I don’t know if you’ve heard of a theory being floated around that in every tech device there’s a chip designed to perform self-destruct capabilities as soon as your warranty runs out so you’ll be forced to buy a new one? Well, it may very well be just an urban legend, but with what’s happening to the smart phone industry nowadays, it’s not that far-fetched. I mean, there are some phones that go kaboom barely a week after you bought them, right? But seriously, the reasons that support the prediction that smartphones only have around five years of shelf life left seem legit at best and deserve consideration at worst.
Actually, erstwhile cellphone giant Ericsson had conducted a survey involving 100,000 people in 40 countries about this very topic and guess what, 50% of those surveyed think smartphones will be obsolete in (you guessed it) just five years. Yeah, the other half (who I suspect also think Android Lollipop and Android Kitkat are robot-inspired candies) thinks smart phones are here to stay, but discussing their opinions isn’t half as fun.
The people who said the salad days of smart phones will be over soon did not support their answer, but I’m glad because otherwise, I wouldn’t have had any reason to write this piece. So, why will smart phones vanish in the year of the perfect vision?
People Want Bigger Devices
People are a crazy bunch. In the 90’s, everybody was able to heave a sigh of relief when one of the first mobile phones (hello, Nokia 3210) came out, and that’s in huge part because they can finally bid good bye to those bulky phones that looked liked electric razors. When cell phones were still in their infancy, the prevailing attitude was, “the smaller your phone is, the more cool you are”. Remember those Nokia 8210’s — one of smallest and lightest phones ever — that looked super cool and sleek? Fast forward to 10 years after that, when smart phones were all the rave, and screen real estate was deemed directly proportional to social status. Of course, bigger devices required more powerful batteries, and unfortunately, companies didn’t do as much research on improving battery life as much as operating systems.
Artificial intelligence isn’t the future – it’s the present, believe it or not. With the current developments in AI technology, it’s highly possible that we will all be able to interact with objects without the need for a smartphone screen. Talking to your TV set or your microwave isn’t such a crazy thing, especially if you take a look at how far we’ve come with smartphones – from buttons, to touch screens to voice commands. Soon, AI may be able to do most of our simple chores – those that don’t require higher order thinking skills – such as searching the net, booking a flight, and internet shopping for our favorite jeans. Plus, AI products are already on the market. There’s Amazon’s Echo, a device that people can talk to and receive information from, and can even play music. Google Now, Microsoft Cortana and Apple’s Siri are all digital personal assistants that work via AI.
Remember that survey I mentioned above? Well, many of the respondents said that having a smartphone in the hand is really not that practical. And I don’t care if it’s the latest iPhone, but it makes total sense because having a smartphone (or any other phone, for that matter) in one hand is only convenient when the only reason you have it is when you want to send a message or call or play Pokemon Go. Other than that, you’re better off not having a phone in your hand, believe me.
Compare that with, say, a smartwatch, one of those smart devices that are worn rather than carried (hence the term “wearable”). Worn on or close to the body, smart glasses, smart watches and the like are becoming ever more advanced and capable of new functions. They are more practical and non-obtrusive and not inconvenient at all, thanks to advances in technology. Pretty soon, wearables will eat up the market for smartphones.
Smartphones are getting increasingly expensive. Yeah, as if you don’t know that yet. The new iPhone 7s in matte black costs as much as a really good laptop. And I’m sure before you figure out its 2,874 separate functions, an iPhone 8 will come out.
According to a 2012 Médiamétrie study in France, smartphones are primarily valued for personal organization (83%) and connectivity (75%). Communication is only essential to 65% of users – almost the same as entertainment, at 64%. 50% of users can’t do without email or camera functions, and 35% have to have GPS. In other words, the phone function is still important to users, but not as important as it used to.
Of course, one also has to consider that the iPhone – no matter how complete a device it is — will not replace computers, especially among professionals such as photographers, movie special effects, engineers, architects, software writers, etc.
Personally, we are on the brink of another huge movement or evolution in tech. I think we are on the cusp of another big market shift, which seem to occur every 10 to 15 years, base on experience (hey, I saw how the all those mobile phones evolved!). Anticipating and preparing for it are the best things we can do about it.
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