Jim Bray's Car & Tech rants - publishing online exclusively since 1995

The Next Big Smartphone Improvements

special to TechnoFile

What's coming for smarphones?

It's been a little while since we saw any particularly groundbreaking developments in smartphones. Granted, some true tech enthusiasts may disagree, and to those who care a great deal about smartphone photography, the consistent upgrades in camera capability have been meaningful. To the average consumer, though, not a lot has changed in a few years. Phones have gotten a little bit faster, and have added a few fun features (like fingerprint scanning and facial recognition). But the experience is relatively stagnant from year to year.

Even if this is true, though, it doesn't mean that smartphone designers are finished innovating. There are more changes to come in the near future, and the following may be among the most exciting or interesting ones.

Folding Phones

Folding phones have been in and out of the rumour mill in recent years, but there are now enough examples of them in action to assume that they're about to become relatively popular. Indeed, Digital Trends described foldable gadgets as "the future of tech," and while that may be overstating things a little bit, we don't doubt that such gadgets will have a role in the future of tech. The simple fact is that the technology now exists to fold a touchscreen device and, given this reality, mobile phone (and tablet) designers won't be able to help themselves. Just as we had flip phones and sliding phones before, we'll soon have the option of foldable smartphones.

Improving Audio

A past write-up on the Android One from LG referred to the phone as being "worth getting hung up on if you like great sound for tunes." This is actually something not all that many smartphone owners can relate to, simply because there aren't deeply meaningful differences in audio capability. But this may change soon, courtesy of Apple and some of what it appears to have in store. The industry-leading tech giant has already been working on spatial audio via Dolby Atmos capability, and appears to be poised to break a few new barriers on the audio front. Beyond just making sound richer and louder, this will likely mean that newer smartphones will have surround sound quality to rival that of some high-end wireless speakers.

Better Chips & Circuit Boards

Some of the most important developments that will occur in smartphones won't necessarily be visible, but they'll still make a huge difference to consumers. Most important in this regard is the advancement of printed circuit boards and processing chips — the internal pieces that more or less determine how well a phone performs. On the circuit board front, we've reached a point at which computer programs can assist engineers looking to test and develop new designs continually. Altium's explanation of modern PCB routing software and similar design features conveys that these programs can ensure that circuit boards can be made with increasing complexity and no drop-off in performance or mechanical standards. Processing chips, meanwhile, are already improving fairly rapidly, but can be all the more robust with more capable PCBs to pair with. At some point, we're likely to see a meaningful leap forward in both of these areas, such that a new generation of phones performs noticeably better than any we've seen before.

More Intuitive AI

Depending on what sort of smartphone you have now, you may have noticed that it's gotten better at anticipating your needs. For example, if you always listen to a podcast on your morning commute, you might get into your car, pick up your phone, and see a suggestion to open your podcasting app. Little things like these are examples of improving artificial intelligence, and here too it seems likely there will eventually be a significant leap forward. We call them "smartphones" already, but a sort of next-gen consumer product AI could make phones "smart" in a whole new way, such that they assess circumstances, interpret our needs, and make things that much easier for us.

Pairing With Smart Glasses

The last improvement we'll discuss is one that seems all but certain: pairing with advanced smart glasses. There's been a lot of talk lately about such glasses emerging as the next major tech products. In fact, Apple's assessment of AR glasses' potential is so optimistic that the company reportedly expects them to replace smartphones. That may happen in time, but before we reach that point it's extremely likely that we'll see new, connected glasses that can pair with our phones to provide us with all sorts of exciting functions. We'll download apps and run programs on our phones that cause glasses to come to life, helping us with everything from answering messages to following navigation.

Altogether, these potential changes make for a lot of excitement on the smartphone horizon!


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