The phones of the near-future and what they’ll do for business.

Shane O'Brien
By:
On: 3 Jan 2019
Share this post

daniel-frank-360904-unsplash

The speed of development in mobile devices remains fast and relentless, which for business users can only be a positive.

The features and tech developments you can expect to see in the near- to medium-term will generally come under one of five headings: screens, cameras, batteries, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and speed. Let’s look at each area in turn, and investigate what we can expect to see in our hands.

Bigger and better screens

There’s a limit to the size of device we want to carry, pretty much determined by the size of our hands and pockets. Yet many still we want the largest screens we can have. Although phone futurologists are talking about foldable screens, they’re unlikely to be commercially viable for many years. Meanwhile manufacturers are trying to resolve the conundrum by giving us bigger screens without increasing the size of the phone chassis itself. Rather than resorting to TARDIS-like technology, they’re optimising the screen-to-body ratio at around 15:9, by minimising the size of the screen bezel or frame. At the same time the larger screen is increasingly displaying a higher-quality image, with 4K screens supported by greatly improved sound systems becoming the norm on most devices.

Cameras

Few people use a standalone camera now, since many phone cameras are now equal to digital SLR cameras and enable professional-standard images (though of course a great deal still depends on the person taking the picture). This may seem more of a benefit to leisure users than businesses, but it can be important for marketing and project management. Also, when combined with Augmented Reality (AR) capabilities, it can be useful for training and demonstrations, increasing productivity and reducing costs. For example, engineers using AR can see maintenance and repair information overlaid on machinery as they look at it, helping them to make faster and more effective repairs. Alternatively, unskilled workers or customers could use the same information to enable them to carry out repairs themselves.

Some retailers already use AR to optimise online sales conversion for products that might otherwise demand a store visit. An app available from IKEA allows customers to see exactly how a piece of furniture will look in position in their home, making the buying decision far easier.

Batteries

More features inevitably demand more power; but just as screen size is limited by the size users are prepared to carry, so too is battery size limited by the size and weight users want to carry. This is driving manufacturers to find new and more effective ways to maintain more power for longer – or with faster charging – in the battery sizes they already have.

The growth in wireless charging will mean users no longer have to find or carry a charger and locate a power socket. At the same time, the actual charging process is developing in two opposite directions. On the one hand, turbochargers can take as little 30 minutes to provide enough charge for up to 12 hours’ operation. On the other hand, trickle charging – usually overnight – delivers a slow charge. However if, for example, the phone alarm goes off and the phone “senses” it’s going to be unplugged shortly as a result, charging can be automatically accelerated. Either option helps relieve users’ battery anxiety and provides them with a phone that’s more or less charged at all times.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The phone is changing from business tool to business assistant, and AI and associated machine learning are driving the change. The longer you have your phone and the more you use it, the more it will come to understand what you do and how you do it. It is then able to adapt accordingly to minimise power usage and maximise speed. Batteries will last longer between charges as the phone learns what apps can be backgrounded, when the screen can be switched off, and so on.

However, even though AI will help your phone use less power and therefore be more available, its primary aim will be to help you do more. This will in part be facilitated by the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), of which future phones will be an essential part. Already some phones can be connected via IoT to their own-brand white goods: so the fridge automatically orders more milk when you run low, for instance. For business users, proximity capabilities will ensure the office lights are turned on and the coffee machine is warming-up by the time you pull into the car park.

At a more prosaic level, an AI voice assistant on your phone will make it quicker and easier to call numbers, carry out internet searches and undertake all the other actions that currently require hands-on keypad use.

Speed

Business IT and mobile communications were meant to free-up time, but often seem to force us to try to achieve more in the same number of hours. The imminent introduction of 5G will put speed at the top of the agenda once more, and it will be down to us how we choose to benefit from it. Used wisely, 5G will enable faster, more reliable mobile connectivity, which will make it easier to leave the laptop behind and use the phone as the ubiquitous workhorse, mobile PA and time-saving device.

With a large screen, charge when you need it and a reliable high-speed connection – to your colleagues, customers, and to business tools and data in the cloud – the day really is coming when your mobile can make you more productive but also – should you choose – give you more time not to be.


It’s not just about your phone; it’s about your provider too. How good is yours?