The next big thing in smartphones is... you tell us

The next big thing in smartphones is... you tell us

Summary: The smartphone space is due for the next big technology to take it to the next level. ZDNet readers are very tuned in to the mobile tech space so who better to ask than you what the next big thing might be?

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Few consumer electronic categories have advanced in the last few years like the smartphone space. The smartphone has become a handheld computer that is ingrained in the lives of many owners. There are several capable platforms that run phones that have become as thin as can be. There are smartphones in various sizes from the smallest that fit easily in the hand to the garishly large ones that barely fit in a shirt pocket.

Phone makers have driven innovation to the point that it's not easy to predict what the next big technology might be in the smartphone space. Phones have gotten about as thin and light as they can while still allowing OEMs to cram lots of technology inside. We've got phones with insanely high-resolution cameras that rival dedicated point-and-shoots. There are phones currently on the market that squeeze high-resolution displays in a package just a few inches long.

Passionate mobile enthusiasts are surely thinking what might be coming next as it's not clear what OEMs might be planning to take the technology to the next level. Many ZDNet readers are both very smart and savvy about the technology that might impact smartphones of the future. Those are good reasons to have a focussed discussion about what we might see in smartphones to come.

This discussion should not be about which platform is better (or might be in the future), it should be about which hardware components, design innovations, features, or new software you think will jump-start the next generation of smartphones.

There is little doubt that some believe their current BlackBerry/Windows Phone/Android/iPhone is already perfect. If so, keep that to yourself as this isn't the place for a platform war. Keep your comments to the topic at hand which is what do smartphones currently lack that you think will make the super smartphone down the road.

Maybe you're thinking of a retina scanner to unlock your smartphone in the future. Perhaps you visualize a flexible display unfolding from your phone to make a big screen. Your ideas may be just what OEMs are looking for, so share them here. Some people in the industry read this space so who knows, maybe you'll kick-start the next big thing in smartphones.

This has the potential to be a very high level discussion so let's do it. Share your thoughts/longings about what could be improved in the smartphone of today to take us into the future. 

See also:

Topics: Mobility, Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Smartphones, Windows Phone

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43 comments
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  • the phone as PC

    The smartphone has become our 24/7 internet portal. It holds our music, our travel plans, our photos, our finances and serves as a repository of our personal and professional interests. We are seeing two strategies play out simultaneously. Our personal and professional data is moving to the cloud. Phones are our personal gateway to that cloud. A phone is small enough to carry everywhere and powerful enough to serve as our personal PC. The only drawback is size. With wireless connectivity, a phone could sync with any available screen and any available keyboard, game controller, or other accessory.

    I see phones ubiquity moving them to the front of the line as the replacement for a multitude of electronic devices including PC's. They have already replaced cameras, watches, alarm clocks, encyclopedias, books, CD/record/tape players, GPS units, maps, DVD players, and dozen of other functions. With a wireless standard for screens and accessories, our phones will become our electronic doppelganger. Everything we are, carried in our pocket.
    krossbow
    • the 'phone' needs to power-up first

      Whilst I love what my smartphone enables me to do, whilst being mobile, i can only really do one at a time .. I still need a dedicated GPS system to get A) a decent performance and B) the best and top-notch features..

      The smartphone is good at doing things generally, but apart from managing my communications and allowing me to organize my life, it is actually a little poor at all the other tasks it does.

      I believe the next 'big thing' in smartphones is a better battery - once we have the power, then we can talk about brave new worlds of functionality.

      p.s. when are we ever going to get round to dropping the 'phone' bit from the device title.. the "phone" part is be far and a way the least used function in it for the majority of user's..
      illomosity
      • Better Power Management

        Better battery may be nice but there may be other options. New tech?

        Still, I would like to see a way to preselect and design/build your own phone.

        Iphone 5 design with 4.75 inch screen running stock Android JB, HTC One screen design and no physical home button and the battery life of the Razr Maxx HD.

        Personal design capability.
        rhonin
  • It's the software

    On the hardware size it's just battery life and speed (processor+ram+network).

    The software is where the innovation is, but that's held back (for me) by the poor state of even 3G where I'm based, let alone 4G.

    The better the environment for developers, the more capable the devices will become.
    peter.bennett
  • Disappearing Technology

    All the best technology gets taken for granted, because it becomes effectively invisible. Who thinks twice about the electric lights in their house? The PC was never quite able to manage this (possibly why people are going off it), but the smartphone can. Instead of something you have to carry separately, why not wear it instead?
    ldo17
  • The Swiss Army Phone.....

    It'll have live tiles, and mini Aquariums, with screen savers of cats playing pianos, It'll have disco balls advertising the next greatest rave, It'll video game with a fold out 30" IPS LED monitor with resolutions greater than 4K. It'll cold boot so fast it'll make Windows 8 look like a turtle, and Microsoft, Apple, and Samsung will all be flooding the courts with who patented what. Can you see why I don't want a smart phone, and why I probably don't want to talk to you anyway. Sigh.... RIP Andy Rooney!!
    partman1969
  • UI Evolution

    Voice. Why type when you can talk? Google Talk (and Voice Search) and Siri have proven the concept. The Big 2 need to open up the APIs to developers. And Microsoft, if you really want to invite in developers, beat them to the punch.
    beau parisi
  • Remove the phone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Skype number $60/year

    lowest talk and text plan on At&T 39.99 for 450 minutes, 20 to text monthly = 719.88 per year for the same d*mn thing
    everss02
  • Solar add on charger

    Let me charge it solar as well as plugin.
    ridingthewind
  • Integrate with GoogleGlass display

    Frankly, as cellphones get more powerful, would love to see them integrate with a wearable display like the GoogleGlass and do so wirelessly (wifi or bluetooth) Heck, if they could use the GoogleGlass (or something comparable) as a handsfree setup, the battle over who has the biggest screen would be moot. At this point this would NOT eliminate the need for ra physical screen, but for just using the phone as a phone it would be great
    johncrea
  • Expand UX beyond phone

    I think the UX will need to expand beyond the phone. This could be via wearable options, ala Google Glass or the current smart shoes, but will also include building in projector technology, so the display isn't constrained by the phone size the size of the "desktop" can be changed to match the physical displayed space, and gesture interface, like Kinect.
    steven.c.kienle
  • We're past revolution

    We're into evolutionary advances, now. Most of the things we'll see become commonplace on the hardware side are things which already exist. This includes things like keyboard and screen projection. It includes docking with keyboards and external displays. We'll see more powerful CPUs, larger RAM, more storage, better voice interfaces, better cameras, better battery life, and other evolutionary steps, too. We'll see phones with multiple displays. Some will be super thin clam shell designs. Others will have always-on back side displays for time, date, weather, and notifications. Some will be projection devices which project a larger screen and/or keyboard onto surfaces. The front-facing cameras will be improved, since "selfies" have become one of the biggest uses of camera phones. Hopefully, we'll see more family-oriented features in the software to enable shared family media collections, among other things. Hopefully, we'll see a standard cross-platform wireless sharing protocol emerge, which allows transmission of photos, documents, videos, and data between any two phones, regardless of manufacturer. I'd also like to see family clouds, where all members of a defined family share a common cloud media repository while simultaneously maintaining their individual accounts. Voice interfaces will improve, with more functionality, more intelligence, and most importantly, better noise cancellation.

    In a nutshell, I don't see many radically new technologies emerging. Evolution is mostly all we have, now. Everything we'll see already exists. It's just not commonplace, yet. For this reason, I see smartphone sales reaching a plateau and stabilizing there. Incremental improvement is the future. Like PCs, at some point the turnover cycle will slow down because the latest and greatest will be minimally better than what you already have. We may be close to that point, now.
    BillDem
    • Just noticed...

      I must really want that family cloud because I mentioned it twice. ;)
      BillDem
  • fix the @#$%^ phone

    it'd be nice if the 'phone quality could match that of a POTS landline instead of the burps, chirps, hiccups, disconnects, marginal fidelity that are presently delivered
    dsomerv
    • Agreed

      I want good reception, a screen that I can see in sunlight and longer battery life. Get working on that ..... PLEASE!
      stillgolfing
    • Phone quality

      I have no complaints about my phone sound quality, but I can't say the same for my old POTS line as it had cross-talk, static, and any time it rained hard, it went down.
      rphunter1242
    • Verizon

      It's replaced my landlines and never drops calls.
      LarsDennert
  • Time for body computing fragmentation iBod[tm]

    The portable computing experience must now fragment.... no more trying to get more & more features into a single device. Now devices should be used for what they are good for and be seamlessly linked together.

    Phone .... the phone should disappear or snap into the the main body computer .... the phone will be for supporting cell communications.

    Wristwatch ...... the WW will do things that make sense on the wrist... a small touch screen for quick data updates , sensors that make sense ( no pun intended ) on the wrist [ position, compass , sound up to 45KHz , ] communication links that make sense on the wrist [ NFC, Infrared , ... ]

    Glasses .... these will have datascreens , read the eyes , allow for voice and listening. What the won't have is all the garbage that Google is throwing on their offering.

    Main body computer .... lots of storage and processing power , GPS , lots of I/O [ USB 3.0 ports , Thunderbolt , ...... iBod [tm]

    Batteries ... batteries for all body devices will be fast swappable and position guided.

    I am more than ready to be a Cyberpunk or maybe ( better ? ) a CyberSophont

    google up ==> 777iBod

    99guspuppet
    99guspuppet
  • take the dyson approach...

    ...and fix the obvious stuff nobody else seems to want to fix. Like make a replaceable screen. Or at the very least, bluetooth display so that if I break the screen I'm not totally hosed while I figure out what to do next.

    Then take the OS away from the carrier. Allow the handset to update on demand. Encourage the carrier to release network API's so that the community can create OS builds that will be compatible and leverage the functional capabilities of the hardware.

    These steps would optimize the useful life of the hardware at the same time they reduce waste.

    Oh, and thanks for asking.
    mhpembe
    • Carriers and OSs

      I agree, and, of course, Apple already does this, and has a fantastic record for users updating their OS. I consider this the single weakest feature of the Android environment. Too many cooks spoil the stew.
      rphunter1242