- Fifteen years ago, the first iPhone with a touchscreen instead of a keyboard hit the stores.
- This anniversary influences all of us — we carry the result of it in our pockets. It has irreversibly changed the way we communicate, navigate, and use media.
- Will smartphones surprise us yet? According to specialists, we have faced stagnation in mobile trends, so in this article, we attempt to predict the mobile’s future.
Globally, 1.5 billion new smartphones are sold annually, and 6.6 billion people – nearly 84% of the world’s population, have them in their pockets.
Prototypes of such devices existed before, but Apple sensed the right moment to introduce them to the common public. To consider what to expect in the next decade, let’s go back 15 years.
Cupertino, January 9, 2007. Although conferences with Steve Jobs as lead role always were of great interest, this one went down in history. During the presentation Jobs emphasized that the new Apple product came from a combination of three devices:
- a media player (in those years that was the now-forgotten iPod),
- a phone,
- and an Internet browser.
Such a 3-in-1 device was distributed for the first time in the US 15 years ago, on June 29th, 2007. In November, it launched in Europe (including the UK, France and Germany). In February 2008 the was an update to a new 16GB version.
Over time, smartphones, such as iPhones, have been able to accommodate more and more equipment in a small compact device. Some of them, like a camera or GPS navigation system, we rearly buy separately these days. Not to mention mobile applications for practically everything – there are 9 million apps worldwide, according to Forbes.
Jobs strongly emphasized the abandonment of the physical keyboard on smartphones. Before Apple’s iPhone revolution, phones were dominated by the physical keyboard, severely limiting the maneuvering room for software developers. They had to conform to a predetermined set of buttons or wait a year for a new model. With a touchscreen, it’s much more straightforward. Applications don’t have to be written for a particular phone so much anymore; they work the same on all generations of smartphones.
How have smartphones changed our lives?
An essential feature of the cell phone, pioneered by the iPhone 15 years ago, is that internet access became its default state. As a result, we quickly got used to having the Internet at home or work and in our pockets. The list of changes is practically endless: media (which primarily influence us as PR specialists), social media, dating apps, maps, public transportation apps, health and activity monitoring – all this is included in a smartphone.
Online 24/7? 10 areas how that changed our lives:
- We don’t get lost anymore – maps with navigation take us straight to our destination.
- We have hundreds of photos and recordings. We can easily post them, send them to others, etc.
- Social media has quickly adapted to mobile devices and exploded with the variety of offered content.
- Smartphones turned dating upside down. Now, most couples meet through dating apps.
- Thanks to apps, new forms of getting around cities have emerged – ridesharing, carsharing, bike and e-scooter rentals. Even concepts of dark stores & dark kitchens are created.
- Smartphones have brought back simple puzzle games – currently, the mobile game market is worth more than the PC and console game markets combined.
- It has become popular to pay not only without cash but even without a wallet.
- Being non-stop online has paved the way for new streaming platforms, podcasts and audiobooks.
- We monitor our health and sports workouts thanks to fitness bands and remotely controlled home appliances (Internet of Things).
- Through smartphones, we can carry only a few items. Cell phones took over the functions of, for example, watches, flashlights, calendars, tickets and recently they are also starting to replace documents (e.g. the covid passport).
Innovation vs. cosmetics
Not everyone remembers that the first iPhone didn’t have GPS, high-speed cellular data transfer, or the ability to run apps other than the pre-installed ones. It didn’t even have a selfie camera or other features associated with smartphones today. These appeared only in subsequent generations of Apple and competitors’ products.
At first, each year brought momentous innovations that paved the way for new features.
Recently, however, the pace of change has noticeably slowed.
Successive iOS and Android devices have more memory, a larger screen (the first iPhone was 3.5 inches, while iPhone 14 Pro Max is 6.69 inches), and one more camera than their predecessors. But their functionality stays mostly the same.
In other words, a six-year-old iPhone 8 (that has been taken care of and is in excellent shape) handles most tasks as well as the new iPhone 14.
So, what’s next?
Future of smartphones? Keep these trends on your radar in 2023
Technically, the most exciting smartphone innovations that have emerged in recent years include:
- inductive charging
- biometric phone unlocking
- 5G technology
- foldable and curved displays.
However, so far none of these has significantly enhanced the phone user experience.
The following innovations to be expected are:
- no SIM card
- transparent casing
- rollable screen
- smartphones becoming the base that coordinates other gadgets: wearables, interactive assistants or VR headsets
- remote battery charging
- as well as the batteries lasting a week without charging.
But will this change how we communicate the same way, as when people switched from their Nokia 3310 (the one with the Snake game – OK, boomer) to the iPhone? I doubt so.
The newest = the best? Refurbished devices market is growing
The mega-trend of going eco-friendly in every aspect of life cannot be overlooked. The iPhone is changing from an object of desire to an object of everyday use. It no longer has to be the latest and greatest. The concept of a modular smartphone may come true. According to this vision, only individual components would be exchanged for new ones when they break or wear out. The rest would be left unchanged without exploiting the environment too much.
Another trend worth monitoring regarding iPhones is the purchasing habit. It used to be Apple stores only, but now the resellers and refurbished smartphones market is growing. Counterpoint Research estimated in 2022 that the value of the global refurbished smartphone market grew more than three times faster than new device sales, at a year-on-year rate of 15 percent.
The Right to Repair movement is working towards EU legislation to extend the life cycle of devices to include phones. According to EU data, only 15% of old phones are recycled or repaired. Therefore, the potential for growth in the renewable smartphone market is enormous: the market is expected to grow at a rate of more than 10% per year this decade.
That may be it when it comes to the coming trends unless the smartphone manufacturers don’t surprise us with something as groundbreaking as the creation of the iPhone 15 years ago. We would all wish that, I guess.