream of new technologies, the smartphone ecosystem today is strikingly different from what we could see just five years ago, not to mention smartphones from 2007. Three years after iPhone Samsung presented its vision of a top smartphone, and since then many players have been competing for a place in the sun, among them LG, Sony, HTC, Huawei and OnePlus. We have witnessed an impressive drop and a less impressive comeback BlackBerry and Nokia.
Despite the addition of new features in terms of security, autonomy and top performance, improved displays with a larger diagonal, we often hear that the innovative development of smartphones has stopped. But although the speed of emergence of new technologies has slowed down, the process is still far from its logical conclusion. New phones over the past couple of years, by and large, have received only incremental improvements and refinements of existing technologies. For example, productivity has steadily increased, and over the past year, the use of artificial intelligence has been trending to make our smartphones 'smart' more than ever.
Another trend was the transition of manufacturers to devices with displays in almost the entire front of the device, which do not increase its size. By shrinking the bezels and hiding important sensors in the notch, companies have been able to incorporate larger screens into their smartphones without actually changing the size. Some of these new features are certainly interesting, but they do not bring anything new to the game. So what happens, we are approaching the peak of smartphone development? Is evolution ending in this segment, or are we just in a period of calm before the next breakthrough? And will we ever see the perfect smartphone?
Alex Newson, Senior Curator at the Design Museum in London, told TechRadar this thought: “If you think something is perfect, then you just don't want to look for ways to improve it. Quite a strange position, I think that you should always challenge your work and the work of other people in order to improve it in the future. '
Who will fold the first … screen?
No one knows exactly what the next big breakthrough in smartphones will be, but some pretty impressive updates are in the works that we may see in the next few generations of devices. Two new technologies are already at the stage of almost complete readiness to enter the market. The first of these – in order and in speed of release – is the foldable display technology. If done correctly, it will reduce the space occupied by the phone in your bag or pocket. For example, it will be possible to twist the device and put it in your pocket, even despite the possible 10-inch diagonal, which is more usual for tablets. It is known that Samsung specialists, LG and Huawei are now working on this type of device, each company develops its own solutions to overcome the problems that arise during the creation of such a screen.
Turing foldable phone concept
It is expected that Samsung will be the first in this market, the release of the sensational Galaxy X is expected in early 2019 with a possible announcement at CES. Yes, it may not be a flagship device akin to the Galaxy S10, but it will be a big leap forward for the industry.
Go to 5G
The second technology that we may soon see on our devices is fifth generation networks. Remember the speedup of your connection when going from 3G to 4G? So, in the case of 5G, a much larger increase is expected. With this next generation technology, it's expected to be able to stream 4K content on the go, stream games to your smartphone, and more. 5G will appear on devices over time, but work is already underway and it will change our mobile use cases.
In search of excellence
So what about the perfect phone? The point is that the 'ideal' in this context is rather difficult to define. Different users need different functionalities, so not everyone will agree on a common understanding of the ideal smartphone. Partly for this reason, specialized smartphones have begun to appear, such as the Razer Phone designed for gaming or the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium optimized for watching videos and movies in 4K.
Since the days of conventional cell phones, manufacturers have faced the challenge of creating a phone that fits everyone. Perhaps the best example is the product that Motorola started working on in 2013. Project Ara, which was soon bought by Google, was created with the goal of developing a modular phone that anyone could customize to fit their needs. The user needed a basic set of modules to create a functioning device (Endos), but then he could add additional modules or updated parts on top of the basic configuration to personalize the user experience. Want a super powerful top-end camera that sticks out slightly from the body of the device? No problem. Are you more interested in a large capacity battery that will allow your device to last two days without charging? Order it online, it will be thicker than the original, but will give the desired result.
The project was not destined to come true, and it was closed in 2016. Be that as it may, Motorola used modular solutions in their flagship devices, calling them Moto Mods, they are still on sale. This idea is not so ambitious, the number of modules offered is more limited, but the basic idea is the same – a basic device with the ability to expand functionality. Who knows, maybe one day we will see a fully modular smartphone, but in 2018 none of the companies are working in this direction. But Vivo and Oppo are experimenting with pop-up camera technology in their latest smartphones to fit into the ranks of smartphones for photography, without encroaching on the increasingly common one-piece screen design.
In search of the ideal, the shape of our device can be dramatically modified. Some users believe that traditional mobile devices in our pockets will give way to 'smart' glasses. Former Wall Street analyst Gene Munster, lead researcher for Oculus Reasearch Michael Abrash and Alex Kipman, head of the development team for Microsoft Hololens, believe in the idea of a kind of 'smart' lens that will eventually replace smartphones. Alex Newson doesn't think this will happen anytime soon. 'The phone is still the place where people want all the functions. When too much is invested in watches or glasses, the market rejects them. To move in that direction, the device use cases themselves need to be redesigned. '
One day we may be wearing phones on our faces, chatting, searching, playing games, and so on, without having to reach into our pocket for the device and without even moving our hands. Whatever shape the devices of the future take, this hypothetical ideal is still on the horizon. It's hard to imagine that we will ever agree on a common opinion about the ideal smartphone, or even about its appearance.
By James Peckham
A spherical smartphone in a vacuum is different for everyone. Spears break in forums, bans are generously distributed to especially ardent commentators. But is the perfect smartphone even needed? And is it realistic to create such a device that would suit absolutely everyone? Whether it's a foldable display, a smart lens or a mental communicator, there are fans and opponents.
Therefore, it makes no sense to focus on whether to follow the fashion and buy a smartphone with a 19: 9 display, or a gadget with a camera moving out of the body, or maybe even a 'classic' smartphone of 2016. The speed of technology development will not allow these reflections to linger in the head for a long time, new form factors of smartphones will appear, and then new categories of devices are not far away. So the question for smartphones is: what would you add to your current device? Is there anything critical that you are not satisfied with? Or are the devices already oversaturated and crammed with technology?