Being the forward-thinking technophiles we are, the OnSoftware team is constantly musing over what the future holds for the world of software and technology. Every coffee break or brainstorming meeting seems to end up with us debating the prospect of flying cars, how long before chips are planted in our heads, and whether Apple will ever release its fabled tablet device. Instead of us arguing amongst ourselves over the plausibility of a time-traveling MP3 player or if it's right for a human to marry a robot, we decided to each vent our perceptions of the future in a series of posts.
(Photo by asifpk)
As OnSoftware's resident
visionary genius mobile devices editor, I get to go first. I'm going to explain my theories about the future of mobile phone technology. Then, over the coming days, the rest of the team will be prophesying about their own specialist tech subject, revealing their crackpot ideas about what the World will look like in 2015.
The changing mobile environment
I guess it makes sense to start by considering what mobile software will be like in 2015. And I think 'convergence' is the key word here (as it always has been). At present there are a plethora of mobile operating systems to choose from and handset manufacturers must pick and choose which to include on their devices. For the software developer, it's now a grand task to produce apps that run on every OS, and consumers too are baffled by which to opt for. I think mobiles will go the same way as desktop computers, and that platforms will converge, so handsets will come with one of only two or three operating systems. My guess is one will be an Apple OS (i.e. a descendant of the current iPhone platform), one will be open source (my bet is that Google will eventually snap up the Symbian cooperation and Android will rule supreme), and the other will be a more business-oriented platform from BlackBerry, Microsoft, or even Palm, depending on who can squeeze out/buy out the others first.
Software on the phones of the future will be largely web-based. This will work because Wi-Fi networks will be ubiquitous in the western world. For those in the developing world, tailored data plans will make using GSM an affordable alternative to desktop PCs. Most of Africa will be online by 2015, with the majority of people using a mobile device as their primary means of Internet access.
There's no question that the smartphones of 2015 will not just be for making calls or browsing the Web. Mobile phones will be tools that are used for every aspect of a person's life. It will become as useful as any robotic personal assistant dreamed up in the Sci-Fi films of yesteryear. Take for instance, a typical trip to the shops.
- After leaving your house you will lock your front door and enable your home's alarm and mobile video surveillance using your phone. Any disturbance or attempted break-in will then trigger the alarm, show you a live video feed of what's happening, and automatically relay data to the police.
- Next, you go to get in your car. Actually, you'll probably be getting into a rented electric car, because the environmentally-savvy folk of the future will realise that owning a car is nonsensical. People will instead pay a subscription to a car sharing service, where they can get into any vehicle that's parked one of the special bays dotted around all cities. Just go up to a car, press a button on your mobile to unlock it and another button to start it. Your phone will then, of course, act as a GPS service and guide you to the shop. In fact, you won't actually be driving at all because the phone will communicate with the car, which will steer it to your destination for you.
- When you arrive at the shops, you go in and start buying as normal - except this time with a difference. Flash your phone's camera at a product and it will reveal all the details of this product on screen (price, nutritional information, expiry date, etc.) using either barcode recognition, RFID tags or picture recognition technology (I'm coming on to this). Then if you want it you just press a button on the device and it's yours, automatically deducting the cost from your bank account in real time. Once you're finished your shopping, just walk out with your goods (the RFID tags have already been deactivated, remember?) without going to the checkout. Cool, eh?
These future phones are going to be pretty smart. They will not only know where they are (this is already the case with newer handsets) but also what they're looking at. I was at the Nokia World conference in December and the company was already showing off some remarkable apps that use this kind of technology, such as a 'point-and-find' service, where you point their phone at a building, monument or other site and the phone will automatically detect what it is, and pull information off the Web to show you. In 2015 this will be commonplace not just with places but with people too. Just point your phone's camera at someone, and it will use photo recognition software to tell you who they are, based on a profile they've created online. You can then automatically add their number to your contacts, request them as a Facebook friend, subscribe to their Twitter feed, etc.
Location-aware mobile social networking clients, such as GyPSii will grow in popularity and power. You will be able to see in real-time on a map where they are, as well as finding out what they're doing by following their status updates, photo streams etc. You'll also be able to tap into what they're listening to on their MP3 player, thanks to playlist sharing services like Spotify Mobile.
Totally switched on
You reckon in 2015 you'll still be watching TV programs on a TV, enjoying films a DVD (or BluRay) player, listening to music via a sound system, or sending emails and Skyping from a computer? Wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong. You won't be doing any of these things. All of these mediums will be replaced by the mobile phone. TV, films, music, and even games will all be streamed from the Internet and enjoyed on the mobile. "Yeah, but I'll never want to watch TV on a small screen" you're saying. "Yeah, but you don't have to", is my response. Mobile phones will all have inbuilt projectors, so you can still experience your entertainment in large-screen format - not just in your living room, but wherever you go. It's kind-of a more polished version of the technology that allowed Princess Leah to pop out of R2-D2's eye in 3D. The computational power of 2015's smartphones will kill desktop computers. Foldable better-than-Bluetooth keyboards and the projector technology will replace the need for bulky peripherals.
Touchscreen will be the standard interface format, of course, and video and photo capabilities will be immense on all devices. However, there will also be a trend towards miniaturization and integrating devices into fashion accessories, such as the rather wonderful LG watch phone which is due for release shortly. It wouldn't surprise me if phones were also integrated into ear-rings, hats, and sunglasses in the future.
I'd be interested to hear what you think the future of the mobile phone is. What do you reckon they will look like in 2015? Do you agree with my predictions, or are they too far off the mark?