The future of smartphones is certainly an interesting topic considering the integration of mobile devices within everyday lives – it’s almost strange to think that what we now carry in our pockets has more computing power than the first space shuttle.
So with developments in mobile trends happening at a fast pace, what innovations can we expect to take hold in 2015?
A QHD Display: The future of smartphones?
Screen sizes are on an upward trend, having grown by 50% since 2010. But one area which most people should take more seriously is screen resolution – or the sharpness of the screen.
QHD is the currently the sharpest display used on smartphones, with the likes of the LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4 both using the technology. It features four times the pixels compared to standard 720p HD quality screens, totalling a massive 2560×1440 display.
The key to the growth in this kind of resolution comes down to media consumption – as more smartphone users find themselves watching TV and films via their handsets, the need for sharper displays become apparent. However, many feel that 1080p is good enough and that a QHD screen is nothing but an expensive battery drain.
Whilst it is hard to notice the difference, battery issues don’t appear to be prevalent, with Samsung’s Note 4 display actually using less power than the Note 3 on average (0.85W compared to 0.90W). Overall, the QHD display on the Note 4 actually proved 14% more efficient when it came down to consumption, meaning that a growth in the feature could well be warranted in the next few years.
4K Phones and mobile phone recording
If you thought QHD was excessive then you won’t be a huge fan of the 4K hype. More commonly found on high-end TV and monitor displays, 4K is the sharpest resolution you’ll find on the market.
Although 4K boasts a 3840×2160 resolution, it seems that it’s extremely unlikely to make our smartphone displays anytime soon. This comes down to the human eye’s inability to differentiate sharpness on a smaller display; at the moment we can only really tell the difference up to around 600ppi (pixels per inch), and with a 4K display on a 4.7” screen totaling 941ppi – almost three times sharper than the current iPhone 6- critics are concluding that 4K smartphones might remain a thing of our dreams.
Companies like Huawei have also come out stating that it won’t be working with 4K displays due to the excessive amount of energy it would require. As each pixel requires energy, you can imagine that your average battery wouldn’t last long. In fact, with current battery tech, we’d get a full 12 hours of use at most from a 4K smartphone display.
That said, 4K video capture on smartphones is much more realistic than a 4K display right now, with handsets like the Sony Xperia Z3 proving this, though this feature still uses quite a lot of battery power. As the technology becomes more widespread, expect 4K video to be considered more common, but until then the feature might just be put on the back burner.
11K smartphone screens?
We’ve talked about QHD and 4K, but is there anything better? There is, and it’s called 11K. 11K is yet to be used commercially, but Samsung has taken on the technology and is genuinely planning on using it on a smartphone display by the year 2018. Reportedly able to pack a whopping 2250ppi, it’s four times sharper than the QHD screen on the Galaxy Note 4, and almost seven times sharper than the iPhone 6’s 326ppi display. On top of all this, Samsung also claims that the technology, which has so far cost nearly $30m, can even offer a 3D experience thanks to the sheer quality behind it.
The amount spent on 11K screens so far has totaled $26.5m, which equals around £17m. Which believe it or not, isn’t all that much for a company like Samsung…
This means that you could be playing 3D films without an issue on your smartphone within the next few years.
Of course, with more pixels comes more battery power, so if this screen was implemented now, you could expect a lifespan of just a few hours before requiring a recharge…
When you play a game of Flappy Bird, Temple Run or Clash of Clans, you may not realise it but you are in fact using your phone’s Graphics Processing Unit- or GPU- to handle the bulk of the task. The current standard GPU in smartphones sits with the Adreno 420 unit, but things are now taking a step up.
Found exclusively on Snapdragon 810 chipsets, the Adreno 430 is set to boost graphical smartphone power by 30%. This shows an effective improvement of around 3fps (frames per second) over the 420, and a more noticeable 13fps improvement over the 330 unit. This means that you’ll get less lag, smoother gameplay and in general, a better overall experience.
There’s only one mobile GPU which does top’s Adreno 430 right now, and that’s the chip found in the Nexus 9 tablet. However, due to the sheer size of the component, it simply isn’t able to make the cut in any of our smartphones just yet and also has temperature issues. If this technology is downsized, we might see it make the cut eventually.
Are curved screens the future of smartphones?
The jury’s still out on the curved phone, with critics claiming it’s just a smartphone fad. Only a handful of devices feature a curved display right now, with the Samsung Galaxy Round, LG G Flex, G Flex 2 and Note Edge implementing the technology in different ways. With curved screens the talk of the town, which is the best? Take a look in our LG G Flex vs G Flex 2 comparison here!
The main advantages surrounding curved screens are based mainly in media playback and gaming. The user-friendly display acts as a more immersive window into media, and also adds a unique twist on one of the biggest mobile uses of recent years.
Currently, the G Flex 2 features a 23° curve which is the biggest of its kind, but the technology is still a very rare one. In terms of smartphone sales, less than 1% are being attributed to curved screen models. However, as more devices are released we can expect this to rise. It’s worth noting that Samsung is expected to release its Galaxy S Edge handset at MWC 2015, which could boost sales.
NFC Technology and NFC Phones
Standing for near field communication, NFC has seen spectacular growth over the past few years. Having been linked with Apple Pay in the US, it has been one of 2014’s biggest features and it’s expected to rise even more heading into 2015.
NFC acts very much like Bluetooth technology, but consumes less energy and works at a shorter range. It mainly handles the transfer of data – so music can be streamed to NFC capable speakers, or messages sent from device to device. The biggest NFC use to date is in the shape of Apple Pay, a feature which lets iPhone users make card payments through the technology, working in tandem with Touch ID for verification.
In 2012 just 120 million handsets had NFC technology – this then grew by over 110% to 275 million devices in 2013. Following this, 2014 showed further growth to 416 million total handsets, proving that NFC has become a real success.
You may like: Find out more about Apple Pay here.
In 2018, a projected 64% of all phones will sport NFC technology, allowing for features like wireless charging and media playback on the majority of handsets.
“NFC acts very much like Bluetooth technology, but consumes less energy and works at a shorter range”.
Similarly to GPUs, chipsets tend to evolve on a flagship-by-flagship basis. So with the upcoming batch of smartphones, it’s time for the Snapdragon 810 chipset to take charge. Qualcomm, the company that produces the phone processor, expects that around 60 smartphones will be launched with the technology in 2015, around two per month.
For those who don’t know the ins and outs, the Snapdragon chipset controls the majority of internal processes that go down inside your handset. Speed, power and battery life are all influenced heavily by the your chipset, making it incredibly important for your smartphone.
The Snapdragon 810 processor gives us efficient and fast charging batteries, 4K capture improvements, full 4G support as well as bringing the Adreno 430 GPU along for the ride as well. One notable feature which Qualcomm is backing is the drop in running temperature as well – down by an average of 6° Celsius from the Snapdragon 805 processor.
Smartphones tipped for a Snapdragon 810 chipset this year include the HTC One M9, M9 Plus and Sony Xperia Z4. Samsung is also being touted to use the hardware on its Galaxy S6 and S Edge, btu could also opt for an Exynos chip instead.
Front facing camera phones
Selfies are a mobile trend which have become immensely popular over the past year or so – in fact, the word’s selfie snapping rates have risen by a huge 14,000% since 2010, which says a lot about our love of the front facing camera. The word selfie even won the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year award as well, so it’s no surprise to see mobile phone manufacturers taking their time to improve their selfie snappers.
HTC has been one of the biggest show-offs on this side of things, with the likes of the Desire Eye sporting a 13 megapixel front facing lens. Compared to the approximate average of 1.3 megapixel quality of front cameras, this certainly stands out as one of the best in the business.
By 2016, the front facing camera is expected to double in quality, so don’t expect those Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat selfies to be disappearing anytime soon.
Wearable technology and fitness apps
Another trend which is set to explode in 2015 is wearable technology. Going hand in hand with health and fitness, over 7 million smartwatches were shipped in 2014, a number which is expected to skyrocket by over 300% this year.
The likes of FitBit and JawBone have been some of the top selling wearables so far, with the Apple Watch expected to join their ranks on the sales charts as well this year. So, with Apple already raking in the cash, you can expect to see its wearable tech bumping that number up too.
If you’re interested in the Apple Watch, find out more in our Apple Watch review!
It’s not just the wearable market which is seeing a growth either, it’s the fitness app market as well. With just under a third of mobile users having a fitness app of some sort, 2015 is looking like the year where health and fitness apps will be at an all-time high, with over 13 million users expected to download an app to maintain their fitness.
Thinking of grabbing yourself a new smartwatch? Take a look at some of our fitness wearables here!
Internet of Things
Considered to be the future of technology, the internet of things is essentially the linking of all of our smart devices. This means that we could have homes controlled by our smartphones, with companies like Nest already showing off this kind of feature.
The development of smart light bulbs, locks and even toasters have all been revealed at major technological events. And this is set to continue over the next five years, with a projected 200 billion smart devices in circulation by 2020. To put that into perspective, that means that there will be 26 devices per person on the planet.
“The internet of things will shape how we communicate and interact with the world around us. We will be more connected than ever”
This doesn’t just stick to our smartphones either, with driverless cars also a major possibility. These would require constant online connections to communicate with one another when on the road to avoid collisions and other obvious problems.
In general, the internet of things extends way beyond what we ever imagined ten years ago, with the development of smart cities now a realistic, albeit far-off possibility.
2015 Mobile Trends: The Future of smartphones?
So, there you have a collection of some of the mobile phone trends that we think are on the up this year. What do you make of our selection? Could they be the future of smartphones?