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T-Mobile discusses the smart phone of the future

What’s coming next for phones? Never content with what we’ve already got, we’re forever poring over concept phones and trying to guess what will come next. Given that the technology moves so fast, can we be sure that we’ll still even have mobile phones in five years time? We had a chat with Richard Warmsley, T-Mobile’s head of new proposition development, about the future of handsets this morning, and he agrees that handsets will undergo quite the transformation.

When asked what the future handset will look like, Richard admitted that since he lacks sooth-sayer abilities, he has no idea. But it’ll be quite different to what we’re used to today: “I don’t think it will necessarily be a smart phone or look like [a phone] does now,” he said.

And what will we call it? Richard reckons this is TBC as well: “Even the term ‘phone’ is becoming patronising to the device when it is capable of so much more than just phone calls.” As more devices get their own OS and built-in SIM cards – like the home appliances running Android that were showcased at this year’s CES – Richard thinks we’ll come to rely on a series of screens rather than an individual handset, TV, fridge and so on. So everything throughout the house will be seamlessly integrated – at least that’s the idea and it’s an area T-Mobile is already venturing into with its kitchen-based tablet for family organisation.

The phone/handset/whatever the portable device comes to be known as will be the hub of this network (which sounds suspiciously like an Android-based phenomenon). “Smart technology will then know more about your day and, like store loyalty cards, can throw up relevant offers, coupons and information.”

As we’d expect, functionality will develop vastly in the coming years with hardware features like cameras integrating better into apps and the way we use handsets. Augmented reality will come into its own too, Richard suggests: “It probably won’t be that we’re all wearing augmented reality goggles in the future, but I do think we’ll be seeing things in front of us through AR but without using a phone.” We’ll probably see some amazing 3D/augmented reality/social networking mash-ups in the future as well, although we’ve got to hope that 3D glasses make a short sharp exit before that happens.

Richard reckoned that we’ll come to rely more and more on ‘the cloud’ (that’s ‘online’ to you and me): “The power of a smart phone will migrate from physical to virtual, with everything held in the cloud.” Similarly, other accessories will come to the fore with the handset itself spending more time in your pocket than your hand. Although Bluetooth headsets have never quite made it into the cool club, Richard does think that more accessories will be driven off the device: “We’re expecting a screen to be able to do so much and yet still be easily accessible. It’s just not really realistic.”

[Image from Flickr user Dan Zen]

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