If you ask a computer hardware specialist, “What is the future of computer hardware?” the answer for the half century past has been Moore’s Law. But what does the next generation of smartphones look like?
Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel predicted that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits would double every two years.
Devices that have occupied all our daily life. With no doubts, talking about the next generation of smartphones requires considering both hardware and software.
In simpler words, every two years you can pack two times more processing power in a square inch of a processor. This is all good news for smartphones because smartphones are smaller and lighter.
Meaning that you can have faster and more powerful smartphones (two times faster in fact) every 2 years. Comparing to a supercomputer the size of a room 30 years ago, your smartphone is really smarter.
But, as they say, nothing lasts forever. Actually, Moore’s law has been a prediction, not a law of the universe. He was a genius who well thought out about this and it happened over the last 50 years.
Recently, the rate of our processing power being doubled slowed down to once every 2.5 years. Insights do not show an exception for going back to the 2 years rate again.
It’s all about the possibility limit. The current way of creating processors has come to a limit and it’s time for something new such as quantum computers.
Old phones and current smartphones
Going back to the days when phones were only being used for contacting other people doesn’t need you to be an aged person. I can still remember those days when we had those kinds of phones.
Nokia first generations had a keyboard full of buttons both numbers and arrows. Having a phone was considered a sign of being a wealthy person those days. You had the ability to contact almost everybody who had a phone wherever you are.
As time passed more and more companies started producing mobile phones and the prices started falling down. On the other hand, the rate in which the technology of those mobile phones advanced, started to get a pace.
More and more engineers started working on mobile devices so we could have more and more functionalities aka features.
Below you see a list the things that have changed during the evolution of phones in the last 20 years:
- Screen size
- Screen resolution
- No of buttons
- Touch technologies
- Sensors being used in the phone
- Internet generation (3G, 4G, 5G)
- Connectivity to other devices (Bluetooth, Infrared)
- Battery capacity
- Charging speed
- Cameras (revolutionary)
- Sound volume and quality
- Operating System
What about the latest changes?
If you follow the mobile industry and watch what the flagship phones have inside, you’ll notice a different strategy compared to the past. There is no more revolutionary thing inside new phones.
- You see the new camera is 5x better than the previous one.
- You see the new screen has more pixels per inch.
- You see the new battery power improved by 20%.
- You see the new internet generation (5G) support being integrated.
- You see the new OS being more powerful than before.
Okay, I know, you are not expecting a brand-new thing to appear in the phones anymore compared to 5 years ago. You guess that this is all we can have or in fact we currently need to have in a smartphone. But you are always expecting the OS or software inside to be improved over time.
Let’s just compare the new iPhone 11 Pro with its preview generation iPhone X.
If you read the specifications, you’ll see that the differences are as below:
- A little bit bigger than iPhone X
- Newer CPU
- More RAM
- Enhanced brand-new camera
- Better front camera
- 12% more battery capacity
- More water resistance
This is all the things you’ll get if you buy an iPhone 11 Pro. You see the changes are not noticeable and if you work with them, you’ll literally feel nothing except the camera. What I believe is that the revolution for smartphones has just stopped and here we are with only tiny improvements from time to time.
But what is going to happen? Are we going to be happy with just tiny improvements? Did it stop going further? I believe there is going to be a revolutionary thing in the near future and I guess it’s what I’m going to tell you now.
The next generation of smartphones
The next generation of mobile phones is at first about the hardware then only about the software in the long run. What do I mean by this then?
Let’s consider the current buying behavior of people closely.
- Samsung/ Apple introduces its new device.
- There is a long queue waiting to be the first people to own that device.
- People sell their old devices and buy the new device.
- They keep each phone for a few years then buy a new one.
This is what the mobile producers want you to do. They need to sell more and more devices so they introduce new phones each year even if there is nothing extraordinary about it.
Even if it fails or explodes after a few months. It’s all about making more money. I’m not against making more money. I’m a fan of it in fact. What I believe is that there is not going to be a breakthrough technology in smartphones so that we need to change our phones every year.
The current revolutions are more on software than hardware.
Possibility limit of hardware
The hardware industry still has a lot to go but it’ll end soon. I mean we’ll get to the finest particle size used in a CPU or capacity in a battery. Hardware will block us one day.
It’s the matter of possibility. It might not be possible to go deeper from a point; it might not be possible to create smaller cells from a point and that point is not far from current situations. Let me give you an example: If we want to have more storage in our phones, we should go create smaller storage blocks so that we can put more blocks in the same space and have more capacity.
But there is a possibility limit, we can’t go smaller than a cell, can we? Now expand this example to other aspects of a phone. There is finally a possibility limit on our way.
Businesses life cycle has 4 phases (introduction, growth, maturity, decline) as they grow. Some of the technologies inside smartphones might have come to their growth phase.
For example, CPUs. They have passed the era of experience of doubling the processing power in the same space and it’s their maturity phase now. Usually businesses that reach their maturity level will fall into the decline phase if do not make new decisions specially innovations.
Innovations are one rescue for businesses in the decline phase. Maybe the innovation for the next generation of CPUs are quantum processors.
I don’t know how early it could happen but it is going to be the basis of new generation of smartphones that revolutionizes the current devices. This is how this we can overtake this possibility limit theory.
The need for a new smartphone
Another topic to consider is the real need of people for having a phone with more capacity. Having a phone with more calculation power. Having a phone with more battery power.
Even though it’s great to have more of everything as a human (we are never satisfied with having more of a thing), do we really need it? Just look at your way of using your new iPhone 11 Pro. Do you use all its performance power?
Do you feel a difference in the camera? Researchers say that our eyes are equal to a 10-megapixel camera. This means that we cannot understand the difference between a 10 and a 20-megapixel camera by our eyes. Do you really need wide cameras?
Repeating, it’s great to have a better camera but the previous one is also great for me. This is more of a business thing because those brands create the demand even if there is no need for it.
We are just part of a game. The game of seeing a new thing, thinking we need it and buying it eventually.
What are the next generation of smartphones?
The next generation of smartphones will likely look like this:
” You go to a store, buy a white labeled phone with satisfying hardware without any OS on it. You then go home and buy your desired OS and install it on the device.”
Possibly you’ll no longer pay for a brand-new device — but you’ll just order your desired OS and enjoy the software functionalities created for you by the OS.
There might be several questions in your head about cameras, storage, RAM, processors, etc. Let’s see what happens to each of them in this new world.
Cameras in next generations of smartphones
We know that having a good photo quality is not just about the hardware. Software matters too. Processors do a lot on the photo taken by a camera to make it better.
In the new generation software owns more accountability for the quality than the hardware. With the help of Artificial Intelligence, we’ll be able to improve image quality in a matter of a second.
That’s why we don’t always need to upgrade our camera hardware. Software can do it all for us. Meaning that you have a normal camera but the photo quality is way more than the ability of that hardware because AI is working on it.
The same goes for video. We talked about how mobile phones can help you do better photography with a phone which might be interesting for you.
AI and cameras in next generation of smartphones
AI is the new buzzword not only in photography but also in every sector of the tech industry that has a software related part. Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere. You might not know but without doubts one of your applications on your smartphone is using AI in such a way.
Maybe the AI is the camera, maybe your voice assistant, maybe your anti-virus, etc. For example, when you are taking a photo and it detects the faces in your photo, this is what AI is understanding. Or when you are talking to Siri on your iPhone, it’s an intensive use of AI that can handle your requests.
Also, when you are typing and the keyboard is suggesting words to complete your sentences, it’s AI that understands, interprets and predicts the rest of your sentence. Believe it or not AI is everywhere in your smartphone now. Cameras are also no exception and they are already using it a lot.
Another example of using AI in photos is the photo editing tools that help you edit extensively. You can easily repair skin colors/ shadows, replace colors, remove backgrounds and so many other things by just using an application.
A good reason for using AI in the next generation of smartphones is the hardware gap.
Not all the cameras on smartphones have several lenses, not all of them have zoom lenses. That’s where you need a software to handle the zooming. “Software is becoming more and more important for smartphones because they have a physical lack of optics, so we’ve seen the rise of computational photography that tries to replicate an optical zoom,” says imaging analyst Arun Gill, Senior Market Analyst at Future Source Consulting.
“One of the examples is Google Pixel 3 which uses a single camera lens with huge computational photography in order to replicate an optical zoom and also adds various effects. To let you know more, AI has a lot to offer not just in photography but also in improving user experience.
Storage in next generation of smartphones
Everybody has heard about Google drive or iCloud. These guys have been around for a while and more and more people are using them nowadays compared to a few years ago when everybody needed to have all his files, photos and videos on their device.
Going beyond the personal files, comes the applications. We are using a lot of applications in the cloud every day and we are getting used to it. Meaning that we no longer need to have all the applications installed in our smartphones.
We just open the URL and boom, it’s there. This decreases the need for a big storage on our devices. So, the new devices come with small storage because you are going to have everything on a cloud somewhere in the world.
This is all because of cloud technology which is becoming cheaper and cheaper every day. More and more companies and products are fully migrating to clouds or connected to clouds.
A major advantage of cloud storage is the ability to access your files on any device and not needing to transfer them manually every time you switch to a new phone.
You just upload once and every time you get a new phone or go on a new device regardless of being a smartphone or personal computer, you’ll have all the files there in a second.
There are some smartphones that offer cloud storage as you buy them. Google Pixel is one of the few smartphones that benefit from cloud storage by default.
It offers just 32GB internal storage and it doesn’t have a micro card slot. Google Pixel offers unlimited storage on Google Drive for high-resolution photos and videos for free.
It has already started being the next generation of smartphones where you are migrating to cloud faster than other phones.
RAM in next generation of smartphones
Application of a RAM is to keep enough data you need handy when opening an application on your phone. This means that if you want to have more applications working at the same time and you don’t want to experience lag in your device, you need more RAM.
Now let’s think about having all your applications on clouds. You no longer need to have a big RAM. You just need enough RAM to launch your OS. That’s why the next generation of phones do not need a huge RAM. Thanks to cloud technology again and again.
Right now, there are a number of smartphones that have 8GB of RAM inside. In fact, 8GB of RAM is not vital for a smartphone. This much RAM is more than enough for almost all computing tasks on a standard work machine.
There aren’t enough tasks you can put into your smartphone to make the most use of all 8GB.
Maybe you are thinking about future proofing your device with this 8GB of RAM, but unfortunately smartphone hardware degrades pretty quickly. So never try to buy a smartphone with 8GB of RAM solely for that purpose.
There are smartphones with 12GB of RAM such as Samsung Galaxy S20. But tests have shown that phones with more RAM do not necessarily perform better than those with lower RAM.
For example, Apple’s iPhones have 4GB of RAM and perform very well compared to their competitors.
Therefore, it is not a big deal to have more RAM on your device. In the next generations of smartphones, you’ll have the required amount of RAM in your hardware and leave the rest to software to handle it perfectly.
Processors in next generation of smartphones
Processors are not an exception. When you don’t have any applications on your phone, processing is not a big deal because you are leaving all the processes to the cloud.You no longer own a processing unit. All the processes are done in the cloud because all your data is there and all your applications are launched there.
One thing I know based on my research is that we are not using all the power inside the CPU of our smartphone and there is still a lot to do with them. This doesn’t mean the improvement and advancement in CPU technologies would stop while it means software has a lot to consume yet.
With more powerful CPUs, applications are able to perform better and do more complex tasks. Improvement of CPUs creates the space for artificial intelligence works to be done by applications on smartphones.
Also, there is a direct connection between type of CPU and 5G internet. Not all CPUs are able to support 5G at the moment and they should gradually adapt to the new conditions.
The idea of having all our data and applications on the cloud requires a big support of internet bandwidth and computational power which are achievable through a cutting-edge CPU.
A CPU that supports them both. Considering the next generation smartphones have one of those CPUs with minimum functionality of supporting both 5G and enough computational power for the times there are calculations and computations needed to be run on the device locally.
Ports in next generation of smartphones
One thing we always had in mind when buying a new device was connectivity functionality. What I mean by that is how many other devices can be connected to this computer or laptop? This also used to be an important matter when buying a new phone until smartphones came by.
The good point about them is that you can connect almost anything via Bluetooth and Wifi. Apple has its own Airdrop which enables you to connect to all Apple devices and share files with them. You can connect Bluetooth handsfree, Bluetooth speakers, external hard drives, selfie sticks, etc. to your smartphone.
Some phones are now supporting wireless charging and you no longer need to connect a cable for charging your phone. This means that we no longer need the charger hole beneath our smartphones because we can just do it wirelessly.
Recently Apple announced that there would be no charger and ear pods in the iPhone package for the next iPhones anymore. I believe it’s the beginning of removing the current charger port as well. The same as they did with the 3.5mm jack for handsfree.
But what about the next generation of smartphones? I can guess that there wouldn’t be any ports anymore because everything could be done wirelessly through different technologies. Therefore, do not expect a hole in your next generation of smartphone.
Trends of purchasing new smartphones
Apple and other smartphone makers have attributed falling revenues to customers not upgrading their handsets. That’s a growing problem for the industry, but it’s felt more acutely in some regions than others.
In the U.S. and Europe, especially, the life cycle of a smartphone has been steadily increasing, according to data from market research firm Kantar Worldpanel.
This means that people are keeping their old phones more than before. In 2016, American smartphone owners used their phones for 22.7 months on average before upgrading. By 2018, that number had increased to 24.7.
Users in five European countries tracked by Kantar Worldpanel — France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain — are keeping their phones for even longer. From 2016 to 2018, the life cycle of a smartphone was extended by nearly three months, from 23.4 to 26.2.
Users in Great Britain logged the longest average of 27.7 months in 2018. This change in behavior is not only due to price-related matters (majority of smartphones prices has increased over the last years) but also due to the fact that people are satisfied with their smartphones and new phones do not have something special to offer.
In the next generation of smartphones, you won’t go and buy a branded phone. You’ll only buy a white label hardware then choose your desired OS software to install on that hardware.
” You go to a store, buy a white labeled phone with satisfying hardware without any OS on it. You then go home and buy your desired OS and install it on the device.”
The key here is advancement of technologies in the internet (5G), cloud computing, cloud storage and artificial intelligence which are all revolutionizing the tech industry.
We are at a point in history when infrastructure is no big deal anymore and everything is going to rely on software because there is not going to be any limitations in terms of hardware. Phones became smartphones and the next generation would be intelligent phones.
The phones that form based on your requirements, based on your way of using it, based on your situation, based on your budget and based on your profession all with the help of artificial intelligence and clouds. Those smartphones would be fully personalized for you because they are intelligent.