I remember my first cell phone. It was a Motorola. I couldn't tell you the model number. I remember that it was a bar-style phone with a five-line, monochrome display. It wasn't the free phone. I paid $50 for it. The other choices I had at the time were a free Nokia and some other flip phones that weren't appealing (read: really ugly and bulky). Within six months, I was using it to send text messages and access the very creaky, early version of the mobile Web (which really stunk).
In the intervening seven years, things have gotten much better. Today's phone market -- and smartphone market in particular -- offers devices that are as powerful as computers from the late '90s and early '00s. They also access the Web at or near broadband speeds. How could it get better?
According to Neil Mawston, associate director at Strategy Analytics, "Such new form factors as the transformer and rollable displays will revolutionize media phone design. By 2018, every handset will effectively be a smartphone, with a wide screen, sizeable keyboard, and dense battery." Important developments will include revolutionary designs and more intuitive user-interface.
Aside from full wireless broadband access, drastically improved user interfaces, and powerful application capabilities, consumers will routinely be able to design, purchase, update, and repair their own cell phones online. Mobile Device Management (MDM) will be widespread. No more schlepping off to the local wireless store to take care of your problems. Over-the-air firmware upgrades and software repairs will negate that necessity.
Strategy also predicts that multiradio chipsets will be the norm. Most handsets will contain an array of WAN, MAN, LAN, and PAN radios. Some high-tier devices may carry more than 10 radios by 2018. We're almost already there. Many of today's smartphones have cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM, and mobile TV (MediaFLO or DVB-H) radios in them. Future devices will likely carry WiMax, and other transfer radios such as Sony's TransferJet or ultra wideband.
We can only hope that things such as battery life will make equally drastic improvements, though that is less likely. Strategy doesn't get too far into the hardware itself, but my guess is we'll see solar-powered phones, full browsers, more touch screen interfaces, seamless interconnectivity between devices, and the ability to manage every aspect of our lives, both personal and professional. Phones will likely be able to store weeks worth of music, movies, photos, and videos. Cameras will be in the 5- to 10-megapixel range, and phones will have projectors built in for sharing media. And we'll use our phones to pay for everything.
Sounds like a great future. Hopefully we'll see some of these innovations sooner than 2018.