Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What Will Mobile Look Like in 10 Years?

Consider Martin Sauter's mobile's from 10 years age and how far we've come.
Sauter mobile
Photo via Martin Sauter

I imagine that in 10 years our devices, their interfaces, and the speed of our networks will seem antiquated.

We'll wonder how we ever managed with 1-2 Mbps on our 3G networks or 25 Mbps on our home networks. Where will the speeds be in 10 years? Consider that in mid-2007, when the 1st iPhone was launched, Apple did not consider 3G coverage sufficient or the chips mature enough to support in their breakthrough device - instead opting for AT&T's slower Edge network. That wasn't even 4 years ago! Today 3G is nearly ubiquitous (expect- sadly - on AT&T's network) and many phones and carriers are selling 4G devices and services. Apple is again waiting for coverage and chip maturity, but don't be surprised if we see 4G-capable iOS devices as early as this summer. So back to the question - what will our networks look like in 10 years? I think we'll continue to see the exponential growth of speeds on our data networks, as well as "micro-cell" technology that provides better coverage and requires less power from our mobile devices.

The devices will continue to get thinner and smaller - while improving the features available, but there's a limit to how small these devices can get. Compare the size of 2001's Palm III (above) to today's iPhone or any Android phone - while the devices are infinitely more powerful, the form factors have not changed as dramatically.

The interface is another area where I think we'll see significant innovation. Google and Apple (to a lesser degree) are already integrating voice-controlled operation into their interfaces. As voice-control becomes increasingly common, I think we'll also see device makers experimenting with a variety of virtual keyboards and interfaces. These will not be onscreen virtual keyboards, but instead natural user interfaces projected onto a surface or into the air - possibly using some sort of combination of motion-capture and holographic projection. Interestingly, Microsoft - with their market-leading, Guinness record-breaking Kinect has the lead here and could be the company to innovate here.

My Mobile Devices 10 Years Ago:
Have a look at the picture on the left that I recently re-discovered. It's back from 2001 and shows the mobile devices I was using at the time. A Siemens S25 GSM mobile, no GPRS yet and a Palm III. Internet connectivity for email and some very very basic black and white web browsing over and infrared link and a circuit switched data connection (9.6 or 14.4 kbit/s) to an analog fixed line modem of an internet service provider. And that was only 10 years ago! Interesting to compare that to the gigahertz powered processors we have in mobile devices now, gigabytes of Flash RAM and display resolutions equaling that of desktop PCs of the time.

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