A future without smartphones: why folding or not they should become extinct

A future without smartphones: why folding or not they should become extinct

For years now, people have been wondering what the future of smartphones will look like. Some people think that they will be super thin, others are of the opinion that they will be completely transparent. Finally, many think that the current trend of foldable smartphones is the way forward. But there's something missing from this reasoning: they change shape, but they're still smartphones! Where is the real innovation? What will be the paradigm shift this time?

Those of you old enough to vividly remember the era of so-called "dumbphones" will undoubtedly have fascinating memories of the strangest (but also wonderful) devices created by manufacturers such as Nokia, Sony Ericsson, LG, Samsung, Motorola, etc.

At the time, a phone that could fold, for example, was considered more than normal, almost mandatory at some point. Yet, each of these devices managed to differentiate itself from the competition and offer something truly unique, or at least something that could make it more attractive.

The paradigm shift

However, those days are in the past and the smartphone market is now much more homogeneous, not to say stagnant. Phones are almost indistinguishable from each other, mainly because the screen is no longer just used to display information, but has also become the main means of interaction. In short, there is very little to innovate, especially in terms of design, when the device is occupied almost entirely by the display.

steve jobs first iphone
The iPhone put an end to one era, starting another. / © Wired

It's undeniable, let's face it: this paradigm shift occurred when Apple first launched its iPhone in 2007, thus creating a new product category, "all screen" devices without a physical keyboard, pushing the market irrevocably in that direction and triggering one of the biggest changes the mobile technology industry has ever seen.

A very rapid abandonment

The transition to the touchscreen has not only enriched the interaction, but has led smartphones to become the largest channel of transmission of user data, for better or for worse. It has revolutionized the usability of these devices.

Already the first phones managed to profoundly influence the lives of billions of people, let alone smartphones that are able to perform any task and are used for virtually everything. The speed with which the mobile phone industry has abandoned physical keys has been incredible. To date, probably only Blackberry continues to manufacture smartphones with a keyboard.

huawei mate 20 x 10
The Mate 20 X has a huge 7.2-inch display. How much larger can it get? / © NextPit

The problem, however, is that this time there is no paradigm shift. We know the current trend well - larger and larger screens to provide greater interactivity and comfort, but also to be able to display more content. New interfaces, such as Samsung's One UI, are introduced every day to provide who knows what kind of improvement, but we are far from taking another step forward as it happened in 2007.

New era? You wish!

It's 2019 and all I hear about is foldable smartphones. As a 360-degree technology enthusiast, I have to admit, I'm interested in this new trend and I can't wait to try out the new devices belonging to this emerging category. However, you also need to keep your feet on the ground and ask yourself whether this is really about innovation or not.

According to Samsung's VP of the mobile division, its new folding device will create a revolution and usher in a new era of smartphones. I wonder what he means by that. The fact that they're called "foldable smartphones" doesn't mean anything new to me. So it's a folding smartphone? Based on what we have been shown so far, the new device performs identical operations to a current phone. The only two differences I've managed to find are a display that folds and the necessarily higher price (as if the 2018 smartphones weren't expensive enough already).

samsung foldable smartphone
Samsung showed its first prototype during the SDC 2018. / © Samsung

If this is the revolution for Samsung executives, I'm sorry but I just don't buy it. The truth is that current smartphones, even though they maintain rather stable sales (the drop in 2018 compared to 2017 was 3%), no longer guarantee the same profit margins as before. And this is especially true for Samsung, which has recently suffered a significant drop in device sales.

Why is that? Because the level of tech is now equal among almost all manufacturers, even those with less capital. This is why giants such as Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi and co. have decided to use their know-how and bottomless bank accounts to shift the axis of their income with these phantom new ideas, making us believe that they have created a new product category.

androidpit flexpai royole 4
Is this the revolution you imagined? / © NextPit

They are full of crap! Foldables are a fairy tale created to ensure a slice of the market still unreachable by many competitors and get higher profit margins that can cover the losses of the industry's "inflexible smartphones". But not only that - one of the reasons why these big companies want to be the first to get on folding smartphones at all costs is because of their disproportionate ego. They must always keep a high profile and cannot afford to be seen equal (or weaker) than the competition.

Have you ever wondered why Apple has never publicly talked about its possible entry into the folding smartphone market? Too expensive? Not really. Don't you have the right know-how? No way. Will you keep it a secret? Almost impossible lately. Then why? I don't have an exact answer for this question, but one thing is clear: Apple has always known which buttons to push and which markets to enter. If the Cupertino company is showing no interest in foldable phones, there's a reason.

It is also true that there are many patents that could prove me wrong, but let's be honest... They are, to say the least, futuristic and we know very well that the registration of a patent does not guarantee its future realization.

apple foldable phone
One of the Apple patents in question. / © Digital Trends

Innovating lies elsewhere

What we should focus more on is "non-physical" interaction, such as voice commands, or augmented reality. This is something that could easily be implemented right now thanks to Google Assistant, Siri, Amazon Alexa and co. While some people continue to see the smartphone as the only possible evolution, it is legitimate to believe that the most valuable technology should adopt a completely different form, more dynamic and accessible. How much longer do we want to remain slaves of a device that has to be held in our hands?

Imagine being able to interact with every surface of your home. Each mirror, window, desk could become a touchscreen connected to the Internet that can identify users at any time via biometric security. The future I imagine is like that, without any kind of device in my pocket or in my hands.

This mirror integrates Google Assistant, has smart lamps and a Bluetooth speaker. / © Simplehuman

A future without devices?

The idea is already well known among futurists and every day we try to understand how this technology can be integrated into our daily lives. One of the main problems is not so much that it can't be achieved, but rather that it is difficult to convince people to get rid of smartphones. The desire to own tangible objects is too strong. But trust me, whether you want it or not, sooner or later something similar will happen. The fact that content no longer needs to be within the individual devices is proof of this.

Users will, therefore, be free from the slavery to individual devices when they have access to communications and networks as individuals. The human tendency to feel affection for objects has not yet disappeared, but as soon as it happens, I will have my popcorn ready to watch the big companies fall at the foot of true innovation.

Foldable smartphones, go ahead. You are a "trend" and, as such you are destined to become extinct.

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  • F.Alam Feb 14, 2019 Link to comment

    Thanks for nice article

  •   16
    Deactivated Account Feb 14, 2019 Link to comment

    I like your thinking! My vote is for smart glasses or interactive mirrors or tables like you mentioned. Shameful that we still have to carry bricks around. GLASS bricks.

  •   25
    Deactivated Account Feb 11, 2019 Link to comment

    The next big step could be controlling all smart gadgets using eye movement and brain waves.

    • Gavin Runeblade Feb 11, 2019 Link to comment

      Eye motion has a lot of difficulty, not least of which because as people age they often get macular degeneration which make the center of vision stop functioning so they look using peripheral vision. Tech is no good to an aging population if it doesn't work for seniors.

      But thought reading is already quite advanced and making amazing progress. I think you might be correct on this point. Search on the guys who are doing videos of controlling drones by thought with Emotiv headsets.

  • Pclarebu Feb 11, 2019 Link to comment

    Surely the paradigm has already changed. Is the term "smart phone" even applicable any more. I think at best we have reverted to the term PDA. I almost never use the Phone capability. Many of my calls I use Skype from my computer when at home, or Skype or messenger from my PDA. I respond to articles such as this on my PDA.,
    But perhaps for those that wear glasses the device you hold in your hand might replace the PDA on occasion.

  • Sorin Feb 11, 2019 Link to comment

    A future without smart phones? No way. This is over my possibilities to understand. I think even in the situation that I would end up on a deserted island, I still could not face the phone. Even if there is no signal (!). I'm kidding, obviously.
    Evolution of the phones, from the first "brick" to the foldable or even holographic screens of today, this evolution is extraordinarily spectacular. What does the future hold us for? It's kind of hard to get over. Even if it does not provide the best user interaction, the flexible screens are exciting, despite the huge price. However, I believe that flexible screens will not have an important trend, but rather a holographic projection, combined with a flexible screen (!). These concepts belong to the S.F.

  • Albin Foro Feb 11, 2019 Link to comment

    My best guess would be the foldables will join up with other over-hyped devices that actually are clever and niche marketable, but never going to be mainstream retail consumer successes: Google Glass, VR headsets, 3D video screens ... I continue thinking the future of smartphones is interchangeable workstations, transportation and large screen dockability and 5G connectivity, so that users can do comfortable hours of deskwork or travel with the convenience of constant handheld mobility, and without the inconvenience of multiple, variable and unreliable broadband connections to the cloud HQ.

  • Rusty H. Feb 11, 2019 Link to comment

    I wouldn't mind going back to a hardware keyboard. I REALLY liked my HTC Tilt phone. Even with auto correct, I still suffer from the "fat finger" syndrome.

  • storm Feb 10, 2019 Link to comment

    your vision still requires

    modem for connectivity to the network
    power whether battery or wireless transducer
    translation stack if some sort to turn packets into meaning
    and meaning back into packets
    UI for interaction

    handwaving doesn't eliminate the necessary hardware it may have a neural interface or a projection but the same functions as a smartphine are still being handled by hardware somewhere on or near the person in a Tony Daniel grist/pellicle kind of way

  • Kenneth Nemchak Feb 10, 2019 Link to comment

    How would someone get in contact with someone that's not carrying around a communication device?
    Who would pay for these public communications and networks?
    How would I call for help if I'm hiking on the side of a mountain and get injured?

    • Gavin Runeblade Feb 11, 2019 Link to comment

      In your last question, you will be able to just call for help and park rangers will hear you. If things go as they currently are headed.

      There are a number of companies looking at using the true 5g (when it comes out) to make swarms of internet connected devices all over rather than single individual devices. So nearly every tree in a forest would have a cluster of devices monitoring it and feeding data to the park rangers. The signal would be carried by 5g wireless either from google's project loon blimps that will blanket the earth or by one of the three different companies already deploying satellites so even places that cannot be reached by tower or cable today will have coverage.

      • storm Feb 13, 2019 Link to comment

        The rules of park management preclude the placement of the 5g devices in the first place though

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