Curious what your future phone will look like? OK, so this isn’t some sleek device that interacts with a chip wired into your ear canal, but rather your phone two or three years into the future, which is slightly less visionary, but still pretty cool. I chose the features for this phone based on what I know chipmakers are doing and betting on, but if any of you have a different vision, feel free to lay it out. This is a plausible gadget, but certainly not the only phone.
I also talked to Jeff Brown, a principal analyst at Portelligent, to get a sense of how feasible some of this stuff is, as well as with my colleague Kevin over at jkOnTheRun, who offered up some good ideas around intelligent radio management software and an integrated port for docking the phone. Brown acted as my naysayer when it came to a feature’s drain on the battery. Since folks don’t want to carry a device much larger than an iPhone, battery life is the biggest limitation for most of these features. But if wireless power gets beyond the changing pad stage, all bets are off.
Video: The future phone is going to require multiple ways of moving all the video we want to put on the device, onto a bigger display. For that reason, I think future phones will have an HDMI port and could use future iterations of Bluetooth for video transfer. Brown said that pico projectors that display the handset’s screen onto a wall (which I had hoped to see on future phones) will have to reduce their drain on the battery if they want to make it as a standard feature. I’d also like a second camera in addition to the 8-12-megapixel camera (with digital zoom!) on the back. The secondary camera, which is common in Europe and Japan, would be on the front of the phone and used for video calls.
UI: Capacitive touchscreens like the iPhone offers will rule on the high end, although feature phones will have resistive as well. I think the stand-alone QWERTY keyboard on most smartphones will be gone (and I love my QWERTY) to be replaced with software-based touch keyboards that use haptics to offer a tactile sense of having a keyboard.
Radios: Standard 3G and 4G radios will be on the phone (and they’ll have multiple antennas, too), but all phones will have GPS radios for location and the aforementioned Bluetooth. Wi-Fi will be a common element, and thanks to upcoming chips like Atheros’ tiny, new 802.11n Wi-Fi chip, the Wi-Fi will be fast without taking up valuable space and using up so much power.
Ports: MicroUSB for charging as well as an HDMI port and a headphone jack will all be standard. I like Kevin’s idea of an integrated docking port as my phone gets powerful enough to be the “brains” of a computer system that’s popped onto various keyboard, screen and mouse setups. This allows someone to carry all of her data on the phone and not have to sync it to a companion computer at home or work.
I left off keyboards, near-field communication chips, mobile television and widespread built-in memory capacity that exceeds 32GB simply because I don’t believe future phones will have them, but now I’m eager to hear what you guys think.