It’s 1999. The Blair Witch Project is scaring teenagers around the UK; Shawn Fanning is launching Napster; everyone is preparing for the millennium bug; and Nokia unveils a phone called the 3210. Cutting edge mobile technology consists of backlit monochrome screens, Snake, polyphonic ring tones and – most importantly – exchangeable covers.
Ten years later and the Nokia 3210 is a relic – a trendy retro relic, but a relic nevertheless. Mobile phones have progressed more than any other consumer electronic device. They are cameras, gaming consoles, mini computers, music players, etc. Looking back, it’s easy to see how mobile phones have evolved. What will the next ten years hold?
It’s only now that the Internet has truly arrived on mobile phones. Because mobiles are portable, they change the way the web is digested and in the process change the Internet itself. Most obviously, the influx of apps and app stores harness the power of the web while providing alternate ways of using it.
In ten years time it’s likely that people will talk less about phones and a lot more about what apps or services they use. In the same way that we no longer talk about landline technology, focusing more on services such as broadband, the mobile will develop into a carriage rather than a destination. Unlike landline tech, mobile advances will add far more interesting layers.
Much of life is about movement, so phones capture human interactions very effectively. The ‘interesting layers’ will combine features such as GPS, video and audio to provide new dimensions to your travels. Managing your personal data will be easier and coordinating traditionally complicated situations, like organising a wedding, will be possible using just a phone.
The flip side of all of this will be a greater dependency on mobile tech, but that’s an issue with all technological advances – just ask the characters in WALL-E. Mobiles will offer profound access to information, especially for those in remote areas that lack a wired internet infrastructure or regions starved of civil liberty. You can already see how mobile access to Twitter has changed news coverage.
As for hardware, it’s tough to predict what design fads will be around in 2019. It’s safe to say that the iPhone has highlighted the benefits of a large, responsive screen, so expect touchscreens in some form. What is very likely is that we’ll see better cameras, more on-board memory and hopefully better batteries, so that we can spend even longer using our favourite features.
Those of you old enough to remember the Nokia 3210 will also remember the BT adverts with Bob Hoskins saying, “It’s good to talk”. This time, Bob, we won’t focus on talking: we’ll be all about access, insight and speed. Mobile phones are going to offer new perspectives, contexts and textures. If you thought the past ten years were good, then the next ten will blow your mind.