What do you think is the next big thing in smartphones?

These days, smartphones are everywhere and seemingly everyone has one. Smartphones themselves have essentially become the norm and it's sort of rare to see someone with a non-smartphone in their hands and because of that, there's a lot of new ideas coming to light and new innovations being put to work. While not all of them will end up surviving the long term, it's a good thing that companies are pushing the limits and seeing what takes off for consumers.

Most recently, Apple unveiled their M7 coprocessor, 64-bit mobile processing and Fingerprint scanner and while fingerprint scanners have been tried before, coprocessors are becoming more common in mobile. While all of this is going on, other companies such as LG and Samsung are off doing their own thing and creating curved displays, Google is working some serious voice-activated features but after all that, what comes next?

We've also only scratched the surface of what 64-bit processing will do to the mobile landscape.jmr1015, iMore Forums Member

What is the next big thing? It's a question that has been asked in the iMore forums recently and there's certainly some great discussion happening there. Will it be the full realization of 64-bit processing on mobile or will it be something entirely different?

Battery life is something I would personally like to see improvements upon. It seems each year we get bigger, better displays. Faster and more power hungry networks, all the while loading up on faster processors which promise better battery life but realistically there hasn't been many actually released battery innovations for years. Where are these fantastic hyper cells that can help recharge a batter in around 30 seconds?

Just simply more than three days in battery life. If they can nail that, I think contextual computing won't be a far off reality.Speedygi, iMore Forums Member

I'm guessing it'll be a while yet before we see those improvements so what else? Well, we know Sony and Microsoft have some new consoles on the way and they've kind of sort of been ramping up tools that will tie your smartphone and tablets into them so that's not entirely out of the question and seems some folks would like to see improvements in that area.

Soon, you'll be having the same experience you have on your Xbox or PlayStation on your phone...and it will essentially destroy the hand held market.SeanHRCC, iMore Forums Member

It's all very interesting to consider and when you think about it, you never really know when the 'next big thing' is here until it starts to take off for the masses. So, that's a bit of what some of our iMore Forums members want to see in the next big thing, feel free to add your ideas to the mix as well by heading into the forums or dropping some comments below for everyone to read through.

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Editor-at-Large at Mobile Nations, gadget junkie, energy drinker, ranter.

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What do you think is the next big thing in smartphones?

69 Comments

Yeah and the Blackberry Storm was a turd. It was a good bridge for some coming from buttons to touchscreen for those that had issues with accidental button presses but to see something today or in the future is utterly pointless in my opinion. There are more elegant solutions than mashing the screen harder for results.

I think its going to definitely happen especially with Samsung already implementing it in some of their newer tablets. I mean Wacom has already made their own full blown Windows 8 and Android tablets. Different from Smartphones but with technology nowadays I bet it'll come in the near future.

Pocket PC is what I would like. Already got the resolution to output to a monitor. Bluetooth for the mouse and keyboard. 5s has same CPU power as original MacBook Air. Seems a logical step. You can even work on a document on the move and continue when docked/charging.

Motorola has been doind that with the Atrix for a while, but it hasn't really taken off. Its still a good idea though.

I completely agree, part of the reason I was reluctant to get my just ordered new ipad Mini was because of only 1GB of RAM, I wanted a little more future proofing. I want to be able to have a phone and tablet that dock to my mouse, keyboard and monitor and sync perfectly with one another. Completely replacing my laptop.

Some mobile phones can already do this. Even a BlackBerry can, and they get blasted daily for "not innovating" or "having nothing to offer that other phones don't". Apps can run on all OS systems, but are not developed for all of them. This allows android and iPhone to get so far ahead. The next big thing should be HTML 5 or something of the like. Where any phone can use it and cannot hold Apps over another company. Then and only then will real innovation be allowed to happen. Apple doesn't really innovate. They improve on innovation. Not being able to lord App control over people may force them to truly innovate. Then we all win.

Its a shame the ubuntu edge never took off this year http://www.ubuntu.com/phone

Their specs weren't going to be too different (and priced much more competitively):

‘Multi-core CPU’
4GB RAM
128GB SSD
4.5″ Sapphire Crystal screen (1280×720 HD resolution)
Dual cameras (8mp rear, 2mp front)
MHL connector (supporting HDMI)
Long-life silicon anode battery
Dual-LTE, NFC, Dual-band WiFi & Bluetooth 4
GPS, Barometer, Compass, Proximity Sensor, Gyro, etc

I'm hoping for utilitarian updates. Unbreakable screens, shock resistance, waterproofing. I want my phone to be as durable as a $20 watch.

Also I think Motorola is on the right track with "always listening" and notifications. Both features change the way the phone is used. Add in Skip clip/dots and Motomaker, and I think the MotoX is simply brilliant, regardless of what the spec snobs say.

Well I have an idea told apple that I have one that would change the whole way we look at cell phone video games and computers I just can't let it out of the bag looking into a patent

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Foldable screens, imagine a phone size screen which folds out to various iPad sizes.

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Wish List:
Ultra performance battery life... Water/dust "proofing" & impact resistance out if the box... Onboard Siri support.
(I don't need a bigger screen.)

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Agree, waterproof scratch resistant etc. is a must for a device with this price. It needs to be almost indestructible and BATTERY charging must become an uncommon thing that we do occasionally. I'll gladly skip the "faster processing power and graphics" one year and instead get to enjoy my device forever after a few hours of charging. This is more important and more useful thing than any other improvement, everything else is just 'noise'.

a PHYSICAL keyboard, slider like palm pre, inductive charging, for apple a near 5 inch screen, a status for your phone that anyone from any ecosystem can get (if in meeting when you message/text/call/etc it says so&so is in meeting or watching supernatural or whatever).

I think the merging of phone and desktop OS for a true desktop experience in the palms of our hands. Our phones already have enough power for it, not to mention Apple and Google have been seemingly moving in that direction anyway so it only makes sense they would unite the two.

Why? If someone make a 4k phone today you would not be able to tell the difference between that and a retina display.

Realistically?..... Wireless charging with a special Apple twist that makes it a must have feature.

In the near future I see smart phones being used to make payment and replace credit cards. In the not so near future (about 3/4 yrs), I 48hrs battery life.

Sure! But its not main stream to replace current forms of electronic payment. I have never seen some1 used their phone to pay from the bank account, have you?

I had a Galaxy Nexus before I got an iPhone 5 and I used to use NFC for my debit card all the time. Anywhere it had the paypass thing I would use it. I already had my phone in my hand might as well. It worked great but I can see why people wouldn't want to have their bank account tied to their phone.

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NFC is dead in the water. We need ubiquity across the international banking system and a digital payment method that is secure and available on EVERY device. As much money spent from iOS devices on shopping, app purchases, and time spent browsing...until Apple implements their system, in coordination with retailers, online market places and integrated into our banking system in the US, the Euro, Canada and the Pound would be an excellent start. NFC isn't it. Maybe for like devices sharing pics, music and links....but when it comes to monetary exchanges NFC has WAY too many vulnerabilities.

J

Maybe that's what a company needs... Something that most people (like you and me included) think is impossible but are able to turn it into reality. We defy Gravity by sending spaceships that weigh thousands of tons into outer space past our atmosphere. Maybe NFC isn't dead but asleep. Just needs a good cup of coffee to get it started. Well there I go blabbing on again... Lol

Hmm I think Software is where many of the companies are going to have to start distinguishing themselves the most.

Why? Well may be it's just my opinion but many OS's are getting to close in being similar. I.e. Apple's "cards" for ending used applications, Android and Window's Phone Version are similar, Notification Center (i.e. iOS and Android=Similar), Beam v.s. AirDrop=Similar (Why? They transfer some type of file with out the use of wires), "Swipe to unlock" (Up, Down, Left, Right, Circle, Heart, Tri-Force Sign... Does it matter I still have to swipe or make a symbol?), Enter passcode? What OS doesn't have that? Apps are all too much going cross platform... giving the user more of reason to choose not one but many different other OS's. But if a company has an OS that is light years of head that offers something that another doesn't, well... then they've won.

Maybe the cloud (i.e. Ecosytem; Apple has iCloud, but then almost everyone uses Google and could use Google's Cloud services? And Skydrive/Microsoft/Outlook is used by corporations... Think Exchange.)

I think that Apple took the right step with the Fingerprint ID and their ecosystem is great, but Google is the first homepage I have when I open both my browsers in my iPhone and MotoX and MacBook... I also use Googles Drive, Maps, Nav, G+ apps... Oh and not to mention I also use Microsofts Outlook for E-mail and Skydrive for Documents on both my iPhone and MotoX. Whose to say Fingerprint ID is going to be only iPhones, because we all know its not (Pointing at you HTC).

Well I honestly have not a clue as to what software enhancements are needed, but I do feel it will set the Giants apart from each other.

And there you have it! After 24 hrs of running on nothing but Starbucks Dark Roast Coffee and a bag of Lays Barbecue Chips I have finished my 32 page paper and I have probably made no sense in this post with very many grammatical errors, but I am accomplished because I for 1. finished my paper and 2. contributed to the great community of iMore. :D

Time to go see what sunlight feels like...

I can get on-board with that, software is where the difference is going to come in play. Both at the iOS/Android OS level as well as third party applications. I think Apple has the best distribution mechanism but they are a tad bit to closed with the approval process. I think that an app needs to be verified not have virus' or malware in it but the randomness of not approving an app for reasons like repetitive functionality are bogus. Remember how long it took to get a real Google Voice dialer. Now Apple has lightened up considerably.

On the other hand Google really doesn't scan the applications that go into Play hence the reason they have more malware and virus code in them, but the fact that they are way more open could potentially give them the edge from the application but they don't have the whole ecosystem thing going for them.

As for Google on my phone? I have the Google Voice dialer from Google though I use a third party app for it more than I use the Google app. Truth is the Google Dialer is pretty archaic and lacking features. I don't use Google to search, I don't use Maps and I don't use GDrive.

Woah... Didn't expect anyone to respond to my post. You are totally right when you talk about the application approval process of most OS manufacturers. But you have to remember that these companies are here to make profit for themselves and they do that best through apps (for now) and the general public. We as techies wish we had it all. At least I do.

I know we are talking about the next big thing in smartphones but what I believe really needs to happen next is getting the next apple tv to also be an integrated cable box. I would rather have an Apple interface for my guide and DVR than my current cable company also by doing this apple doesn't really need to make a tv because you can now just air play everything through the cable box.

Imagine a cable box that ties into iTunes. You wouldn't need a 3rd party on demand service because that would be where iTunes come in. Also you could have a cloud based storage solution so where you could access all your DVR content from any AppleTV as long as your signed in with an Apple ID.

Just my thoughts...

64-bit processors are the first big step of smartphone evolution. All phone makers are bound to follow apple's suit.
This will open endless possibilities, some of which Apple has already shown "symptoms". First of which is the Touch-ID button that could open unlimited possibilities if combined with powerful apps. Pressure-sensitive screens, and curved glass rumors have also surfaced.

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64 bits OSs made no revolution in desktops and will not make a splash in phones either, marketing aside. For almost all practical purposes it makes no difference for the user.

Software: Web based apps to make one eco system for app builders, like MP3 is for was for streaming music. Imagine what a dev could do if they only had to make one version of their app and could focus 100% of their time and sell to the entire smartphone market?

Hardware: A fully flexible indestructible phone would be great. And have it run powerful enough to replace my laptop. I could simply plug it in to any monitor around and work from it.

Apple hardware: A phone without a ridiculously huge top and bottom bezel would be nice. Still can't believe Jony "Idiot" Ive thinks it looks good compared to The Nexus 5 bezel.

They really need to do something with notifications, like doing a better job of separating the important ones from the junk, instead of giving you a smartwatch to make it more convenient to receive a bunch of notifications you don't want. For example, being able to tell the phone, 'Silence all notifications, unless my wife tries to contact me', and it shouldn't matter whether she does it via text, email, Facebook, or whatever.

Its really simple actually.
Screens and monitors will become empty things with the sole purpose of displaying the image from your pocket-computer/smartphone thingy. All the computing will happen in your pocket.
As you move arround in your daily life, the various screens and monitors you encounter will serve different pusposes:
When you sit in front of your desktop monitor at work the computer in your pocket will display its contents to the desktop monitor where you can use your bluetooth keyboard and mouse. (Like laptops+docking stations today, but without the need to dock)
When you sit in your couch at home in front of your big TV-screen the computer in your pocket will act as a medium for television, movies and games. No more set-top boxes and game consoles. You allways have the computer with you in your pocket.

AirPlay is a huge step in this direction, but of course needs a lot of improvement.

I'd like to see a phone that fully understands your surroundings and offers things without having to do anything. Google has hit the nail on the head with this one and I'm liking the way google now is going. Apple has definitely noticed the potential in this area, hence the today view. Watch that section of your iPhone evolve over the next few years!

Golden color available
Fingerprint
Advanced and reliable voice control

I think smart phone companies also need to work on battery life and durability.

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My $.02: With the poster about separate notifications that are silent, I agree. I want to have both text and phone calls from certain people like they do in favorites but sometimes you just want to have both text/phone from certain people not blocked.
NFC is probably more in "Limbo" than "Dead in the Water" until we see otherwise. We need not only devices with NFC but the infrastructure to use it around us.
We also need Siri and other Voice Control to have on-device ability without going to the Web for everything, even for stuff that it doesn't.

The next big thing is seamless integration with my home / auto from my smartphone. What I mean by this is, when I move toward my vehicle and grab the door handle, the door will unlock (the same way they do now with the key-fob). When I pull into my driveway, the garage door will open. When I touch my home doorknob, it will unlock because it senses my phone in my pocket. All the same things in reverse also. When I leave my home, my door(s) will lock, garage door will close as I leave the driveway, etc....

UTG

Integration with desktop OS, replacement of laptops with phone/tablets with seamless synchronization. More durable so we can switch to a 3-4 year useful life, I want fewer devices in my life.

I think the next best thing would be video gaming on your smart phone. I didn't read all the comments but I did see something about video gaming. What if someone took the idea behind Motorola's Atrix and applied it to the iPhone but for gaming. Have like a console for your iDevice. And you can have like a PS4/XboxOne experience but with iOS. I know we can mirror if you have an Apple TV but from my experience that's been a little difficult because I've had it lag.

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I am actually quite pleased with my iPad mini basically, as-is. It could definitely use a bump in RAM/processor/storage/etc. But other than that, I can't think of much else I'd need... maybe the option to connect a trackpad (when editing documents in iWork).

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The next big thing could be rapid charging. Since many rely heavily on their smartphones, that may be the next phase of advancement amongst the major platforms. Imagine per se a full charge in 30 mins.

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What ever happened to the idea if adding a mini projector on the front. I always thought that would be a cool idea to be able to project your videos onto a wall or white screen. I think the curved screen is going to be coming to the next iphone as well.

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When something common gets replaced by a device and is better, more efficient or easier that's a big thing to me. I think the next big thing will be when tablets replace lined paper and books in classrooms. When a student just carries a tablet device. When they take notes they can do what feels natural. Open the notebook app and grab their "pen" which is a slim tipped stylus and write. People already understand their own writing so no need to write special letters or for the app to try and convert what's written. Just display it like an ordinary piece of lined paper would. The notes, books, writings would be backed up in the cloud. It would make sharing notes, highlighting, correcting and storing a lot easier. A lot of people type now granted but I don't think that's a majority and writing is so much more natural and faster.

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Tablets cann never replace paper and textbooks. At least not fully. You cannot look and numerous textbooks at once for comparisons or reference on a tablet. You can't quickly look through the pages of an essay you just wrote on a tablet like you can on paper. In time sensitive situations, such as exams in school, you don't have the time to be scrolling around your work or zooming in and out trying to find what you're looking for in the tiny text. Also, people can hardly read, write, and spell as it is. Replacing books and paper and pens with tablets will accelerate this.

I wish they would focus more on durability of the deixe itself.

I love the self-healing feature of the G2 flex. At first I thought twas too gimmicky but as the video demo showed, it really works.

The durable plastic case of the 5c is a step up though. The glass on the new iPhones are still extremely fragile!

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I think like computers, there basically is no next big thing. I think we'll just have more of the same. More ram, more processor, more camera (hardware) and more of the services we get now like digital delivery of media (pandora, netflix, slingbox, cable companies). But i think the reason people have poo pooed most of the recent apple keynotes as not innovating is really more that NOBODY has anything truly revolutionary to add to a phone now. Ignore the "not innovating" that's irrelevant anyways. Apple sells a product people like. You dont' need to innovate to be a good product. Regardless, there is a valid argument made that from one year to another a given phone isn't that big an upgrade enough to make people jump at it. 3G to LTE yeah. But 5mp to 8mp? 32bit to 64bit? for the lay person they are likely to not know the difference anyways or care. Preciscly why jobs rarely mentioned such things. Especially early on in iphone's life. Regardless bottom line i think phone innovation has largely plateaued. Now it's just better hardware and content delivery of services many of which will be out of the hands of phone makers like Netfllix.

I agree. At some point mobile phones will even out as far as the technology goes an they will just be devices that improve with time, but don't necessarily need to innovate to keep customers happy.

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Besides battery life that lasts for days I think phone companies would want to consider weather proof / water proof phones. I know sony is playing with this.

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At some point phone makers will have to address the fragility of these wonderful devices. Sure, there have been a few waterproof phones but nothing widely adopted as a standard way of making phones.

So I would say water, shock and shatterproof phones. Sure, the cynic in me says that the fact that phones can break Easley is a conscious decision bit... Still.

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I think wireless charging would be great, maybe a little bit of a bigger screen that's more scratch resistant. I also think an indicator light would be nice, I little LED light that would flash to alert you of new notifications.

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I think wireless charging would be great, maybe a little bit of a bigger screen that's more scratch resistant. I also think an indicator light would be nice, I little LED light that would flash to alert you of new notifications.

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Think of the perfect phone device, even if it's not realistic. Eventually, it will happen, (though I wasn't a fan of Star Trek television series, it has introduced many ideas that have been made into reality: automatic doors, iPad, etc.).

In the short term, like some people have mentioned, having keyless entry/access would be great, (though one can argue if you want your phone to have that much power). Plus, what would happen when your battery dies? Fall back on using a key I guess.

I am curious what's going to happen with the iMac and MacBook Airs. They might get even thinner and lighter, but honestly, doesn't it feel like their form factors have been perfected?

Until the iPhone gets as thin as the iPod Touch. There will always be room for improvement, (just a matter of miniaturizing the technology). Or maybe, even so small that it's a phone-watch. Though, with the way things are going, the watch/wearable is more a smartphone accessory than standalone device, (downside to Samsung Gear and lack of imagination on Samsung's part, do they not know what would improve people's lives?).

I'd like to see the smartphone incorporate something like solar panels, able to improve/conserve battery life by passively charging, (or maybe even kinetically). Though it seems phones are headed towards co-processors, in order to reduce battery consumption.

I see my phone as an extension of myself. When I sleep/recharging, the phone should be doing the same; but since it's a machine/computer/device, it should also be able to stay on top of things for me. Truly, a personal assistant that takes the thinking out of tedious things, (though, Google Now seems really creepy).