Is the smartphone we know about to melt away?

smartphone salvador dali

There will come a time where increasing processor power, memory, resolution and pixels will no longer work and the next big thing in smartphones may not even be smartphones.

We’re living through an exciting time: the age of technology. Over the past two decades, we’ve seen the rise of mobile phones, feature phones, and over the past few years, smartphones. However, 2016 might be the year when they take a quantum leap and the traditional smartphone we have come to know will begin to fade away.

Financial analysts at UBS estimate smartphone-makers will generate more than $323 billion (Dh1.2 trillion) in revenue this year, a 1.4 per cent decline from 2015. Not a lot, but enough to rattle manufacturers into thinking of other avenues. And as they struggle with making their smartphones sexy again, the only sure winners here are us.

Smarter SE

For starters, Apple’s new iPhone SE is a smarter device in an older body. While it treads water in terms of innovation until the big next launch, other brands have sped ahead with their own announcements of innovative breakthroughs or pointless gimmicks.

Sure, the internet of everything (IoE) is spurring on the evolution of smartphones. Companies now keep that in mind when designing devices in the best way they can to successfully interact with these new products and fit in with IoE. Some smartphone manufacturers have even gone out to make IoE products themselves, in-house.

Sony over mobile

During Sony Mobile’s latest smartphone launch, the company unveiled a range of smart products, one of them being the Xperia Ear — a smart earpiece that doubles as your personal assistant. The narration during the product’s launch trailer stated: “We’re more connected than ever, but we still look down and stare at our screens. We’re losing the ability to do things more human.”

This is a smartphone brand, launching non-smartphone products that work with your smartphone to encourage you to put down your smartphone. Let that sink in.

“Smartphones are such a part of our everyday lives,” Hiroki Totoki, President and CEO of Sony Mobile Communications, said at MWC. “How much we’re looking down at our screens and missing what’s happening around us.”

Sony Mobile has started its trot down the IoT path. Elsewhere, Samsung has upped its game all around and has thrown a few random upgrades into the new S7 and S7 Edge
as well.

Samsung gets cooler

Together with upping its photography game with dual-pixel sensors, battery life with fast charging, and storage by bringing back the microSD card slot expandable up to 200GB, Samsung has added a cooling system into the device. The S7s feature liquid cooling technology, which, thanks to several tear-downs by tech journalists on YouTube, shows us that a small amount of liquid is housed in tiny copper piping that snakes through the devices’ CPU and GPU to dissipate heat the phones generate through heavy usage.

Again, a breakthrough. However, how many of us actually use our device to the extent where overheating becomes a problem?

Smartphones aside, Samsung has made amazing progress in the realm of virtual reality (VR) — with the Gear VR being one of the most common and affordable VR sets available. Hand in hand with the headset is the Gear 360 — a camera that shoots 360-degree video best viewed in a Gear VR headset, which can only be used with Galaxy smartphones.

LG takes things apart

Modular devices have been around for a while, but LG has brought this concept to the masses by introducing it in its cool new flagship, the G5 (read why it’s awesome on page 6). That’s not to say the brand just released a smartphone and packed up to leave. No. Together with the G5 were extra modules such as the Cam Plus, a camera grip attachment; the Hi-Fi Plus, a 32-bit DAC, amplifier and audio upscaler; a 360-degree camera with spherical dual-sensors; a 360 VR headset; and a Rolling Bot, a fun IoE-enabled robot.

If there is one thing all the launches this year has taught us so far is that, yes the smartphone sits in the middle of everything but it won’t be the crowning jewel for long.

Different growth path

As mentioned earlier, the next big breakthrough in smartphones may not be a smartphone.

With companies looking at other avenues such as virtual reality, the IoT, smart accessories, robots and the like, smartphone innovation could plateau since manufacturers’ attentions are drawn in other directions. That isn’t such a bad thing though. Like we said: exciting times lie ahead and the real winners are consumers.