Even small improvements can make a big difference in unexpected and unusual directions.

What will the smartphone look like in 10 years? It’s impossible to predict the future, but one or both of these options may be true.

The smartphone’s story began with technological breakthroughs and ingenuity (Camera + data = Instagram) but evolved into an annual cycle of incremental improvements (better camera). I predict that we will be telling the same story ten years from now when we look at the devices in our hands or, less likely, the implant in one of our spinal cords.

Iteration is the most likely story as usual. We’ll probably have better versions of what we can buy today if there isn’t a breakthrough. Nearly everyone who predicts that there will be a breakthrough within five to ten years, whether it’s self-driving cars or augmented reality, is right. It’s safest to assume that they’ll make the same prediction five years later.

It’s easy to estimate how important a few ITERATIVE CHANGES can be

Smartphones will still be better than today, even with incremental updates. They’ll also be different in certain ways. The screens will have brighter displays and fold differently, the cameras will be more advanced than they are today, and the digital assistants within them will be smarter.

It is easy to overlook how crucial iterative changes are. If the original iPhone camera had not been so junky, would Instagram still exist? It would still exist today if the original iPhone camera weren’t so great it destroyed entire product categories. OLED is a new way to display pixels. However, it can bend and use very little power, so our phones now fold in half, and we make calls from our wrist computers.

Simple, incremental improvements in a component could make our phones more responsive or even surprise us all by triggering a cultural shift. We will see more of these changes in the future. Many of them will be emergent behavior catalyzed through some seemingly insignificant components.

Each PHONE LAUNCH will be less exciting than the last, but that doesn’t mean that PHONES WON’T BE MORE IMPORTANT or IMPACTFUL.

Ultra-wideband is an example. It’s the chip found in high-end phones. This allows them to find other devices in space and transmit small bits of data. For example, to unlock a door. It’s currently used to find gadgets in couch cushions, and it promises it will unlock your car doors soon. We didn’t realize at first that GPS + Data = Uber. But we don’t yet know what UWB can unlock (pardon my pun). Although I could guess, such guesses look more like overly optimistic futurists’ optimistic predictions. UWB could be a failure.

No matter what happens, smartphones will continue to evolve, and each new phone launch will undoubtedly be less exciting than the previous — something we are familiar with. However, this doesn’t mean phones won’t be as important or influential. They’ll be more common and a part of our culture; forgive the pun. It will become clearer that phones are a type of fashion. They will follow yearly trends, more about style than functionality.

We will, with any luck, have a deeper, more conscious awareness of the role of smartphones in our culture. This is similar to fashion. I hope that smartphones will not be all-consuming, but they will always be there.

Although I don’t want to end negatively about technological advancements, it is important to remain grounded in reality. I could tell a story about phones that project their screens into mid-air between your fingers. I can predict that phones will be replaced by high-bandwidth connectors that plug directly into our brains. This will allow us to communicate dynamic, wordless communication in a 6G or 7G network. However, to get from here to there ethically and imaginatively requires greater leaps.


Jeff Hawkins, the founder of Palm, unveiled his last major tech idea 14 years ago. With the PalmPilot, he had defeated the tech giants and created the Treo smartphone. This phone was a significant step ahead of either the iPhone or Android. His third and final act was to create a new type of computer. A fake terminal acted only as a window into the phone’s data. It was called Foleo and never launched. Palm had other immediate concerns.

The Foleo is naive today. All of our data can be stored in the cloud. We don’t have to keep our lives on our phones. The phones would be more interactive than Hawkins predicted. They are the engines of content creation and consumption, which drive an ouroboros economy worth billions or even trillions of dollars. We have Chromebooks, iPads, and the Foleo.

None of these developments took place in 2007, and very few of them could have been predicted. This is the case with some technological advances: they can lead to cultural changes that go in unexpected and unusual directions.

It is possible to speculate on the potential benefits of these advancements. There are certainly promising directions, such as AR glasses, folding displays, modularity, and the possibility that phones will no longer consolidate into one device but instead explode into a network of smaller, more personalized gadgets.

It’s impossible to predict what smartphones will look like in ten years. Here are some suggestions of what they could look like. -Dieter


Wouldn’t that be great? This is the promise of foldable.

A few things are needed before foldable devices can flourish. Folding phones are now closer to the mainstream with a $999 price tag for the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3. However, that price is still prohibitive for many, while larger foldable such as the Fold 3 cost closer to $2,000. The manufacturers will need to make these folding components more efficiently and at a lower price.

Another concern is durability. Foldables have more delicate screens and hinges that are more difficult to seal against water and dust than standard phone components. Samsung has come up with innovative ways to make folding phones more durable ( if in doubt, inject them using cured-in-place glue), but there will be many more options for screens that roll or flex. We are all trained to expect durability from our phones. This is something that the phones of tomorrow will have to match. -Allison


Over the years, the smartphone industry has experimented with modular phones, teasing a future of devices that can be morphed and upgraded as required, adding new sensors and better cameras. The idea has been discarded time after time.

LG’s G5 was a model that allowed you to slide its bottom out and add a hi-fi DAC or a camera attachment with a dedicated shutter key. The entire idea was abandoned by LG the following year. Motorola then gave it another try with the Moto Z line, creating a system that allowed accessories to be attached magnetically to the back of your phone. They worked on several generations of phones and included battery packs, a JBL speaker and a Hasselblad camera. The modular push was not successful in terms of sales numbers.

Google’s Project Ara looked like a true modular dream compared to these efforts. The company envisioned that you could swap out individual parts of your phone, including the processor, camera sensor/lens, battery, and display. You could also keep your original device current with hardware advances by replacing its internals regularly. The company abandoned Project Ara and its LEGO-style upgrades before shipping hardware to developers. It’s a terrible shame.

It’s not easy to realize our sci-fi modular phone dreams. Google had to abandon its plans with Ara. Instead, it integrated the display and CPU into the device’s frame. This meant that they couldn’t be replaced. Profit margin is perhaps the most important reason piecemeal smartphones wouldn’t work. Why would Samsung, Apple, or any other company charge $1,000 per year for new devices? What incentive is there to use a modular approach that allows consumers less money to upgrade their phones with the most innovative tech? Companies may be unable to innovate and push ahead with new, innovative designs if they maintain compatibility with the modular system for years. It isn’t easy to see the Galaxy Z Fold 3 as a modular system and imagine how it could be easily swapped out.

In 10 years, modular phones may be back in fashion. This, or the right-to-repair initiative, could win such a large market that companies will make repairs so easy that our devices almost feel modular. We can dream, right? -Chris


It is tempting to predict that the smartphone we have now will be replaced, or at least reduced to our pockets more often, by smart glasses in ten years.

Although we are already on the right track, early attempts at Google Glass were too primitive, creepy and odd-looking. Recent attempts by companies such as Focal still rely on the phone for much of their functionality. Meta, rebranded as Facebook, continues to explore this concept. Apple’s much-rumored mixed reality glasses are still in development.


It’s not difficult to imagine futuristic smart glasses worn as a pair of completely independent smart glasses. These could have lenses that act as private displays and display notifications.

There is a major problem with smart glasses that are more powerful and less capable. It is difficult to reduce all of the technology into something people wear in public. Display technology is still not at the level it should be. There have been smart glasses that projected their UI onto the lenses glass in the past, but this is where things get complicated.

Another fundamental challenge is to create an interface that feels natural and makes sense between your eyes and the outside world. This would require eye tracking. Consider how many times you check your phone every day. It would be a waste of time to tap and swipe on their glasses constantly. Voice dictation needs to improve beyond its current performance on mobile devices if we can leave our slabs or foldable phones at home.

Even if all this is clear, the tried-and-true smartphone will not be around in 10 years. Productivity and other tasks are better suited to a keyboard and screen device. -Chris


A phone isn’t something that we take around with us in sci-fi-filled visions for the next 10 years. It’s everywhere. Each room has a smart speaker and screen.

There is much more to it than what you see in your home. It’s not necessary to carry a personal device around with you. Instead of having to take your phone out of your pocket and open the appropriate app, then type words onto the screen, the world around you will be able to handle the tedious task for you.

You need to message mom to ask how she is feeling following her bionic limb transplant. Your bathroom mirror sent the message this morning, which was two steps ahead. You ran to the grocery store last minute for some dinner ingredients. The shopping cart has already spoken to your fridge and knows exactly what you need, where it is located, and how to pay for it. The personal bits will be outsourced from personal computing. They won’t need to stick to tiny glowing screens and just move around the world like Sims. It will be amazing. Or it could be not very good. Most likely, terrible.

This scenario presents serious ethical issues. To enable the world around us to anticipate and solve our needs, we must give away much information about ourselves. What happens when an algorithm determines we are acting suspiciously? It analyzes our sleeping patterns, oral hygiene, and purchases. If you’re curious about how it works, take a look at the 70 years worth of sci-fi literature and movies.

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