From WAP and push email to iPhone in 5 years. From one iPhone to 60 different Android handsets in under 3 years. At that rate it's challenging to create a credible mobile roadmap that extends as far as 6 months - and the rate of change is increasing.
At the current rate, nearly anything is possible in 20 years
Lately a lot of people have asked me what I think is the future of mobile. Some people just want to know what device they should buy at Christmas, but others are looking for a 20 year outlook. 20 years! The first GSM network had barely launched 20 years ago! Predication at that scale is destined for failure and embarrassment. But I won't let that stop me.
Bigger screens are better
Mobile devices are morphing. Tablets have been talked about for years, and the iPad and Kindle provide the kind of experience people have been waiting for. Browsing pictures, watching videos, and reading books work really well on a screen that size.
Still, I find the iPad heavy and bulky. The ultimate device would be the size and weight of my mobile but include a screen that could be unfolded or rolled out to provide a better display for watching movies and playing games.
Actually, the ultimate device would be entirely virtual. I’d put on my glasses (or contact lenses) and look at any surface to see an augmented version of reality. Anything from interactive holographs, to augmented reality, or a cinema screen that stretches across the horizon. Everyone could see their own version of reality on a screen the size of their visual field.
1 year High res screens, tablet devices, and HD output from mobiles.Full keyboards are better. No keyboards is best
5 years Flexible displays and built in HD projectors.
10 years Transparent LCD patches that can be applied to regular glasses.
20 years Contact lenses that project a visual feed directly onto your retina.
Keyboard designs (like the that on the SE Mini Pro) continue to improve, as do on-screen keyboards with technologies like Swype.
The Nintendo Wii and Microsoft's Kinect suggest that gestures might largely take the place of keyboards and touch screens for some interactions. Better multi-touch and increasingly accurate voice input will make physical keyboards almost entirely redundant.
For those who want to write something longer than an email, gesture recognition (capable of tracking fingers), combined with eye-focus tracking will provide virtual full-size keyboards.
If we’re thinking long-term, we can look forward to research like this letting us control our devices using our minds.
1 year Wireless keyboards, voice input, and gestures.Smaller devices that last longer
5 years Larger multitouch screens, better gesture input, and flawless voice recognition.
10 years Full virtual keyboards and voice input eliminate physical keyboards entirely.
20 years Mind control.
The Sony Ericsson X10 Mini is a ridiculous 83x50x16mm and weighs less than 100g. When screens stop being a primary consideration for device size, the devices will shrink dramatically.
That leaves the problem of the battery. Mobile processors will become more efficient, and fuel cells may help battery life in the short term, but ultimately we’ll be powering mobile device using biology and ambient energy. Biokinetic and ambient energy will likely be the start, but the future suggests a move away from silicon and towards biological processors. The computer you inject is more likely to resemble a specialized virus than a tiny silicon chip.
1 year Lighter, thinner devices that last longer.Connectivity will become ubiquitous
5 years Tiny devices powered by fuel cells.
10 years Devices small enough to embed into watches and jewellery that never need charging.
20 years You are the computer.
Cloud computing is already a reality. As even more of our data and processing is done in the cloud, continual and uninterrupted Internet connectivity will become increasingly critical.
The incredible growth of smartphones in countries with a mobile data infrastructure to support them is nothing short of phenomenal. It's easy to forget that the real powerhouses of mobile phone use are developing countries - countries that don't have a reliable infrastructure for traditional "wired" Internet access. Citizens there are likely to access the Internet exclusively via their mobile phones.
Over the next decade we'll see carriers (and new challengers) aggressively rolling out faster, more reliable networks and technologies that cover larger areas across the globe.
At the same time, you'll be using your mobile to control your TV, monitor your fridge, and start your car.
1 year 3G/4G and WiFi covers most of industrial world. Every mobile device comes with an unlimited (or high-cap) data plan. Mobiles start interacting with other consumer electronics and cars.What about calls!
5 years 4G/5G and WiFi extend to cover the entire developing world.
10 years Whitespaces or similar technology means everyone everywhere is connected at all times.
20 years Connectivity is uninterrupted and ubiquitous. Losing connectivity is like losing power or running water.
Apparently some people use mobile phones to make and receive calls(!) As devices get smaller, keyboards become virtual, and screens move closer to your eyes, you'll need a separate piece of kit to sit near your mouth and ears. Bluetooth headsets will get smaller and more discrete, people apparently talking to themselves in public will become no less creepy or annoying.
Infinity screens, invisible devices, always connected
In 2030 you'll think of smart-phones as quaint anachronisms that died out about 10 years ago, now that all computing is mobile. You’ll be constantly connected to the Internet by a virus that lives in your bloodstream. Contact lenses will provide a truly infinite screen, and you’ll interact with your augmented environment through a combination of mental commands, physical gestures, and voice input.
We'll take all this for granted and complain that we still don't have jetpacks or flying cars.