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How Will Smartphone Design Evolve Over the Next Decade?

The smartphone landscape is changing.

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Back in 2012, Apple had just released its iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III. The iPhone 5 bucked tradition with a thinner and lighter body, solidifying the tall screens we know today. The Galaxy S III dove deep into personal assistance features like S Voice. Meanwhile, Motorola was preparing to release its Razr Maxx—and even Nokia had Lumia 920 on the market.

Ten years ago, Google’s Android spread its reach around the globe. While Apple was the biggest tech company in the world, Google’s operating system had a lasting presence worldwide—and still does now. Both Apple and Google represent the uppermost echelon of smartphone design to this day, innovating new software and hardware each year.

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At that time, iPhone 5 users couldn’t imagine features like the upcoming ‘unsend’ button in iMessages or the full scale of the iPhone 12’s control centre. Galaxy S III users couldn’t imagine the S22’s ‘Directors View’ feature or AI-based shot suggestions in its camera app. Ten years from now, we’ll likely be just as hung up on the features our smartphones deliver. Let’s take a closer look at what these features might be.

Purpose-Driven Customization

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Like Lenovo and ASUS Android phones today, future devices might focus specifically on a purpose, such as gaming. Today, phones that focus on an elevated gaming experience offer top-tier graphics, high refresh rates, and an ergonomic design.

This makes them ideal for competitive games like Call of Duty, as well as recreational games like online slots, which usually have complex and dynamic graphic features. Going forward, more smartphones will receive this type of customization based on the purpose of use. Aside from gaming, these devices might cater to business professionals, social media influencers and streamers, and more.

Deeper Engagement with XR

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Ten years ago, many digital professionals touted the rise of VR. In reality, VR technology has been slow to develop due to hardware demands. In other words, VR headsets are pricey and the tech behind them is difficult to comprehend. As AR and VR find better applications on mobile devices, Audrey Lankford Barnes, Professor of Industrial Design at James Madison University, predicts AR and VR will create a new ‘XR’ or extended reality movement.

This might even include holography. Like VR, holography has been more technologically demanding to create than many sci-fi buffs in the 80s predicted. As smartphone technology advances, XR technology will usher in a new era of sensory stimulation. What will this look like? Barnes isn’t sure—but it’s going to feel absolutely real.

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Forget 5G, the Future is 6G

The rise of mobile gaming, whether through eSports like Garena Free Fire or through casual games like Subway Surfer, has the rollout of 5G networks to thank. A 6G network will create even faster connections for mobile users around the world. In fact, Samsung is already working with the University of California to develop 6G capabilities for its Android devices.

Still, though conceptually feasible, 6G faces infrastructural challenges. Antennas must be larger, while the wireless spectrum would need ample expansion. Along with the University of California, China’s Tsinghua School of Space Engineering is also tackling the 6G challenge.

A Smartphone-less Future?

Not all experts are worried about predicting what smartphones will be like in the year 2032. In fact, some don’t even believe that smartphones will exist ten years from now. For example, Bill Gates recently declared that electronic tattoos could be the latest frontier for mobile technology of all stripes. This might involve microchips that collect personal data, such as medical or exercise stats.

Already, Google is looking into tech-based tattooing. Meanwhile, other groups are looking to bridge tech and the human body through biological projects. However, some don’t foresee this type of singularity. Instead, those like Cliff Kuang, a UX designer and author, predict that the smartphone’s purpose as a personal computer will be deconstructed.

This means that a smartphone might be separated into objects that deliver different purposes. Each object would be connected to the Cloud and synced with others, as a sort of physical version of the Internet of Things (IoT) philosophy.

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