If you were to ask anyone under the age of 30 what the most important invention of their lifetime is, you may be surprised how many of them would say “the smartphone”. These devices have revolutionized the way that people communicate, work, and play, but like any other technology, the form factor may not be here forever. So what’s next after the smartphone? We unpack what technologies may replace the smartphone as the next big jump in personal computing after the smartphone.
What Came Before the Smartphone?
Before nearly everyone had a smartphone in their pockets, they had a cell phone in their pocket. These devices couldn’t do what today’s smartphone does, but they laid the groundwork for what would come after. The mobile phone innovated pretty quickly from a device that required a shoulder-mounted bag to a device that could easily fit inside a purse or pants pocket.
The Apple iPhone is known to be the first smartphone, but it really wasn’t. For quite a few years before the 2006-07 launch of the iPhone, there were manufacturers that tried to build an app-fueled ecosystem. One of those was backed by a Microsoft Windows Operating System and full PC integration. Obviously, this is a long time ago, but it does show just how quickly the market has gotten to the point where we need to write an article considering “What’s next?”.
Don’t worry if you just spent over $1,000 on your new smartphone, they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The smartphone has shown itself to be one of the most valuable electronics to ever be manufactured. Not only do they fuel people’s professional and social lives, they also have major financial applications that have created a multi-trillion-dollar per year economy. Three out of every four people in the United States have made at least one purchase of a smartphone. That is a larger percentage than has used a PC or tablet to purchase things.
The mobile application infrastructure that makes the smartphone work is probably the most impressive thing about the modern smartphone. There are literally millions of applications designed to do anything you can think of from finding the love of your life to shopping for groceries to playing the hundreds of thousands of games people have developed.
All in all, if you asked most people, the smartphone has been a resounding success. So…what’s next? People that develop new technologies don’t just stay complacent and with nothing but minor tweaks to the smartphone form factor over the past couple of decades, it stands to reason that something new will be coming along soon to make smartphones a thing of the past.
Enter Augmented Reality
Augmented reality is a technology that has very limited applications at present time. Ironically, the technology that will likely move us past the smartphone is only really usable at this moment, through a smartphone. Some of the largest technology companies in the world are fervently at work on the next great consumer device, and it’s one you’ve probably heard about before, and have dismissed completely.
Before you scoff at the notion that smart glasses will be the product to unseat the smartphone as the next great mobile consumer product, consider how cool you thought the idea was when you first heard it a decade ago. Back then it seemed like this type of technology was imminent. Of course, almost none of us had a notion about what augmented reality was at the time. For those that still don’t, not to worry, we’re about to explain it
Augmented reality is the visual representation of data that overlays reality. Essentially, it just augments reality with visual data. That data can come in many forms and the idea behind smart glasses is that it is the best form factor to build visual overlays for. Glasses are used to see anyway and if somehow they could figure out how to build applications that can be controlled efficiently and successfully, people would buy these glasses in droves. This is why it is largely assumed that AR glasses and contact lenses will take over the market when they are built in a way where users can easily use them and there are enough applications to make them viable investments.
You may think that the smartphone is here to stay, and it may very well be here for quite a while, but eventually, something will come along and make them completely obsolete: just like the smartphone did to the cell phone.
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