powerful smartphone It’s facing a reckoning — at least from a sales standpoint. During the 2022 holiday season, smartphone shipments are down more than 18% from a year earlier. Overall, last year’s annual shipments were the lowest since 2013. Research firm IDC said this was due to “significant declines in consumer demand, inflation and economic uncertainty.”
People need only scrutinize their grocery bills to feel these pressures, but macroeconomics aside, smartphones themselves may get some blame (or credit) for our waning interest. In fact, smartphones are amazing devices. It’s why we’re so obsessed with them, and why, in so many places around the globe, most people own one. You don’t even need to shell out big bucks for a premium phone anymore. Have you used a $300 or $400 phone lately? They are very good. Phones have also become easier to repair; why buy new batteries when you can replace them with better ones? The used or refurbished market is also growing.
So, in this age of slowing sales, what does the future hold for phones themselves? On the 30th anniversary of WIRED’s publication, we asked more than half a dozen technologists, builders, designers, analysts and futurists what they think is next for smartphones. Some focus on the form factor. Others say complex silicon will help us distinguish “real” media from fake or AI-generated facsimiles. Some predicted the actual call would be put on hold. Still, almost everyone believes that the smartphone is something we’ll continue to carry around with us, both literally and metaphorically. The smartphone market may never take off like it did in the 2010s, but the all-powerful pocket computer is here to stay.
Here are five of their responses to the question: What will smartphones, and our use of them, look like in 10 years?
Tony Fadell, Head of Build Collective: I’m not a fortune teller, so I don’t know exactly what to expect. But I do know what’s going on on a technical level. I think we’ll continue to see better and better displays. Brighter colors and better power management, and more. Also, the pixel density will be so good that it will be a question of, what else can you hide under the display?
Foldables will be a niche market; they’re very expensive, and due to the nature of mechanical systems, they’ll continue to get bigger. So I think there will be a specific place or a specific need.
More specifically, though, I think the connections you’re seeing between the pixels and the CPU and graphics cores will be fully encrypted. So now, when we say something is encrypted, it means from the device to the server. It is encrypted during transmission or storage. In the future, things between chips and between inputs and outputs will be encrypted. This is because you will want to know that certain things are true. So when you capture a sound, a photo, or a video, it’s processed through a specific core, and it’s tagged. It’s verifying that it’s not a deepfake, that it hasn’t been doctored or Photoshopped or filtered in some way.
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