The super-computing phone: AT&T’s predictions for devices in 2020

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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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