The smartphone has come a long way from its beginnings a few decades ago, and today they’re so commonplace that it’s an oddity to find someone who doesn’t use one. Now they’re relatively affordable, perform many of the functions of a full sized PC, and make life on the go much more convenient. It’s hard to imagine how smartphones can become even more integrated into our daily lives or be able to function even more like a mini computer, but that’s exactly what the future holds.
Here are ten smartphone technologies that are currently in development.
1. Virtually indestructible models
Smartphones have improved in terms of durability over the years, but you still don’t want to drop yours on cement or into a tub of water. Soon, more smartphones will be nearly indestructible and weatherproof– that means no more worrying about water damage or cracking your screen if it falls. Liquid metal and ion infused, shatter resistant glass are two of the main materials being looked at to make more resilient smartphones.
2. Modular smartphones
Bespoke phones have been around for years, but they typically come with super high price tags and are more about beauty and luxury than practicality. Modular smartphones will change that by making custom units available to the masses. Some smartphone manufacturers offer limited custom options today, but this future option will allow you to go much further with personalizing your phone. You’ll get to hand pick the features and style that you want and have a phone put together that meets your needs, all without spending a ton of money.
3. 4K screens
One of the most exciting smartphone technologies that’s right about the bend is 4K screens becoming standard. To give you an idea of how high a 4K resolution is, imagine something that has four times the resolution of an HD screen. You can get a television with a 4K screen for your living room now, but smartphones will also have this feature within the next five years. It’s a move that makes sense — people use their smartphones for entertainment so often that many watch their smartphones more than they do TVs.
4. Foldable phones
People have been taking about phones being able to fold up for a long time, but not like the flip phones of yesteryear that you may remember. There are some smartphones available that have a slight bend to them, but less than a decade from now we’ll be looking at super thin, durable, and flexible phones that can literally fold in your hand. The benefit of such a device would be not having to bring along a tablet and a smartphone — you could simply unfold your screen to the size that you need. A material named Graphene is being looked at to bring this tech to fruition, and Canada’s Queen’s University has developed a prototype to test the concept.
5. 3D cameras
Cell phone cameras have been vastly improved in recent years, but future smartphone technologies will take it to another level. We already have smartphones that can take awesome selfies and pictures sharp and clear enough that we don’t need to carry separate digital cameras, but imagine having a phone with a 3D camera. In less than five years smartphone cameras will capture much more detail, have wide angle lenses, and be able to render images in 3D. A company called Matterport is currently testing the technology.
6. Smartphones that rarely need charging
One of the biggest drawbacks that nearly every smartphone user has to deal with is batteries that quickly lose power — double that frustration if you often run tons of apps at once or use your phone for streaming. That will change soon enough, as mobile phone batteries are in development that will be able to run for years on a single charge. Researchers at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University have come up with a very efficient titanium dioxide gel that could be used to keep cell phone batteries going strong.
7. Holographic displays
No, the thought of a holographic display coming from a smartphone isn’t just something that’s possible in movies. A firm named Ostendo Technologies has developed what they call the Quantum Photonic Imager, which is a tiny projector that can produce high resolution images. Once they’ve worked out the kinks, it can be integrated into existing smartphone technologies to create interactive, floating displays.
Right now, most of us carry our phones in a pocket, purse, bag, or our hands. In the future, you won’t have to carry your device at all and will be able to wear it — literally. Imagine having a pair of smartglasses that allows you to take and make calls, watch your favorite media, and perform the functions of a phone without holding it. This technology will likely launch in 10 to 15 years as some details need to be ironed out, such as how to operate a camera with smartglasses and still be able to snap the all-important selfie.
9. Smart lenses
Building on the concept of smartglasses will be smart lenses that you can wear just like contacts. Right now a contact lens that incorporates basic computer technology is being tested, but its purpose is to monitor glucose levels and help diabetics. Once that technology has been perfected, it will just be a matter of time before we’ll all have the option to literally keep our eye on our phones. Expect to see this happen in a couple of decades.
10. Highly efficient personal assistants
If you’ve ever seen any of the Iron Man films, you know that Tony Stark has an AI assistant named J.A.R.V.I.S. who can basically tell him anything and who is more like a human companion than a jumble of circuitry. In the future, smartphones will come equipped with personal assistants that function much in the same way. Think that’s far fetched? Consider how much our phones can already tell us, from the amount of calories in certain foods and the number of steps we’ve walked, to what time to leave for work and the directions to get where we want to go. The next step is being able to converse with the AI so we can all get the J.A.R.V.I.S. experience.