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What Will the 'Phone' of 2022 Look Like?
September 14, 2012 9:43 PM   Subscribe

What Will the 'Phone' of 2022 Look Like? "Is the iPhone 5 the last phone? Not the last phone in a literal sense, but this is the apotheosis of this device we would call a phone...It's not clear to me that there is any such device as the phone in 2022. Already, telephony has become a feature and not even a frequently used feature of those things we put in our pockets."

The Atlantic's Alex Madrigal looks at the future of mobile communications, discussing input methods, form factors and technological limits (including energy storage, bandwith and privacy issues).
posted by paleyellowwithorange (96 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
iPhone 10?
posted by mazola at 9:56 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


iPhone 4 - four rows of apps.
iPhone 5 - five rows of apps.

I mean... the rest just works itself out from there, yah?
posted by andreaazure at 9:58 PM on September 14, 2012 [15 favorites]


Having kept an eye on the mobile phone industry over the past 5 years in particular, myself, I suspect that we'll be looking back to articles like these in another half decade and saying "Oh how quaint... look at what Madrigal wrote back in 2012". I look back at some of the things from 2007 in the quite the same way, and form factor explorations along the same lines have been around since then or even before.

Imho, one of the biggest differences between "then" and "now" is just how rapidly the mobile phone market globally has been changing in the recent past and that speed of change and growth (those cheap Chinese phones and Indian manufacturers that Dediu has been watching) has kept the landscape in flux almost throughout.

Just yesterday I was talking about this to someone in India, where pricing and plans offered by local operators will keep the product limited in sales. This model requires a special SIM card, which must be purchased through the operator, so even open phones purchased elsewhere may not work in locations where no operator is offering the special SIM unlike the earlier models where existing SIMs could be made to fit.

The price, the business model and the special SIM will be (or perhaps are designed to be by Apple?) natural barriers to the spread of this model beyond the markets in which they have chosen to enter.

Will the phone of the future emerge from such a constrained ecosystem? Or should the phone of the future be designed for all the planet's residents or will a new, different digital divide emerge ?

Can phones evolve in the future without a concurrent evolution in the mobile service operation and business models?
posted by infini at 10:03 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


iPhone 10?
posted by mazola at 2:26 PM on September 15 [+] [!]

iPhone 4 - four rows of apps.
iPhone 5 - five rows of apps.

I mean... the rest just works itself out from there, yah?
posted by andreaazure at 2:28 PM on September 15 [+] [!]


See also the iPhone 20.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 10:08 PM on September 14, 2012


Genetically engineered biophones. You'll be able to pick up any banana and make a call on it, making manufactured phones superfluous. Then the genes will get loose and they'll grow in the wild and everyone will be getting crank calls from monkeys all the time.
posted by XMLicious at 10:09 PM on September 14, 2012 [45 favorites]


I would like a tablet that folds up like a piece of paper to be different sizes while still useable... Ipad size, iphone size, tiny, etc. So let's do that. K Thnks.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:09 PM on September 14, 2012 [12 favorites]


MeFi's own Scott Adams (snicker) thinks our phones will be our heads.
posted by asnider at 10:19 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the future we will be able to choose any-object-with-embedded-mobile-computing-device. Instead of just a glass rectangle, it can be anything. You can have your Get Smart shoe, bananaphone, boomerang, stapler, paperback book, golf club, Kalashnikov rifle, crack pipe, anything, custom-ordered with a chip, antenna & interface.
posted by univac at 10:22 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


We were talking about this today at work. Consensus was an embedded chip and a high tech contact lens tat can display an HUD.
posted by arcticseal at 10:22 PM on September 14, 2012


I always loved the line in The Dilbert Future where Adams says (paraphrasing from memory here), "I often wish I had an internet connection in my head, so that I could browse the web during useless periods of my life, such as when people are talking to me."
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 10:25 PM on September 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


Where we're going, we don't need phones.
posted by No-sword at 10:26 PM on September 14, 2012 [10 favorites]


Call me a contrarian, but I suspect we've about reached the upper limit of hardware UI innovation. Google Glasses will always appeal to somebody, but most of us find them more than a little creepy. Absent significant human evolution, we have now the devices that are optimized to fit in our hands, or making reading comfortable, or whatever.

Think about (to borrow a cliche example) the computers on TNG, a world set 300 years in the future. They're essentially interacting with devices very similar to the ones we have: phone-shaped tricorders, tablet-sized viewers and touch-screen monitors built into the wall, sometimes controlled via voice. What's different about them? Mostly software - much better voice recognition, flawless identity protection without passwords and a universal enormous file system. They're also (notably) cheap enough that they are essentially ubiquitous and can be traded, tossed around, given and taken without a second thought. That's the future.
posted by Apropos of Something at 10:27 PM on September 14, 2012 [12 favorites]


> You'll be able to pick up any banana and make a call on it

I'm not sure I'm emotionally secure enough to do this.
posted by Nomyte at 10:27 PM on September 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


Pshaw! We'll all be fighting for scraps of food amid the ruins of collapsed cities. And that's if we're lucky. People will talk of the iPhone in tones now used for Nero's worst excesses.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:36 PM on September 14, 2012 [27 favorites]


I don't think input methods are likely to change a great deal -- it's no accident that the keyboard (text) and mouse (GUI navigator) have hung on for nearly 30 years.

Same with output devices: a screen (of increasing resolution) and speakers/headphones (of slowly increasing quality per dollar) will remain the primary output methods.

The only significant change to either of the above is if we somehow perfect haptics. But I think that's more than 10 years away.

My personal prediction for 2022:

You will carry a device that is, more or less, a similar size to your current smartphone. It will connect, probably via cable, to a hub that connects your display device, audio device, keyboard and mouse.

It will probably be your only computer (unless you own two of them), and will probably have separate "identities" (more than just user accounts, but different OS versions, all running under a hypervisor as virtual machines of the actually-transparent host OS. These "identities" will allow it to be used without any trouble, as necessary, as a device for work, home, guests, etc. It will have almost all of the storage you will want to be mobile with you (probably a few terabytes of NAND flash storage), and automatically stream, probably at somewhere between 1 and 10 gigabits, any files from cloud or your home's server storage anything that you don't have stored on your phone.

It will be capable of everything a desktop computer is capable of today, and probably be driving either 2k or 4k external screens.

Hardcore techies will continue to have big bulky devices because they are content-generators and want a big screen with them wherever they go, not just on their desk at home and work.

The early adopters will all have another important output device: 3d printers. And the **AA will be going after people who print "pirated" items.
posted by chimaera at 10:40 PM on September 14, 2012 [13 favorites]


contact lens tat

ow ow ow
posted by stebulus at 10:41 PM on September 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


And, people will probably flame me for this, but Windows 8 is a hint of that future -- badly implemented for now, but they're honestly ahead of Apple on this curve (it's clunky but it resembles the future more than the iOS/OSX divide currently does).

In your hand, it will be a gesture-driven touch device, and when plugged into a dock, will have a relatively conventional desktop GUI.
posted by chimaera at 10:44 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


This particular statistic from the linked article seemed strange:
In just the last five years, Nokia, Samsung, LG, and RIM have seen their market shares and profits collapse due to this pincer movement.

In fact, according to figures from IDC, Samsung has a 32.6% market share (worldwide smartphones 2012 Q2), up from 17% a year earlier. I don't know about their profits, but their market share has hardly collapsed.
posted by Umami Dearest at 10:46 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Near-atomic precision manufacturing methods will make the iPhone 5 (which I'm eagerly awaiting estimated arrival next Friday to make me complete and beautiful again) look like a bakelite rotary phone.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:49 PM on September 14, 2012


My personal prediction for 2022:

Computing power and form factor are not the challenges. New input devices are.

The tablet form factor will rein supreme. Your data / computer will be something inbetween the cloud and a thin client, which is to say that when fast processors and capable computers are everywhere, data will be synced across all your devices, etc, as to present the appearance of a unified computing platform to you. The handheld computer and a desktop computer all be powerful enough to do things like video editing, 3d modeling, etc.

Alternate input methods such as kinect/leap, voice, etc. etc. will be advanced, but will be middling for various reasons. Kinect/leap is too analog and inaccurate to deal with anything other than gaming / casual browsing. Voice is cool and convenient, but not altogether 100% reliable, and also impractical at times (a board meeting, etc) and as such still smething used every once in a while.

The invention to change computing will be a brain-sensor / wrist-sensor input device, which allows you to type into a keyboard without having a keyboard. You'll think, "type 'shift-H e l l o' ". This input device isn't a mind reader, just a way to replicate discrete, digital input without the device itself. Computing can happen anywhere; while you're walking, talking, thinking, etc.

Keyboard were physical devices that took discrete input; mice were physical devices that took continuous input; touchpads were non-physical devices that took continuous input; the next step is a non-physical device that takes discrete input.
posted by suedehead at 11:02 PM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


Alternate title: PDAs absorb the phone. It just turns out that people want to buy PDAs with wireless connections. It also has to be said that the Palm still looks really nice; HP could do worse than to make their next phone in that case.
posted by jaduncan at 11:03 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


There just better not be any fucking wires. Anywhere.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:06 PM on September 14, 2012 [18 favorites]


We've pretty much got input down. Next big thing, if anything, is gonna be output.
posted by kafziel at 11:20 PM on September 14, 2012


We need better batteries. Much, much better batteries.
posted by Yakuman at 11:23 PM on September 14, 2012 [13 favorites]


We won't be carrying phones in 2022. They will be enbedded in our skulls.
posted by tgyg at 11:26 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the screen stops being the focus the future starts looking more like Siri, Kinnect and Glass, or some combination of all three.
posted by Artw at 11:26 PM on September 14, 2012


On the other hand that does mean the future people would be talking to themselves, waving their hands around a lot and seeing things that aren't there all the time.
posted by Artw at 11:36 PM on September 14, 2012


A loud clatter of gunk music flooded through the Heart of Gold cabin as Zaphod searched the sub-etha radio wavebands for news of himself. The machine was rather difficult to operate. For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive, you merely had to brush the panels with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components and hope. It saved a lot of muscular expenditure of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to keep listening to the same programme.
posted by XMLicious at 11:42 PM on September 14, 2012 [13 favorites]


On the other hand that does mean the future people would be talking to themselves, waving their hands around a lot and seeing things that aren't there all the time.

Are you an engineer?
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:44 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I imagine Chimaera is right about the upcoming 3D copying fight. That's going to make the RIAA/MIAA look like polite people kindly asking us to cease mildly annoying behavior.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:45 PM on September 14, 2012


You'll be able to pick up any banana and make a call on it

THE PROPHECY SHALL THUS BE FULFILLED


I predict at some point, sometime before 2022, there will be a demand for old rotary phones. Possibly for use the old fashioned way, or perhaps retrofitted with new innards.Since the way we use the devices we call "phones" now are very barely that - I NEVER use my phone to have actual spoken conversations unless forced - there may be a kind of nostalgia for them, most likely by people who have never used them.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:46 PM on September 14, 2012


You'll be able to pick up any banana and make a call on it

Rule 34.
posted by dhartung at 12:13 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Our phones will look like our cities, because that's what they will be. Displays will be as cheap as dirt and everywhere (transparent screens as shop windows, billboards that let you steal a little screentime in return for watching an ad) so you just use those ones. As for input, cameras are getting cheap even faster than screens, and small - so input will be you scribbling whatever you want to write on a piece of paper, and the dispersed cameras that are everywhere will watch your hands and pick up the text.

In fact, if CStross's speculations turn out to be true, we might not even need a phone at all, in the sense of a privately owned resource of processing to drive these various forms of interaction. Well, we might take a small talisman phone with us, as a backup and a physical object to focus on while we talk to friends, ask questions, write notes to ourself - but it won't really be necessary. We'll be living inside our computer, which exists as a layer of interface covering and co-existing with our surroundings.
posted by Ripper Minnieton at 12:22 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


There is a lot of bitterness RE the fact that the new iPhones are really similar to last. The new meme is that apple is the new Microsoft, afraid to make waves, just making a few changes to keep the faithful happy.

The other new meme is that Apple is poor at developing software, and that their superior hardware is a wasted because their software is so poor.

Who the fuck knows. Recently I see posts about how windows "just works" while OS X is barely tolerable for professional use.

Technology changes day to day, the same people who were hyping OS X yesterday, as the future of computing, are now hyping Windows 8 today, as having left OS X in th dust.

I wouldn't have it any other way, we move fast, nobody can rest. Lets fucking go.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:44 AM on September 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Google Glasses remind me of Gargoyles from Snow Crash: It's a gargoyle, standing in the dimness next to a shanty. Just in case he's not already conspicuous enough, he's wearing a suit. Hiro starts walking toward him. Gargoyles represent the embarrassing side of the Central Intelligence Corporation. Instead of using laptops, they wear their computers on their bodies, broken up into separate modules that hang on the waist, on the back, on the headset. Always scanning and uploading.

What I find amusing about the smart phone integrating away multiple devices, is the Kurzweil predictions of distributed nanobots and wearable computing. Instead we currently have the single device.
posted by saber_taylor at 1:17 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Whatever will bring you the most power is the goal of technology. Groups of people will form gangs under the direction of a War Lord. The war lord will control your communication devices, issuing orders for your task in achieving the groups goals: like the next raid on resources. Think small screen on your wrist and a ear canal device. The devices need to easily removed from your body for economies sake. Your ability to communicate will be limited. Your will also receive propaganda via this technology.
posted by JohnR at 1:19 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


In fact, if CStross's speculations turn out to be true.

Yeah I'd be putting him in Cory Doctorow-territory on that score. I tried reading Accelerando last year and the modish, utterly inaccurate vision of 2012 or 2015 or whatever was almost painful. It was like a random ticker of 2002 buzzwords flying past, like imagine RSS, but COOLER!!

I think the path for development is far from linear; hardly anyone predicted the internet and those that did failed to anticipate how it would change the world. But you don't get internets coming along all that often. I predict a 2020 smartphone will be very similar to a smartphone today, but better, and people will be docking them to monitors, etc because the processing will be good enough for 90% of people, 90% of time. I wouldn't be surprised to see them streaming to tvs etc, too. If they don't have better batteries, so help me god.
posted by smoke at 1:25 AM on September 15, 2012


Guys you already can watch your phone on a tv. That's what AirPlay does. But nobody uses it because why is that useful?
posted by aubilenon at 1:32 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whatever the possibilities of technology, I feel like people love having a physical object to pull out of their pockets and poke away at in public, if only to look important and avoid having to socialize.
posted by mannequito at 1:37 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that as they get the hang of smartphone design out in the Congo, that region is where the next disruptive innovation in device/service/ecosystem will emerge from...
posted by infini at 2:14 AM on September 15, 2012


No guess what the prospects are, but I've long thought roll-up/foldable screens could make an immense difference. Something about 12" (for the keyboard) w. a screen that can be extended out from a couple inches to a couple feet would be all kinds of useful and versatile.
posted by ambient2 at 2:21 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The phone of the future is such a wonderful gadget, such a pleasure-center of human experience, such a replacement for face-to-face communication, so miniaturized and and user-centered form-factored that you can stick it up your ass.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:38 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


The best and most likely prediction remains the scenario put forth 55 YEARS AGO in the movie "The President's Analyst", as explained by Pat Harrington to James Coburn...
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:42 AM on September 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


Your data / computer will be something inbetween the cloud and a thin client

its cool i didnt need security anyway
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:18 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


And, people will probably flame me for this, but Windows 8 is a hint of that future -- badly implemented for now, but they're honestly ahead of Apple on this curve (it's clunky but it resembles the future more than the iOS/OSX divide currently does).

It's amusing that Microsoft, the company that "pioneered" the single window interface, when multiple windows were possible, is now betting the farm on an extreme multiple "window" interface. They're betting the farm because they were smart to realize that Apple was not only eating their lunch, but taking their lunch money too. They're trying to leap frog now, but managed to hinder their own efforts by insisting the OS be the same on every device. An evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary route would have saved them a lot of pain from customers.

Live tiles sound like a great idea, but when there's multiple tiles, that reduces the amount of information any individual tile can have, while introducing cluttered information across the entire screen. So you have to click on the damn tile most of the time, to get all the information you need, which defeats the purpose of the pretty tile.

There is a lot of bitterness RE the fact that the new iPhones are really similar to last. The new meme is that apple is the new Microsoft, afraid to make waves, just making a few changes to keep the faithful happy.

There are also a lot of preorders for the new iPhones, no doubt because they're lighter, thinner, have a faster processor, better camera and better battery life. So yeah, plenty changed, the tech heads are just throwing a tantrum, most of them from their iDevice or Macbook.

I don't know what the 'phone' of 2022 will look like. It'll probably be thinner, lighter, have a faster processor, better camera and better battery life, along with incredible voice controls and assistance.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:35 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are also a lot of preorders for the new iPhones

Who knows why people buy new phones. Could be fashion accessory. Didn't Apple prove nobody cared about specs?
posted by Ad hominem at 3:42 AM on September 15, 2012


What's that hashtag going around #butUstillboughtiPhone5 ?
posted by infini at 3:55 AM on September 15, 2012


It's amusing that Microsoft, the company that "pioneered" the single window interface, when multiple windows were possible, is now betting the farm on an extreme multiple "window" interface

Seems like the opposite to me. Maybe we mean the same thing, but they are pretty much releasing a tiling window manager.

I know I see a lot of talk by windows "power users", who say they need a bunch of windows open at once, and that MS is killing business users with this.

The odd thing is that I'm the definition of a windows power user, I develop windows software for a living. When I started to pay attention I realized I spend a crazy amount of time dragging windows around just to copy paste from one to another. In reality, I only ever need two apps on the screen at once.

My user base is business users. They use my app, and word or excel, and that is it.

I'm not so sure MS is crazy, like many people say. This is most likely the product of thousands of hours of usability studies and is pretty much the new normal.

Like I said l who the hell knows for sure, computing is pretty much a brand new industry. That is the best thing about it , we make this shit up as we go along.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:00 AM on September 15, 2012


The phones of 2022 will be all style, no substance. The mobile market will, by then, have embraced the retro trend; the trendiest and most sought-after mobile phone will be the Nokia 3310.
posted by daniel_charms at 4:09 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Who knows why people buy new phones.

Probably because they want or need a new phone.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:10 AM on September 15, 2012


Want and need are very different. Wants changes with the wind.

From what I see, the upgrade path is that people buy the latest iPhone because they don't want to be seen with an old iPhone.

The problem with that, if Apple has no real lock in, is that trends can change.

What the fuck do I know anyway, I have a 3G, and before that I had a StarTac. I have no intention of unprading.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:15 AM on September 15, 2012


In 2022, I fully intend to be the last remaining person in the US still without a data plan, limping along with my little VX5300.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:24 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Upgrading, not unprading. If there is one problem I have with Apple stuff, it is that it seems like it was designed to make me, specifically, look like an idiot.

I love my iPhone, iPod and iPad. I even loved my Mac Minis, the two I bought, before the HDs died. I am not invested in them though. There isn't anything I do on them I'd couldn't do on any other device.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:25 AM on September 15, 2012


So, in the future everyone will be that glassy-eyed douchebag that talks out loud to no one in particular and occasionally turns his head and points at his ear.
posted by stavrogin at 4:46 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I'd like the phone of the future to be is a heavy black shiny machine with a rotary dial that sits on a little wooden stand by the door, with a handset burly enough to be used to beat an intruder to death if necessary.

What it will actually be is some implanted silicon nightmare seed full of brain-infecting ads that can't be blocked because the government of Ms Bachmann passed a rule guaranteeing freedom of expression to corporapeople and I'll never successfully complete a call because my hyperactive monkey mind will constantly interrupt my calls to browse through an archive of information about the Soviet hydrofoils of the late sixties, look up Jane Lew, West Virginia on a map, send an indignant email to a former high school acquaintance, and almost, but not quite, call a man that I sort of like, but cannot see in person because queerness is illegal in 2022.

Then, in my sleep, my sex dreams will call a boss from a job I had in 2018 and spool out an illegal scenario involving the back of a pickup truck, a half gallon of ice cream, my eleven year-old self, and a teal-colored leopard man from a planet where women are all leopard librarians, while Pamela Hensley stands on the tailgate and sings "Le Vie En Rose" in one of the sparkly fringe gowns from the first season of Buck Rogers.

What a world we'll live in!
posted by sonascope at 5:19 AM on September 15, 2012 [21 favorites]


There are a couple of issues to consider. One is form factor. Phones require an antenna (three actually). It's not apparent, but it's there. Given the physics of communication, that's not going away.

The other consideration is what will the phone do? In the last decade we've moved from phones being a communication device to phones being a portable computer. If we assume the latter trend, then Google Glass is probably the way things will go. They've currently go the touchpad on the frame, which is clunky, but if you can use eye-tracking or something similar for most of the i/o, that might not be a problem.

But, you could posit a split back to the original meaning for phone, in which case, it could shrink down to something the size of a watch or pen, with a wireless connection to an unobtrusive earpiece. For pure communication, no I/O other than voice would be required.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:21 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thorzdad: "In 2022, I fully intend to be the last remaining person in the US still without a data plan, limping along with my little VX5300."

A co-worker of mine still uses a candy bar Nokia phone from around 2001, he says he'll replace it when it dies and it shows no sign of dying. It works for him, he sees no reason to upgrade. So chances are that for him, the phone of 2022 will probably still be a simple feature phone.
posted by octothorpe at 5:22 AM on September 15, 2012


A banana as hone?
There is this saying: never put a banana to your mouth and make eye contact with anyone.
posted by Postroad at 5:39 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


All these people that have phones that are actually phones are so 20th century...
posted by blue_beetle at 5:57 AM on September 15, 2012


I stick with a non-smartphone because it's the only way to ensure that there will be times when I absolutely, positively have no access to the internet.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:19 AM on September 15, 2012


It's ridiculous to ask WHY anyone is upgrading from iPhone 4 to iPhone 5. It's essentially free, if not profitable, so why not? I'm out of contract with my 4, so I can call AT&T, have them carrier unlock it, then sell it on EBay for about the upgrade cost, if not a bit more. Same thing happens every two years. I'm payin for the upgrade with my monthly bills, so it's stupid NOT to do it.

People who make the admittedly marginal upgrade before they're eligible though? Ok, that's a little ridiculous.
posted by supercres at 6:31 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The phone of 2022 will be a black, robotic bird with time-travel capabilities.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 7:56 AM on September 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I found a Ma Bell desk rotary phone from the 60s at a garage sale and kept it on my night table for years. I love talking into a real phone that perfectly fits my face and hand instead of fighting with a flat piece of glass and metal. I love hearing a real bell ring instead of the latest crap pop song. I love being able to comfortably cradle the phone while talking.
I love absentmindedly twirling the cord with my fingers while I talk. I love being able to clearly hear the person I'm speaking to. Those phones were great.

Modern phones are designed for a myriad of tasks but suck in terms of usability as a voice communication device. The old phones were designed for a single purpose and did it very well. The future improvements that I hope for are not phones that have better processors or cameras but phones that are actually comfortable to use.
posted by double block and bleed at 8:01 AM on September 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Speakerphone is pretty comfortable to use, as is a Bluetooth speaker/receiver.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:50 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


double block and bleed: exactly my feelings. There's no cellphone with the ergonomics of a Bell landline phone. I suppose those things are "vintage" now

I talked on my cellphone for approximately 5 minutes last month, but used it for hours and hours of anything but making phone calls.

But really, even in that role it's nothing but a "palm pda with more everything", which has predecessors and prototypes that are more than 20 years old at this point (Apple Newton and EO Personal Communicator being commercial products that get you back to '93).

So my predictions:

A breakthrough in either battery capacity or screen power requirements to give us phones that can display daylight-visible color images all day on a single charge without compromising on the ability to show video (so current e-ink displays need not apply); one makes the other more or less unnecessary. (CPU and radio power will continue to decline thanks to incremental improvements, leaving the display as the high-power item)

Actually, that's all I've got. Everything else I can think of is already in some phone or experimental device. And if I speculate about which features would be ubiquitous in 10 years it'd tell you more about the device I want than the device people at large want.
posted by jepler at 8:55 AM on September 15, 2012


People will talk of the iPhone in tones now used for Nero's worst excesses.

Obamney tweeted while Rome burned, amirite!
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:56 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


supercres: "I'm payin for the upgrade with my monthly bills, so it's stupid NOT to do it."

There are cheaper plans where the price of a new phone is not baked in.

"I am paying for the usage of this 5 bedroom McMansion with my monthly mortgage, so it would be stupid not to live there."
posted by idiopath at 9:56 AM on September 15, 2012


phones in 2022 will be literally the physical feeling of depression and loss

to call numbers you will recall sequences of mistakes you have made
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:10 AM on September 15, 2012 [36 favorites]


In the future…
posted by Nomyte at 10:30 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


In 2n22, we'll live in a world transformed. Unpopular youth will don knickerbockers and lederhosen and perform flash mob reenactments. Google will have introduced an opt-out vote fulfillment service that casts your ballet based on your YouTube viewing history. The year will be called 2n22 of course because three years earlier in 2ny9 a poorly written search and replace by a Google employee will have eliminated the digits zero and one from history. 

Phones of course will no longer exist, being replaced by small mics and speakers that use software to isolate speech from the wearer and vibrate the wearer's skull to reproduce sound. Since the need for a physical antenna will remain, hats and other headwear will experience a renaissance. Top hats, beanies and toques with light wire antennas will become the norm. Experiments will be tried placing charging grids on the top of city busses and public spaces like bumper cars. Finally battery technology will catch up and these will be replaced with tiaras, small metallic yarmulkas, and unicorn horns. Short range ad hoc networks will become fashionable, that use geolocation data to tune your speaker and mic so that you only hear multicasts from those speaking out loud in immediate proximity to you. This technology will be widely hailed as a triumph of technology and whimsical design, although the patents on it will create controversy.
posted by ~ at 11:09 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Speakerphone is pretty comfortable to use, as is a Bluetooth speaker/receiver.

But the sound quality is terrible.
posted by gjc at 12:00 PM on September 15, 2012


Google Glasses will always appeal to somebody, but most of us find them more than a little creepy.

I don't know how old you are but some of us remember the early 90s, when cellphones were new. Many, many people looked at anyone who used one as a jerk or a tool and an annoying one at that. Numerous times I saw people go up to cell users and tell them they were obnoxious, self-important assholes and that they should hang up because everyone around them didn't want to listen to their inane conversation.

In one of my classes, a fellow student made a film about people who use cellphones turning into zombie-like creatures. No one thought the film was an over-reaction.
posted by dobbs at 12:07 PM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


I should say "when cellphones were starting to become popular". They weren't exactly "new".
posted by dobbs at 12:08 PM on September 15, 2012


Eventually, we'll all be walking around with antennas sprouting from our heads. And then, as Ray Bradbury predicted, we will be the Martians.
posted by SPrintF at 12:50 PM on September 15, 2012


eye piece with HUD on it, activated by looking and blinking, earpiece with microphone.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:55 PM on September 15, 2012


Lets see, in 2022, the ipv4 stack on your phone will finally be made irrelevant, by act of FCC. However, I doubt we will have finally disposed of Numbering Plans in favor of something that uses DNS.
posted by pwnguin at 1:37 PM on September 15, 2012


eye piece with HUD on it, activated by looking and blinking, earpiece with microphone.

In 2022, our levels will be over 9000.
posted by Nomyte at 2:03 PM on September 15, 2012


Dental implants.
posted by Jode at 2:22 PM on September 15, 2012


I remember when cell phones were new. There was a handset with a dial pad connected with a cable to a box that was slightly smaller than a breadbox. The whole assembly was installed in a (usually luxury) car. The box connected to a curly-q antenna mounted on the back window glass. Since having a cell phone was a mark of prestige and importance, fake curly-q antennas became popular. The signal was analog and unencrypted, so you could listen to one side of a conversation or another with a radio shack scanner in the 800 MHz band. You could listen to quite a bit of a conversation, even from a moving car at that short wavelength because the phones transmitted at 5 watts, which is orders of magnitude more powerful than today's phones. At some point, the option became available to have your car horn chirp when you had a call.

I'm a little fuzzy on the details, since I certainly couldn't afford one, but I'm pretty sure they cost more than $1000. I think calls were billed by the minute somewhere north of $1/minute plus any applicable long distance charges.

Bag phones were a huge improvement. Instead of having a phone bolted and wired to your car, you could carry the whole mess anywhere you wanted to go in a bag the size of a big purse.

I remember one thing about my first cell phone call on one of those car cell phones. The call quality was very good. In fact, it was much better than I get now on my Android phone with t-Mobile.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:38 PM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


In 2022, I fully intend to be the last remaining person in the US still without a data plan

We're already seeing networks that don't make the distinction between voice and data - voice over LTE is just VOIP. It seems likely that eventually GSM & CDMA will be retired once LTE coverage is widespread, because why run two networks when you can run one? At that point the phone companies might still sell cheap plans that artificially disable any data other than voice, but from a technological point of view there won't be any difference.
posted by aubilenon at 3:05 PM on September 15, 2012


The best and most likely prediction remains the scenario put forth 55 YEARS AGO in the movie "The President's Analyst"

1967 was 55 years ago? I seem to be older than I thought.

Or was this message sent from 2022?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:41 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Holoprojectors, people! HOW LONG MUST I WAIT?
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 3:56 PM on September 15, 2012


The phone is dead. The concept is dead.

Once long range networks are built, the processing moves entirely to the cloud. Actual phone calls are trivial - dialling, contacts etc are all voice activated. A big chunk of what we do manually to sort and organise is automated. Shopbots learn our preferences and present back to us edited lists of things we might like, and hint our jeans are due replacing. There is some kerfuffle over people using AI apps to manage email and reply to them. And hilarious results as two AI apps converse about their owners' activities in meatspace.

By this point we have stopped pretending our communications are private. We laugh at minority report's precogs sitting there in slime but we also know that we generate so much data that we are being actively graded in terms of likelihood to commit crime in the future by secret algorithms that we are basically only a hair's breadth away from that scenario.

We still haven't cracked the battery or wireless power. The solution looks likely to be absurdly low power devices, which we have.

Foldable tech and pushing storage and processing to the cloud has meant screens are cheap and portable. But an ongoing debate is maturing between people who are ok with physically integrating tech into our bodies and those who are not. The next big tech race is to improve our eyes and ears. Ear implants are common among the elderly and many younger people are getting them to replace headphones. Eye implants are less advanced. Some visually impaired people get them. Chinese elite pilots are already required to undergo surgery for virtual reality implants. We worry about when kids should be allowed to get them.

A big ethical issue is now who owns the networks and the data. Poor people already get bombarded with adverts. Those who pay premium get fewer. Big business lobbies hard for less regulation. In Norway a government monopoly provides a standard, basic data, storage, comma and apps package. This allows you to move freely between providers. No such luck in the US, where data immobility due to the contracts people have to sign up for act as a huge drain on time, resources and innovation.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:13 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The future was shown in 1967.

The TPC is the real power and the tech - the Cerebrum Communicator
posted by rough ashlar at 5:36 PM on September 15, 2012


I wouldn't mind at all if it was something like this. Holographic display please. Plus, I like wearing watches.
posted by porpoise at 7:34 PM on September 15, 2012


I remember when cell phones were new. There was a handset with a dial pad connected with a cable to a box that was slightly smaller than a breadbox. The whole assembly was installed in a (usually luxury) car.

My dad had one of those! It was installed in his first Caddy. Prior to that he had a talking car (it only said boring things like 'key is in the ignition!' and 'seatbelt not in use' but it still talked). My parents bought a wide-screen tv (54'') in 1992 or so. My first computer, courtesy of my dad's job, was a laptop; they were rather bulky in 1994. Now the guy own an iPhone. I don't think my dad will still be alive in 2020 but if he is, I can pretty much guarantee he'll be rocking a heads-up display neuronal implant just like the rest of the cool kids.
posted by librarylis at 8:26 PM on September 15, 2012


But an ongoing debate is maturing between people who are ok with physically integrating tech into our bodies and those who are not.

I'm not certain that people actually want to have tech integrated at that level. For instance, look at the standard HUD-like presentation of what augmented reality (in a contact lens, say) might look at. It's horrible! How are you going to be able to walk down a crowded, busy street with the corners of your field of view crufted up with information about location, inset map, etc etc? Suddenly our view becomes much more complicated and is full of things that are there and things that aren't. Having a physical routine associated with interfacing with a device (such as bringing a phone to your ear) might be a feature as much as a tech limitation - it allows the brain to compartmentalise activities.

As for brain interfaces- skulls are thick, and inside it's simultaneously a hostile environment for electronics and tremendously vulnerable to damage from them. Maybe with nanotech, when that happens.
posted by Ripper Minnieton at 10:33 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


2022 - phones look like sunglasses, +mic that pics up sub-vocalization

2045 - phones look like contact lenses, use accelerometers for input via eye movement.

2050 - lighter than air phones hover nearby and use infrared cams for user input, makes booty calls before your conscious mind even realizes what your libido is up to.

2055 - for three days a brief trend has us screaming at each others genitals to make calls, followed by "parody" version where we scream at each others assholes.

2056 - software agents handle all of our communications exactly as we would but with no need for input or instruction.

2057 - human race dies of loneliness except for 40-50 people who became autistic for recreational reasons.

2924 - iMandible 7 has seventy percent market share among mega-roaches.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:26 PM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


And hilarious results as two AI apps converse about their owners' activities in meatspace.

Something like this?
posted by ShutterBun at 12:06 AM on September 16, 2012


Guys you already can watch your phone on a tv. That's what AirPlay does. But nobody uses it because why is that useful?

Presentations.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:08 AM on September 16, 2012


You know, reading this all, and thinking about this, I think I may have become a Windows 8 convert.

I've said a lot of nasty things about Windows 8 here, and the idea that "tablets are the new desktops" - I'm not anti-Windows, it's the main OS I use at work on my desktop, although I also have a Macbook Air, and an iPhone, and am very comfortable in Linux or FreeBSD for my server needs. I'd be running OSX on my desktop too, except for one piece of software that's vital for my work which isn't available for OSX. However, I find the Windows 8 interface cheesy, and not conducive to real work and computing.

But Microsoft may have a point. Because I've realised the thing I want a phone to do in 10 years is be my computer. Imagine if my iPhone had an app, that was a virtual machine running OSX. You run the app, plug the phone into a monitor, have a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, and there's your desktop. At the end of the day, you unplug your phone, call your wife on the train, then plug your phone into your monitor at home, and you're back at your "computer".

I see now that Windows 8 is taking baby steps in that direction.

I wish they weren't obfuscating the desktop interface, and I don't know honestly if you can actually do this yet, but I get the impression that Windows 8 tablets can pretty much do this. And I can see that this is a good innovation. If Apple came up with a system where there was an OSX virtual machine app, or whereby iPhone or iPads had OSX in them somehow, they would be onto a fucking winner.

There are some issues, of course. Phones and tablets don't yet really have the storage capacity to have a full-featured OS on them, and given that Windows is complete bloatware I'm interested in finding out how Windows 8 tablets and phones handle it. There needs to be a way to plug devices - USB storage, whatever else, into the phone if you're going to use it as a desktop. This is vital for me, because my current desktop has 8 terabytes of harddrives plugged into it with my data on them. And, in my case, my work is heavy computation - I hit run in R and some of my analyses take 2 days to complete, on a high-end quad-core machine. I'd hate to see how long an iPhone processor would take to run that stuff. But if we're talking 10 years in the future, it's completely feasible.

So, Apple, you've been learned. Want me to be excited about your new gadget? Give me an OSX virtual machine app, and I'm yours.
posted by Jimbob at 4:09 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you know about VNC apps and such? They can be pretty handy for the kind of thing you're talking about, I think, where you can access things remotely, but the real horsepower and storage resides with your desktop, as it (maybe) should.
posted by ShutterBun at 12:21 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Apropos of nothing, it just occurred to me that there are two reasons why Apple did not use micro-USB:

• µUSB isn't nearly capable of providing the power or communications bandwidth the device needs.

• Apple can afford to design the connector exactly right.

This guy looks at the physical design. Self-cleaning and simultaneously signalling a plug-in event before contact connection is made; can provide double the current when used in a double-contact design; more pins; built like a brick. It is by every metric a far superior design.

It really disappoints me that "we" (both consumers and design engineers) get shafted by incompetent end-product design. The original 30 pin connector used a standard component that was probably designed by a IEEE-style committee, a bunch of circuit engineering geeks who think at the electronic component level of product design. And as a design for connecting a couple PCBs together so that you can prototype really quickly? Brilliant! As a component for the actual release product, where it's going to be handled by the likes of me? NOOOoooooo!

Apple decided that if the consumer interacts with something on a product, that something is designed by product designers, not circuit engineers.

My hope is that the people who work on setting the standards start realizing that if they want their specification to achieve market dominance (and thus free us all, we plead! from the tyranny of proprietary connectors), they must design toward the end user.

Which means that maybe by 2022, everyone's devices will, regardless of manufacturer, use a connector that is built like a brick, flippable, self-cleaning, and clicks into place firmly but not locked.
posted by davidpriest.ca at 2:05 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you know about VNC apps and such?

Yeah, and while they're good at a pinch (accessing my work desktop to make it do something I forgot to get it to do, while I'm at home), the lag on them frustrates me even when I'm VNCing to a computer across the room.
posted by Jimbob at 6:15 PM on September 16, 2012


So, Apple, you've been learned. Want me to be excited about your new gadget? Give me an OSX virtual machine app, and I'm yours.

Apple’s iPhone 5 breaks sales records.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:06 AM on September 17, 2012


Lightning: the iPhone's new connector
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:08 PM on September 17, 2012


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