Apple’s iPhone set the current baseline for a high-end smartphone. But during this week’s analyst conference, Qualcomm is outlining what it could become.
This effectively sets the bar for what the next generation of smartphones will evolve into and where the iPhone needs to be if it continues to set the gold standard in the segment.
Since the iPad is now more tied to the iPhone then it is to the Mac, it too is part of this future vision.
So, let’s talk about the next generation of smartphones and tablets which could materialize if Qualcomm’s vision is realized.
Next generation smartphones
One of the limitations with both the current generation of smartphones and tablets is that the screen technology doesn’t work well in direct sunlight.
So, the next generation smartphones should have technology similar to Qualcomm’s Mirasol display so they can be better viewed outside.
Future cameras should also be equipped with advanced digital features like image stabilization and post processing (red eye reduction, face focus, etc.) so it will be even harder to justify a separate camera.
This won’t apply just to still shots, but HD video capability as well, with performance possibly rivaling sub $300 digital and still cameras on the market today.
In addition, active noise cancellation should built into the phone for clear calls without a headset. Similarly, embedded security should be included so that the phone can be better used with DRM protected media, thereby making mobile data more secure for both corporations and governments.
Of course, 3D interfaces and games should be more prevalent and more compelling with the next generation of smartphone. Still, this makes me wonder how much longer stand alone hand held game console systems will survive.
Other optimizations to look forward to could include improved peer to peer capabilities and accelerated multi-tasking.
Yes, multi-tasking is likely to hit its stride with the next generation platform as multi-processor ARM chips become both more common and much more advanced. However, many apps will be much more processor intensive, so multi-tasking can be expected to remain constrained on both Apple’s and Microsoft’s platforms.
Finally, vastly improved connections to email and other PC services like gaming networks conclude this list of things to look forward to.
As one would expect, most of what is in store for future smartphones will also arrive on the next generation of tablet devices. Nevertheless, two things stand out for this class that are both powerful and unique.
The first is that by adopting a display like the Mirasol the device can become dramatically lighter because it only needs a fraction of the battery, the lack of which is making the iPad too heavy to be a good reader.
This suggests the next generation of tablet will be both thinner and lighter, more in line with the new Kindle than the current iPad.
The other major area of change is in media. Currently, you typically have have access to either multimedia or “text best” content. But next-gen tablet devices will facilitate easy access to content that is more of a "book blend," with text featuring embedded, interactive audio and videos.
This clearly would apply to text books, medical journals and magazines.
Wrapping up: Next-gen will be hot but what comes next?
The big problem after this next wave will be determining where smartphones leave off and tablets begin - with the initial battle occuring in the 5" to 7" range.
Still, with future flexible displays the fight for smartphone or tablet dominance could quickly drift to larger screen devices.
And what comes comes next?
Well, phone companies are already experimenting with biometric based security in devices. So, someone who steals your device may no longer be able to access what is on it and you may be able to see and take a picture of the thief.
Finally, personal area network sensors capable of monitoring your health and notifying a service if you are injured will soon be a reality.
Yes, we are clearly moving towards a time when being connected will make what we have today seem like the dark ages.
Rob Enderle is one of the last Inquiry Analysts. Inquiry Analysts are paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic, on how to best take advantage of them. Currently, he provides his services to most of the major technology and media companies. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.