May 10, 2017
The mobile phone has been a ubiquitous part of everyday life for over two decades now. Let’s pause to think about that because it’s something we’ve taken for granted. When you leave the house, the one thing you’re most likely to turn back for if you’ve forgotten it, is your phone. It connects you with your world in a way that’s so invasive and seamless, that to do without it would be like having your feet tied together for the day, sure you could get around, but how annoying would that be?!
But the mobile industry is in a state of flux, or perhaps it’s in the middle of a metamorphosis. Everyone within the industry, and most outside observers too, are aware that there’s been no meaningful innovation for a significant period of time. Close your eyes and think about what a modern smartphone does and looks like. Then think about how that’s different from any other smartphone you’ve seen recently. Chances are, what you’ve thought of is a rectangular slab, with a large bright screen which gives you internet access so you can connect to your favourite social media apps. So what happens to how you engage with your social media apps once the smartphone industry makes it’s next innovative leap, emerging for this currently, stagnant, chrysalis?
We’ve already seen that the world’s biggest tech brands are moving away from the prevailing form factor. Don’t believe me? We’ll your favourite and most valuable handset manufacturer has already patented smart glasses. Reports about Apple’s AR research and efforts to miniaturise their tech came out earlier this year. Google has recently shared details of their next OS Fuchsia, hinting at a post-Android future and a more IoT orientated world. And even Microsoft, which has been late to the punch on too many occasions since Bill Gate’s heyday, have said that ‘the phone is already dead’ as they reach towards a Hololens future. But in fairness, that’s just what the tech manufacturers are saying. What about those from your favourite social network? Well, Facebook is ploughing headlong into building ‘brain-computer interfaces for typing and skin-hearing’. Even Snap! is focussed more on mixed reality technology which lends itself more to spectacles. Sound to you like you’ll be using that big screen slab in the near future? Me neither.
I won’t pretend to be able to see the future. If I could do that with any accuracy, I’d be an insanely wealthy man and frankly, the age of my boxer shorts would be the first clue to what my financial situation is like. But underwear aside, hopefully you’ll see that I’ve presented enough evidence, to make the conclusion I’m about to draw, at least a little more than plausible. So hear it is, in an IoT, AR, virtual reality world, there’s no place for a device as big and cumbersome as your typical 5” smartphone. The tech that you engage with will either sit on your face (which I personally hope is the route we do not take) or simply be embedded in the infrastructure around us (my preferred route) so that through biometric scanning, we access our cloud services and a more democratised diffusion of technology. If you’re wondering how you’ll take those crucial photos for the ‘Gram in this future, then how much of stretch is it to imagine low-cost drones or embedded cameras supplied by the service provider, whether holiday operator, restaurant or even your local council. This of course is just one potential of a multitude. But here’s the interesting thing, as intrinsic to social media as smartphones are now, they won’t be in the next two decades. Social media maybe be the smartphone’s best friend today but they’re not going to be best friends forever.