What Next For Smartphones?

Moore’s Law may sound like bland legislation but it illustrates perfectly the stunning advance in smartphone technology. As technophiles will testify, the law states that the passing of 18 months increases the capabilities of technology two-fold. In the year that has been the progenitor for Siri, near-field communication and progressively better camera quality in smartphones it’s a law that’s impossible to defend against. So, where do we go from here? What new technology is waiting in the wings? What next for smartphones?

4G

Routinely delayed and marred by various network squabbles, the next generation of network coverage hasn’t budded in the way which Ofcom had expected when its auction was announced earlier this year. 4G, when (or if) it arrives, will allow mobile browsers to surf at speeds as high as 90Mbps. That means live streaming and lightning downloads without wires, wherever you are in the UK. That break-neck pace comes coupled with the promise of flawless connectivity – a major criticism levelled at 3G.

Tests in London by O2 have been impressive, notching up around 30Mbps on average. The real test will come, however, when the gates are officially opened and the growing numbers of smartphones are let loose to feast on the expanded data stream.

Exactly when that day will come is still not confirmed. Countries such as Sweden, Germany and the United States are already rolling out the red-carpet for 4G data-hungry smartphones. The UK will have to wait until 2013 at the very earliest.

Cloud Operating Systems


Microsoft built a neat little demo of its Windows Phone 7 operating system as part of its devious plan to win over disillusioned iPhone and Android owners recently. You might have tried it. If you haven’t, you should; it’s pretty impressive. But it got us thinking, will mobile operating systems ever come entirely from the cloud?

Microsoft’s animated tiles were masoned entirely by HTML 5 and, to the eye, it seemed feasible to reason that it could provide all the function of the handset’s residing operating system. At first it might seem fanciful, but consider Google’s Chrome OS; consider OnLive and consider Apple’s shift towards storing your data on the cloud. The technology certainly isn’t far away.

Whether phone owners will embrace the cloud is another question.  The thought of personal information, phone numbers, private messages and photographs, being stored well out of arms reach in a water-cooled basement under Apple’s lock-and-key (and Terms of Service) might be enough to deter all but the most enthused Apple fantasist.

Flexible Handsets

London will bid a not-so-fond farewell to the last of the capital’s ‘bendy buses’ this weekend. As Londoners grow cold on flexible transport, however, mobile manufacturers are about to spark the arms race to bring the world’s first flexible phone to retailers.

The PaperPhone debuted in Vancouver in May this year. The device utilised the Amazon Kindle’s e-ink technology.  As well as being super-model thin, it can take calls, send messages and even play music (we’re not sure where the speakers are). The prototype might have been merely a concept engineered by University researchers, but it may have just turned the page on smartphone technology.

At Nokia World in October the Finns showed off a new bendable, twistable device complete with flexible AMOLED screen. Twisting it wasn’t just a gimmick either. With a quick flick of the wrists the phone can select and move on-screen objects.

Samsung, meanwhile, have made utterances in a similar direction with the Galaxy Skin, a fully flexible concept styled with a full-length Graphene screen. There are rumours of a 2012 release, but breath-holding should be considered inadvisable.

Moore’s Law may not guarantee that these breakthrough technologies will be with us in the next 18 months, but it is an indicator of how rapidly an idea or a concept can become a reachable goal; and all the while, the steady improvement of megapixels, gigabytes and gigahertz continues unabated. In the next 18 months, those smartphones are going to be pretty darn smart.

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