Smartphone innovation over the past decade has been incredible. Many consumers now rely on their smartphone as their primary camera, taking advantage of the latest imaging and AI enhancements that have brought mobile photography closer to DSLR quality. There have also been exciting breakthroughs in connectivity with the rollout of 5G-capable smartphones and networks. These advancements in power, performance, connectivity and features have driven U.S. smartphone ownership up to 81 percent, a significant increase from 35 percent ownership in 2011 according to the Pew Research Center. So what’s next for the smartphone industry?
Although it’s fun to speculate how smartphone features and form factors will evolve in the next few decades – for example, a fully flexible display you could roll up – it’s also worth exploring what innovations consumers can look forward to in the short-term future. A few new and emerging technologies that promise to improve the smartphone experience are full-screen fingerprint sensors, 3D and holographic display technology and infrared temperature sensors.
Full-Screen Fingerprint for Seamless Unlocking
When fingerprint sensors were first introduced in smartphones, they represented a breakthrough in user experience, enabling consumers to quickly unlock their phones with the touch of a button or sensor. Front and rear fingerprint sensors eventually gave way to optical fingerprint sensors that were even easier to use, although they still required users to touch the screen in a certain location. Soon enough, full-screen fingerprint technology will become commonplace for an even more seamless experience with added security benefits such as fingerprint verification for select apps. Full-screen fingerprint will also open the door for other types of capabilities. For example, someone could set their phone to allow them to respond to messages without unlocking their device.
Since full-screen fingerprint technology will require many different sensors to be integrated underneath a smartphone screen, it’s essential that these smartphones will be designed to optimize battery life. Machine learning technology is one way that devices can deliver power to the part of a smartphone screen where a user is touching, while preserving power in other areas on the device. Additionally, some smartphones will even allow users to activate sensors in certain areas – the areas of the screen they touch the most – while deactivating the rest of the fingerprint sensors to save power.
Next-Gen 3D and Holographic Display Technology
While hologram technology has captivated popular culture for decades, 3D and holographic display technologies will be integrated in smartphones in the not-too-distant future to help improve the viewing experience. With these technologies, smartphones will be able to detect what angle someone is viewing their smartphone at and then optimize the graphics so they can see it more clearly. For example, if you’re holding your phone at your side, your smartphone would be able to extend the image on the screen so you have full visibility.
Beyond improving basic tasks like web browsing, 3D and holographic display technologies will be pivotal to improving gaming and streaming experiences. These technologies will help to bring digital experiences to life, enabling users to be fully immersed in their content of choice.
Infrared Technology is Heating Up
Infrared thermometry is becoming popular in smartphones, as users can check their temperature right from their smartphone for a hassle-free experience. This is particularly helpful as people around the world can monitor themselves for a fever, one possible symptom of COVID-19. Tracking body temperature is also one way that women can monitor their fertility cycle. Furthermore, this type of infrared technology could be used to monitor the temperature of food for precision cooking.
With infrared temperature sensors embedded in smartphones, consumers may no longer need handheld thermometers for many use cases. This will become yet another example of how smartphones have become the ultimate all-in-one device – combining a computer, phone, camera, calculator, flashlight and more into one sleek gadget.
Optimizing the Smartphone Experience
One key to designing devices with these exciting capabilities is to optimize battery life. In the future, smartphones will pack these features and many other exciting features while extending battery life even further. Plus, new types of charging technologies, such as laser charging, will one day make it possible to charge your phone from anywhere in a room, without having your phone plugged in or on a charging pad.
It will be interesting to see how the next wave of smartphone innovation continue to improve people’s lives and open up the door for new types of experiences we can’t even imagine yet.