Smartphones have hit a bit of a lull. Sure, they’ve got bigger and there’s some nifty new bits and pieces under the bonnet, but it’s been hard to get really excited about new phones recently beyond the fact that, well, they're new.
The iPhone 7 may change this, but it's more likely to be a new design, a slightly faster processor and maybe a new iOS version.
But what if we look further into the future, say 2020 or 2021, and devices like the iPhone 9 or Galaxy S9? What will hit the market then to get excited about? Mind-control text capabilities? Full 360-degree video filming? Bendable screens? Week-long battery life?
Well, let's start with the battery. Sadly, week-long battery life on a smartphone seems unlikely even by 2020, as Dr Kevin Curran, reader in Computer Science at Ulster University and a senior member of the IEEE, explained to V3.
“On average, we only see improvements in capacity of six per cent per annum. So by 2020 we can only really expect a 25 per cent improvement in battery life,” he said.
However, while 25 per cent may sound good, Curran warned that these improvements tend to be offset by the fact the battery has to work harder as devices get more powerful and have higher density pixel displays.
Headlines proclaim major breakthroughs with battery technology, but Curran believes it’s unlikely that battery life will improve significantly, although there is work being done to change this.
“There are promising breakthroughs with regards to lithium-sulphur, supercapacitors, hydrogen fuel cells, solid state batteries and others, but history should tell us to be cautious about any new dramatic claims in having solved the problem of packing energy into a battery,” he said.
OK, so forget battery life. Surely there must be other new and exciting features to look forward to? Well, one technology is thermal imaging.
This was actually unveiled recently on the Cat S60 (pictured below), and Curran believes that other manufacturers will add this to their phones in time.
“This allows for a multitude of use cases, including detecting heat loss around windows and doors, spotting moisture and missing insulation, identifying over-heating electrical appliances and circuitry, and seeing in complete darkness,” he explained.
Dual-lens rear cameras, such as that included on the Huawei P9, could also become standard, taking smartphone photography to the next level.
“This additional sensor allows much better control and depth in the photos you can take,” Curran added.
Meanwhile, analyst house CCS Insight has predicted that wireless charging will be standard by 2020, given that Apple is likely to include this technology in the iPhone 7. That should save scrabbling around for charging points.
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