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Summary:

In the year 2020, today’s smartphones will like the glorified PDAs of the last decade, according to AT&T SVP Jeff Bradley. What should consumers expect? Handsets with nearly 30 GHz of processing power, terabytes of internal storage and half-gig connections to the mobile network.

What will your smartphone look like in eight years? According to Jeff Bradley, AT&T SVP of device and developer services, it will have 28 GHz of processing power, embedded storage of 64 terabytes and a 500 Mbps connection to the mobile data network.

“These things go from being very powerful computers to frankly what we think of today as a super computer,” Bradley said Monday at the Mobile Future Forward conference in Seattle. Speaking on a panel about what the wireless industry will look like in year 2020, Bradley laid out what forthcoming advances in device and network technology will mean for the consumer.

While today’s state-of-the art devices have some impressive specs — 1.5 GHz quad-core processors, gigs of storage and multi-megabit connections – one only has to look back at the devices of 2004 to see how much in the industry can innovate in the space of eight years, Bradley said. In 2004, the BlackBerry 700 and the Treo 650 were little more than glorified PDAs, and the hottest mobile data service was email.

Just as we couldn’t envision eight years ago the apps and services we would use in 2012, it’s difficult to predict the mobile data use cases of 2020, but Bradley took a crack at it anyway.

Google WalletThe smartphone has already replaced clocks and cameras today, but in the future it will replace wallets and even ATMs as mobile payment and banking services become more sophisticated. Beyond financial transactions, mobile phones will allow consumers to bring their identities to any context. They’ll replace the keys in your pocket, they’ll allow you to interact with your connected home and become immediately recognized by any public digital interface in between, Bradley said.

Through augmented reality technology like Nokia’s City Lens, consumers will begin viewing the world through their phone cameras, and through flexible display technology’s like Corning’s Willow glass, consumers will be able to convert a small-screened phone into a tablet, a news reader or whatever form factor they desire, Bradley said.

There will be challenges achieving that vision, Bradley said, primary among them building the huge security apparatus that will protect this increasingly exposed personal data. The other big factor will be spectrum, which carriers will need by the dump truck load in order keep adding capacity and bandwidth to their networks, Bradley said.

There is one other consideration that wasn’t really mentioned at the panel: cost. If the price point for mobile data remains at around $10-$15 a gigabyte, then lightning fast connections and powerful phone and cloud-based app won’t get used.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock user 3Dstock

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  1. It might be good to take those comments with a huge grain of salt. While ambitious, it doesn’t seem to jive with the rest of the world. We don’t have cars with 8,000 horse power, or laptops at Best Buy with 10 GHz processors. The processor battle has been over on the PC side for years and will die a slow death on phones too.

    If your web connection doesn’t work instantly, there’s little need for a phone whose processor can render it instantly.

    Here are a few things that we can look forward to by 2020:

    – Smarter multicore main processors with ridiculously small die sizes
    – Add-on processors to handle simple tasks in the background at low speeds to keep battery life up (not just for graphics)
    – Batteries will charge wirelessly for all phones, not just the high end “halo” phones
    – The introduction of a new generation of screen technology (we got to OLED over several years so there’s time for someone new to jump in)
    – Phones with lower latency main memory, RAM going from 1MB standard to 8MB with 32MB being the new low-end storage for devices
    – Your phone’s data plan will also include your car , home, as well as your traditional home internet
    – Who makes your phone won’t matter, only the services it enables will. No one cares who makes their TV, they just want the best picture quality, at the best price.

    Phones are the new TVs.

  2. And one further prediction: no area currently lacking AT&T UMTS service (let alone HSPA+) will have it in 2020.

  3. I agree with Jeff. As a pioneer in commercial supercomputing, I can tell you that the iPhone I carry has more processing power than some of the early supercomputers. That device I carry fits in my pocket with a key and a couple of cards. When I carry a bag these days, it’s a lot smaller since it only holds an iPad and keyboard. With power like that at my fingertips, I can do just about anything from anywhere.

    I’m looking forward to a day when we can do even more with our mobile devices. It’s all about the apps!

  4. While Jeff’s predictions might be little ambitious with super computing , i tend to believe that technology growth can only sustained by business growth. Today we saw huge tech growth cycle but not the business cycle. The ecosystem will spend next few years finding ways make money on the current tech growth.

  5. “28 GHz of processing power, embedded storage of 64 terabytes and a 500 Mbps connection to the mobile data network”… nonsense. Users want reliable connections wherever they may be in the world, not ridiculous amounts of storage and bandwidth on a small display.

  6. The 28 GHz claim destroys any credibility – we will never have that with any current Moore’s Law following technology (i.e. never with electronics-based IC technology). It’s clear they know about as much about IC technology as 14-yo tech wannabe script-kiddie.

  7. As a mobile phone bussinesman in uganda, the demand for internet phones has changed with questions on speed.i think even smart phones a still lacking. say a mobilephone is the summery of a computer. here people want a computer in form of phone.

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