If you want to own the future mobile market, this is what you have to work on!
Today I would like to share my thoughts with you on disruptive mobile technologies of the near future. Regardless of what features and functions I personally enjoy or would appreciate in mobile endpoints, in this article I am listing down what I consider to be enablers, unlockers, shapers and shakers of the future mobile market. For simplicity sake I will reference phones as personal mobile endpoint but it could be a different type of device that will dominate the future of mobile technology as well.
I believe focus will not shift towards accessories or gadgets such as smartwatches or visor units as primary devices. I believe there will be one single primary dominating personal device in the future, not much different to how it is now. It might work different but there will be no popularity for anything that doesn’t serve privacy and no design that is invasive to the environment will become dominant either.
Right now the phone market is cold and without innovation. The only drivers are more and better computing power and maybe a better camera. I am really bored by what the major manufacturers are throwing in the market right now. There are some interesting ideas around and startups and lesser manufacturers are at least trying to bring them to market. However the market segment is too small and far from gobbling up a significant piece of the market, which is currently served by large brands primarily, and that means it won’t drive user culture change.
If manufacturers want to get a foot in the door they need to bring something completely new. They need to start from scratch and think about what the people dream about and wish for, then develop it. I believe there are some potential key features with the potential to drive the future market. I am not sure if they match with what you’d expect, but here goes.
1. Energy Revolution
Few people make it through their day without plugging in somewhere for a charge. It is more common that someone carries spare batteries or portable charging units than coming home in the evening with the same battery charge from the night before. The way how devices consume energy is unlikely to change much. In that case you have to be innovative about the other end of energy strategy and redesign the energy source. Here are some examples what could have significant impact.
- New breed battery with multiple times as much capacity
- Phones charged efficiently via solar power
- Phones using sound wave generators
- You charge your phone just by motion, like walking
2. Data Revolution
This affects some countries more and some countries less but in most parts of the world it is very difficult to get a good data reception and there’s no wifi either. Currently the content gets more and more rich and data intensive. Mobile video conferencing is not uncommon, VoIP happens in all kinds of apps, YouTube eats up your data plan for the month in less than 5 videos. Social video such as evangelized by Silvia Spiva seems to be a near future scenario.
I recently saw a curious TV commercial by a carrier. A family father wishes his daughter fun for a Friday night and tells them to take care. Some time ago he would have maybe given her a little bit of money for the night. What did he do? He went into his family data plan management and gave her 1 gigabyte data to use. This is obviously overplayed but from the mindset of how things are right now, maybe it is not that far away from the current setup.
Where does all this data come from? Speed is not the driver here, not MB anymore but GB consumption needs to be covered here and honestly I think there needs to be an end to data plans and limitations. We don’t have it on our home-based internet anymore and it has to go away for mobile as well. Carriers should rethink their plans and offer truly unlimited data at reasonable speed at all times. If you can’t stream video in HD, it’s not reasonable enough.
3. Display Revolution
If you want to crash the market you need a seriously innovative idea about a new way of displaying information. No this is not about a larger display, it’s not about a larger resolution, not about brightness, crispness, colors or anything like that. You need a whole new conception of how you offer the user to consume information. What could such designs look like?
- Wrist-bound endpoint
- Mid-Air Projection / Holographics (only visible to user)
- Direct display on iris
4. Input Revolution
If you’re changing the display conception it is also possible that you need to amend the concept of input. This is however difficult. It is human nature to touch and have a strong connection to haptic systems. This is something that needs to be planned and accounted for but if you went all out on the possibilities, I think the following could maybe make it.
- Augmented reality keyboard
- Voice (as secondary input, needs significant improvement)
- Thought-controlled (call me crazy)
- Mid-air gestures
5. Semantic Services & Predictive Intelligence Assistants
This is truly a mix of hardware and software. I think systems that are always connected to the internet and to other supporting systems should be able to drive semantic functions. Let’s call it predictive intelligence assistance (PIA? There, you already have a marketable name). Very early designs are already out there right now. You have Cortana, Alexa, Siri and the nameless cyber assistant from Google among others that can receive voice commands, answer to you and offer you contextual information.
This is on the right path but it is far from being truly useful. Also the semantic web clashes with the demand for data privacy. Personally I enjoy my data being collected and being computed into a result that improves my user experience but many people are just bothered by the collection of data. I do understand the stance but I don’t share it.
To give some scenarios to such a predictive intelligence I thought of some cases:
- I’m on the way to buy groceries and my phone suggests not to forget milk
[It is aware of my location, predicts my activity, knows there is no more milk at home, knows that I usually have milk at home]
- I stroll through the city and my phone lets me know there is an item in a store, like the one I just checked online, but cheaper
[It is aware of my location, knows what places are around me, knows the offering of stores and their prices, knows what I checked online]
- Today I need to take a flight/train to a random location, I am still at home because there’s still a lot of time, my phone suggests to leave right now because there’s a traffic issue
[It is aware of my location, knows I booked a travel ticket, knows the traffic situation in my environment, knows that I usually walk/drive/take bike/public transportation]
- I stop by at a random point of interest for some time, my phone gives me a Wikipedia article and teaches me more about it
[It is aware of my location, knows my speed of movement, knows what is around me, knows I am interested in sight seeing, knows I’m on a trip]
- I’m at home bored and don’t know what to do, my phone suggests a music gig in the city, lets me know a friend will be also there
[It is aware of my plans, who my friends are and what they are doing, what music I like, what events are scheduled]
- I’m working like crazy and forgot how late it is, my phone suggests to call it a day, get off the screens, and maybe grab a bite
[It is aware of my digital activity frequency and duration, physical activity, knows that I did not move from my desk throughout lunch time]
These are just some examples out of the back of my mind. If our digital assistants need to be truly adding to us, they need to be aware of a lot of information about us. There can be no semantic and no contextual services without such personal data.
Things That Are Unlikely to Shake the Market
Right now I need to repeat that I don’t disregard the features and functions below, but I just don’t believe they will shake the market or drive a user culture change. I think these will not disrupt:
- Better camera
- Better display
- Better speaker
- Data privacy features
- Cloud features
- Hardware modularity
- Secondary personal devices
- Attractive design
- Robust design
- Bigger / smaller design
- Waterproof design
- Scratch-free / unbreakable glass
- Environmental features (even though I hope I am wrong about this one)
Bonus Opinion by Silvia Spiva
Those of you who are frequent visitors of TechAcute know that next to me there are other authors here as well. One such amazing author is Silvia Spiva. She is definitely deep involved in digital and mobile culture and theory. Therefore I also checked with her what feature she is dreaming of. This is what would add a lot of value to Silvia:
There are already some solutions that capture video and audio videos and save them as a file. What might be really interesting is a solution that allows for instant transcription of voice and translation into other languages too. Such a software should be able to do that both with audio from within the device via video stream and do that with audio that is captured by the hardware microphone of the device or connected devices. That would truly be a changer for Silvia.
We listed many ideas, wishes, dreams, predication and possible futures of what the mobile industry could deliver at some point. The majority of these were related to hardware R&D and a little less was about software and OS. Of course both ends needs to play well together in order to make a proper game changer. People love new stuff but it is more important for them to feel comfortable to use new features. The coolest projection solution won’t be used if it exposes text conversations or that silly photo from the last party to your immediate physical environment. The future’s mobile product line-up will be a tightrope walk between cool, useful, and socially accepted features.
What do you think will rule the future of mobile technology? Please do share your thoughts below in the comment section. Many thanks for reading!