The days when mobile phones were only meant to make voice calls are long gone. First, they gained the ability to send text messages (which promptly killed off pagers). Then we had phones that can play music and a few basic games. And when smartphones came, we suddenly had the Swiss army knife equivalent of multimedia and communication devices, as smartphones nowadays can play music, run games, take pictures, access the internet, receive GPS signals, and just about anything that a basic desktop computer can do.
However, its evolution has not stopped there. New technologies are still being released to this day. In fact, experts believe that there’s still a bunch of things to expect from upcoming phones in the future, such as:
1. Credit Card Functionality – there is a new technology standard dubbed “near-field communications (NFC)” that can turn our mobile phones into functional credit or debit cards. The way it works is through a chip embedded in the phone that allows people to make payments or receive it via a touch sensitive interface. The phone will be tied to a credit card or bank account. Technically, we already have the capability to make wireless payments through radio frequency identification (RFID), but RFID only allows for one way communication, while NFC allows for two way, which could provide extra security as an NFC phone can ask for a password or a PIN in order to complete a transaction. The technology is already being used in Japan, where people can pay for subway cards and vending machine items through their phones. Other countries such as the US, Germany, and Finland are already in the process of testing.
2. Better Access to the World Wide Web – when smart phones first gained the ability to access the Internet, they had poor support for HTML pages. Many pages failed to render completely and even if they did, the small screens made browsing far from enjoyable. However, it turns out that phones don’t really need to adapt to the web, rather – it is the web that must adapt to mobile phones. So a lot of web developers decided to create mobile versions of sites. In the future, browsing from your phone will be as hassle free as it is on your PC, and sites that refuse to create WAP or mobile versions of their sites will be rendered obsolete by their own negligence.
3. Better Use of GPS Technology – GPS chips are already included in many phones, but it’s not mandatory in most countries, and even those that do come with the capability only use it for navigation, but many new uses are starting to crop up. For example, many new phones in the US come with GPS chips built in as the Federal Communications Commission has required operators to pinpoint the location of a person via GPS if they dial 911 during an emergency. Another new use of GPS chips is through location-based tagging and social networking. Search engines can take advantage of this by checking your location when you search for something, and returning results that are more relevant based on your location. This technology will be rolling out worldwide.
4. Portable TV – Traditional broadcast media is already feeling the effects of Internet TV services eating into their market share, which is why a lot of networks have started their own streaming services or have entered into partnerships with streaming giants like Netflix. The next logical step is mobile TV, which is very feasible nowadays due to the availability of high bandwidth internet and smart phones that can access the Internet. As soon as broadcasters or streaming service providers finish setting up the infrastructure, people will be able to watch their favourite shows wherever they are.
5. Portable Cell Towers – one of the banes of mobile phones is bad reception or lack of a stable signal. This is why some users find it much easier to make calls or send messages when they’re outside the house but encounter loss of signal indoors. In the future, mobile operators will be able to solve this problem by asking users to help them improve their service’s coverage through the use of small Wi-Fi-like routers that have the ability to boost cellular signals, dubbed “femto cells.” The femto cell is basically a small signal repeater or booster that comes with its own cellular antenna, which is then attached to a broadband connection. It uses the internet connection to send VoIP calls to the mobile operator’s network. Currently, femto cells are being tested in the UK and in Sweden, by 3Way Networks and Ericsson, respectively.
6. Better and More Useful Cameras – one of the key turning points for mobile phones was when they started incorporating cameras into the handset. The first few cameras were very basic and cannot compare to stand alone cameras, but over time manufacturers have been able to include high quality cameras that can serve as decent alternatives to non-SLR cameras. Recently, mobile phones and tablets have come out with 16 megapixel cameras, which are good enough to capture full HD video and photo, effectively making the phones a workable alternative to a handheld videocam. These cameras have a wide variety of uses outside of taking pictures and movies. For instance, with the right app, a mobile phone can be used as a bar code scanner (in fact, QR codes are basically bar codes, albeit carrying contact info and URL instead of inventory data).
10. Gaming Capabilities on Par with Home Consoles – now that mobile phones are coming out with quad core processors and dedicated 3D graphics chips, coupled with developer-friendly operating systemss like Android and iOS, publishers of games are now able to offer mobile phone games that are on par with AAA-level games on major consoles like the Xbox360 and Playstation 3. Additionally, mobile phones are extremely portable, making them a very real threat to major game console and handheld manufacturers such as Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. In fact, the first two companies have already realised this and have started developing their own game-capable smart phones.
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