What next for the smartphone? The latest generation of swishable, app-packed mobiles would appear to have it all, with enough processing power to send a rocket to the moon while uploading lunar images to Facebook in real time. What can we expect the next generation of smart phones to bring us – other than an even sleeker profile and a few more spurious applications?
In 2011, it is genuinely hard to envision what the future holds for the gadget-packed smartphone other than a slight nip and tuck. After all, it’s now possible to zap your BlackBerry’s barcode scanner across the Pizza Express ad, download the app, and then pay for your Dough Balls and Cannelloni without even needing to reach for your wallet.
Short of being able to beam your lunch from the pizza oven directly onto your screen Willie Wonka style, it is hard to envision how mobile technology could make our lives any easier. Nevertheless, it would be foolish to assume that everything that can be done with the smartphone has been done, for to do so would elicit a fateful quote from the 1949 edition of Popular Mechanics, which presciently observed that ‘Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.’ How right they were.
While the processing power of smartphones will continue to increase, their physical size may not alter drastically. With all our digital media requirements now in pocket – rather than house-brick – sized form, it seems that further shrinkage may not be necessary. Indeed, with the rise of tablet devices such as the iPad and PlayBook, perhaps the trend will be for upsizing rather than down-scaling.
At present, the iPhone and its ilk enable us to check our emails while in line at the post office, BBM our mates while pretending to listen to Grandpa’s war stories, and upload our profile to a supermodel app that will assess our suitability to strut the catwalk.
While the size of smartphones makes them great for on the go, their diminutive screens are not conducive to performing immersive tasks. Could you comfortably watch a full-length movie or read a book from e-cover to e-cover without suffering from a migraine? Then there are the fiddly keyboards to consider. Clever as the tactile technology undoubtedly is, at present bashing out anything longer than ‘I’m in the pub!’ is the sort of Sisyphean task that involves using up all your statutory holidays in one go.
Irrespective of advances in touchscreen and voice recognition technology, the conventional keyboard is still the most effective means of inputting data. It won’t stay that way forever however; eventually our brainwaves will be electroencephalographically converted into text, removing the need to jam fat fingers onto unreasonably thin touchscreen keypads.
Extracting the pertinent information from the stream-of-consciousness that clutters even the most erudite of minds may prove to be problematic however. Otherwise, that report we’re mentally dictating for our boss may wind up punctuated with crude asides pertaining to the ‘assets’ of the office junior.
That’s the trouble with smart technology – it’s only as clever as the person who designed it.
Kai Sedgwick is a technology, music and gadgets enthusiast and writer. He currently writes for UK based mobile comparison site Best Mobile Contracts.
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