When Alexander Graham Bell brought us the revolutionary first ever telephone back in 1876, the world was changed forever. Ever since then, telephonic devices have been a mainstay of the modern world; an essential part of our everyday lives.
Of course, phones have evolved dramatically since those early cable telephones into the high-tech smartphones of today, but the basic idea is still the same. And since the inception of the telephone, they’ve only grown in popularity. These days, the vast majority of the population has a smartphone and uses it regularly.
Indeed, it’s hard to envision a world without smartphones, yet that may really be the case in a couple of decades. We’re already seeing the early beginnings of tech that has the potential to replace smartphones, and as this tech becomes more advanced and sophisticated, it may really spell the end of smartphones as we know them.
To explore this idea more, let’s take a look at three key technological innovations may eventually make smartphones superfluous.
1. Wearable Tech / Augmented Reality
Wearable tech is already all around us – think Google Glass, fitness wristbands, and smartwatches – but some futurists believe we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of this transformative tech.
While Google Glass may have been a bit of a dud, the tech at that point was still largely undeveloped. Augmented reality is becoming more and more sophisticated each year, and many experts predict that it will reach awe-inspiring new heights within a decade or so.
Imagine a pair of smart glasses that allow you to do all the things your smartphone would with ease either by tracking the movement of your pupils or through bone conduction technology. Check emails, send messages, play games, take calls and photos… all from your glasses. Now imagine that they can also provide real-time information on the things you’re looking at right in front of you like the kind of thing you see in spy movies.
That kind of technology would surely make smartphones redundant, right? Well, who really knows? What we do know, though, is that this technology is probably just around the corner. In a few years time, the next wave of smart glasses and goggles might make our existing smartphone devices look prehistoric.
Many huge tech companies have already begun devoting a huge chunk of their research efforts into innovations in this area. Companies like Facebook, Microsoft, and Google are working on their own standalone AR headsets that will be able to project 3D images into your eyes. Google’s Magic Leap is a great example of this. Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and the Google-backed Magic Leap.
It’s not just goggles and glasses either. Other types of wearable tech such as in-ear implants and AirPods are becoming more and more sophisticated.
Futurists think that if this kind of wearable tech is sophisticated enough, it will flat-out replace not just smartphones, but also any other screen-based devices you might have. If tech can beam movies, games, and anything else you do on a screen straight into your eyes, there will be no need to have anything else.
2. Virtual Reality
Moving on from augmented reality technology to the even-more-immersive virtual reality. Virtual reality headsets have already come on leaps and bounds from the early novelty models we saw a few years back, but there’s a long way to go from here.
Futurists hope that the tech will one day grow so advanced that it will be difficult to distinguish the virtual reality from the real reality. In this ideal, virtual reality tech wouldn’t just influence what you see and hear but would hijack all other senses too. For example, full body virtual reality suits are already under development which will allow you to feel in virtual reality. The suits give you biofeedback so that you really feel what’s happening as if it were real.
If you can imagine combining that with some form of movement pads that let you walk around in a virtual space, we could have a whole virtual playground at our fingertips. If this kind of tech were widely available, and anyone could access the virtual space, smartphones would soon become redundant. Instead of using your smartphone, you could simply step into a world in which you can interact physically with your emails, games, and everything else.
It might seem like science fiction right now, but who knows what will happen in the years to come.
3. Transhumanist Technology
The third technological innovation that may replace smartphones is also the scariest. We’re talking about human/machine fusion – biological upgrades that turn us into something more than human. Cyborg tech, if you will.
Elon Musk’s Neuralink company has already begun developing such technology. The company’s goal is to build computers into our very brains via ‘neural lace’.
It’s in the very earliest stages of development but hopes to eventually be able to bridge the brain to a computer. With these brain-implants, we’d be able to search the internet, read emails, make calls, and anything else directly in our minds. This would make the need for any kind of interface, including smartphones, redundant.
In that sense, it would be the endpoint of technological evolution. Screens would become irrelevant and humans themselves would become one with machines. It’s a thought that’s as scary as it is exciting.
What About the Immediate Future?
So far, we’ve been looking way ahead. All the tech we’ve mentioned above probably won’t really take off until far, far into the future. So don’t worry, smartphones aren’t going anywhere soon.
In the more immediate future, our smartphones will just get better and better. Air changing, bendable screens, and complete waterproofing are just a few of the new technological features you can look forward to over the next few years.