The smartphone has become a commodity to us. You don’t need to own the latest and most expensive model of all, but you are very likely to use a smartphone. There is even a small group that owns and uses a variety of smartphones.
But don’t you feel that product innovation has stalled for a while? What was really new in recent years? Bigger display, smaller frame, better camera, stereo speakers, waterproof casings? All really nice but did they really change the game?
No. There has not been a disruptive innovation in the mobility area since Steve Jobs was around. Not that he hoarded all the ideas and was the only thinker of our time, but he was driving disruption and therefore he was also pushing the competing manufacturers to be innovative.
If I could wish for features of a new smartphone, I would certainly bring up a few ideas. I don’t think they are impossible to achieve even today, but for some reason, it just doesn’t happen. If there are R&D projects like that, at some point they are put on hiatus state and often never find their way to the consumers.
Here are some of the thing’s I’d consider as smartphone industry game changers:
Select the operating system
I would love to be able to boot my smartphone from an operating system (OS) selection screen with up-to-date software versions. You shut down your smartphone running iOS and boot it up in Android, Windows or an alternative OS.
I would actually be thrilled to use a Samsung phone and give it a ride, running iOS on it. The hardware design of most smartphones is more or less interchangeable anyway nowadays. Maybe manufacturers can comply with a common standard for hardware buttons and input specifications to achieve that.
This isn’t exactly new. There have been attempts to develop modular smartphone systems, that consist of hardware modules. For some reason, however, this doesn’t seem to take off in a general market, though.
The advantages of such a modularity are, that you are able to upgrade old modules on demand without swapping the entire phone because of one aspect. Same applies for damaged modules that could be exchanged by only replacing that same broken part of your phone. There would be also a lot less electronic waste out there if this would be a general thing.
Better energy management
Some of you might get through your day with just a single smartphone charge. I am not one of these people. I am not permanently using the smartphone but I am using it and if you spend some time on your commute to work and back without endangering your phone’s battery charge, I’d be surprised.
It is almost normal now to make use of battery packs to recharge our devices on the go. Isn’t the rise of the battery pack sign of the mobile industry utterly failing with their design of new products? The energy problem is nowhere near to get solved. Please give your devices more power or make them more energy efficient.
Alternative sources of power
One way of dealing with the energy problem could be to introduce alternative means of charging the device. I know it might be difficult to design systems with such an efficiency to make a difference, but this is not only environmentally friendly but would also drive a lot of buyers in my opinion.
If you have solar energy, wind-powered systems, charge by motion, or charge by sound, I would certainly be interested in such a smartphone.Standard USB host port
Okay, I get it, in a very traditional way of seeing things, the smartphone would be an endpoint device and not a host. However, user behavior and software solutions have advanced so much that I could absolutely imagine my smartphone to be a USB host.
What would that mean? Hooking up thumb-drive, mouse, keyboard, dongle, camera, or any other device as you would connect it with a laptop or a stationary PC. This would introduce a whole lot opportunities for smartphone producing companies and to third party companies alike.
The hardware keyboards didn’t work out. Voice-to-Text technology is somewhat mature now but isn’t really well adopted by users. If there were a new means of putting in data into smartphones, I am sure this would raise a high interest in the solution.
Maybe drawing letters into the air would be the new cool way of doing things? You’d need to think of something that is technically feasible, easy to use, and yet not awkward to use even in public.
A new shape
There are some curious concepts out there with the potential to replace the brick smartphone. You got the somewhat bulky gear, which might find application in the industry, you got the smartwatches that currently act as an extension to the brick device, and you have high potential concepts, like the Cicret Bracelet or the LG “slap-bracelet-smartphone” design.
Dear friends, We received the second generation of our prototype, what we call the POC2. It’s a great improvement for us as we made the proof that, embedded in a small casing, all the components needed to make the Bracelet work together. The purpose of the POC2 was to make sure that the technological choices we made were the good ones. We are definetly not speaking here of the final size and shape of the product you will be able to buy once the preorders will be opened. We prepare you a video of it for the end of this year so you can see how it looks. Now, we are continuing on our roadmap and improve what’s required to go to POC2 and get closer to the final product. – The Cicret Team. #cicret #cicretbracelet #wearables
Can there be something completely off? Can we leverage augmented reality (AR) to project information into midair? Projection might cost a lot of energy too, so we are back to square one with innovation. Maybe the next groundbreaking shape will rule the next decade of mobile technology. I don’t think that we will keep using bricks.
It’s been a year since I wrote “Top 5 Shakers: Outlook on the Future of Mobile Technology” and I can’t believe we are still stuck in a similar landscape of what we can do. I am surprised that neither Apple, nor Samsung, nor anybody else is staging innovative products. At some point, a grinning startup will hit the market with something the world hasn’t seen before, with the potential to change everything.
When that happens they can either sell to the highest bidder or try to take over the market on their own. I hope something happens soon because I don’t feel strongly motivated to upgrade my devices anymore and this must be a pain for the industry from a holistic point of view. To all those who aspire to change: Keep it up. You might have that idea, that can change it all!
What about you? What do you think new smartphones would need to deliver? What problems do you have that could be addressed with a more innovative smartphone? Maybe we can even distance ourselves from the term “smartphone” and welcome an “artificial assistant”? I would love to hear your thoughts below in the comment section.
Photo credit: Tammy McGary