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The mobile phone will be obsolete in 40 years

03 Apr 2013
V3 reporter Dan Worth

It was 40 years ago today that Motorola showed the world what it meant to be mobile.

The work of engineers at the firm to deliver the DynaTAC has had a profound impact on the world, utterly changing the way we live, work and communicate forever.

Society has been reshaped around the mobile phone and the world of businesses is now far more fluid and dynamic than ever be before, with the ability to contact with colleagues around the world to share information and ideas something we take for granted.

The evolution of the mobile phone will only speed up as new innovations come to the fore and  app markets deliver ever more useful and engaging tools for our devices.

Clearly people care a lot about this as the hype ahead of big phone launches like the Samsung Galaxy S4 or iPhone 6 (or iPhone 5S or whatever they call it) and their new capabilities reaches fever pitch.

Given the speed of this innovation - Samsung has just shown off eye-scrolling and gesture control for goodness sake, how much more sci-fi can you get? - is it likely we’ll even be using ‘mobile phones’ as we understand them now in 40 years time?

Think about it – you have to carry a device in your pocket that requires constant checking, scrolling, typing, charging, inputting and so forth, and that is prone to damage and rapidly goes out of fashion.

It strikes me that, given the rampant innovation taking place, coupled with the rise of augmented reality and wearable technology – notably Google Glass – within a decade wearable, interactive devices could well be standard technology on the market.

Google Project Glass

Take this further, another decade say, and it seems quite possible you could simply have a ‘mobile chip’ embedded in your body, that can bring up a heads-up display of the ‘devices’ operating system, and you use your eye to interact with, removing the need to wear anything.

Of course such ideas sound Orwellian and many would argue such a scenario would never occur, but technology has always swept such naysayers aside – where are the early 2000-era mobile phone cynics now? Few and far between, and usually mocked for their Luddite attitude.

The reason I’m fairly confident the idea of a handheld device seeming pretty outdated by 2053 is because of the growth we’ve witnessed in the mobile sector over the past 40 years. In fact, you only have to go back 10 years, though, to see just how quick this has been.

In 2003, Apple didn’t exist in the mobile world and the top phones being launched included the Palm Trio 600, the Sony Ericsson P800 and Nokia 6010 – devices that now look utterly outmoded.

Capabilities didn't extend much beyond phone calls, texts and taking very blurry images with low-quality cameras, while web browsing was painfully slow and barely worth the effort.

Now we have the likes of the Samsung S4, iPhone 5 and HTC One that offer an incredible mobile experience. We can access the web on superfast 4G services, download apps that offer us real-time travel information and take photos and HD video with high-quality components.

Yet in 10 years these device will be old fashioned, unloved objects, with components that impress no one. That’s the nature of evolution, especially in the technology market.

As such, I can't believe that in 40 years time we'll still all be holding little rectangles with shiny black screens as we frantically jab away at tiny keys to send texts, carry out web searches or take pictures.

Far more likely, is a future where we ourselves are hooked into the network automatically, keeping our 'devices' charged through our own kinetic energy when moving, and able to maniupulate the world in front of us via a small heads-up display we can activate whenever we choose.

That description is based heavily on what I've seen so far from Google's Glass project and it could well be Google that leads this new era of technological development forward.

This would be apt considering the firm now owns Motorola, the firm that set us on the mobile path 40 years ago. Bring on the next 40 years - see you in 2053.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

View Dan's Google+ profile

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