It’s the end of the decade, and you’re seeing plenty of retrospectives rounding up the last 10 years of smartphones, and tech in general – but what about the future, and the tech advances it might bring? How could smartphones change in the next 10 years? We’ve looked at a few trends of the 2010s, and in particular 2019, and estimated at where these trends could go by the year 2030, looking at everything from foldable phones to USB ports and 6G.
We’re well aware that this analysis could end up being heavily wide of the mark – the smartphone could be gone in favor of a dozen wearable cameras all over the body by 2030 – so if you’re seeing this in 10 years time, we’re sorry. But smartphones will naturally evolve, and these are the routes that we think they’ll move down as consumers clamor for ever-more useful features to justify the spiralling outlay.
Foldable phones in the future
Foldable phones really entered the public eye in 2019, with multiple devices like the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Motorola Razr 2019 launched (although the latter wasn’t available to buy during the year), and they’re only going to get more popular as more devices are released. So, by 2029, could we all own foldable phones? Well, that depends on how phone companies navigate the next few years. At the moment, foldable phones are largely considered interesting gimmicks, but ones that most people (other than tech fans) wouldn’t consider buying as their next phone.
This is because of how pricey they are, and also because software hasn’t been developed that really makes the most of the form factor. So if the next few years brings foldable phones that are affordable and, more importantly, vital for certain functions, people will leap on board. 10 years is a long time, and it’s highly likely that foldable phones will become affordable and useful pretty soon, but that depends on how willing people are to ditch the tried and trusted form factor of ‘normal’ phones.
Will 5G and 6G be popular?
5G is already out and about in several countries, although at the close of 2019 it still remains to be seen how long it will take for people to get on board with the tech. The added speed doesn’t mean much for people in high-speed areas, where 4G is already faster than most people need, and no apps have been launched that really make the most of the high-speed connection.
But in the coming years, companies will launch more 5G phones and fewer 4G handsets, following the pattern of every new generation of connectivity, to the point where it’s ‘normal’ to buy a 5G phone, just as you’d buy a 4G phone now.
That’s less because people need a high-speed phone, and more just because most of the devices on shelves will be 5G, with few (or no) 4G options Towards the end of the decade, we could even see mentions of 6G (Donald Trump has already been demanding it), but we’ll have to see how much people take to 5G, and if we really need even faster connections, before knowing for sure.
More rear cameras?
While you may think the future will bring you phones with plenty of smartphone cameras, far more so than now, that might not end up being the case: there are only so many different kinds of lens, so we’ll soon reach a point where adding more lenses adds nothing new. No, in fact, the real change will likely be megapixel count – at the end of 2019 the highest resolution in a smartphone is 108MP in the Xiaomi Mi Note 10, but it looks like a number of phones in 2020 are gearing up to match that. In 10 years, though, that number could be through the roof.
Well, at least five times nearer the roof. Scientists have estimated that the human eye sees roughly 576MP, but that’s assuming perfect vision with an image right by your face, so if you’re looking at a phone at arm’s length and don’t have flawless vision, that number is higher than you’ll ever need. So people don’t need cameras with incredibly high megapixel counts, and it would be a surprise if phone companies decided to even reach 576MP. Saying that, advances in megapixel count will almost certainly be more pronounced in 2030 than the number of rear cameras.