With new legislation upcoming, smartphone manufacturers will soon be required to make handsets more long-lasting, as well as easier to repair, upgrade and recycle . These regulations include battery guidelines to ensure they’re more easily replaceable, which will make it easier for phone users to repair their own devices. There will also be minimum requirements for dust and water resistance, accidental drops, battery longevity, and ongoing software updates.

With this in mind, we have asked AI platforms to predict what our devices might look like in 10 years' time.

We also teamed up with sustainability consultant Jennifer von Walderdorff to predict the future of sustainable smartphones, and used artificial intelligence to visualise the innovations, from solar power to self-repair technology.

1. Solar Power Charging

Solar-powered battery chargers have been available for a while now, but future smartphones could incorporate panels into the devices themselves.

AI generated image of a smartphone with solar powered charging panels
AI generated image of a smartphone with solar powered charging panels

Jennifer von Walderdorff, comments: “As a renewable energy source, solar power is virtually limitless, and we are already seeing so much innovation, with items that can fit in your pocket, including solar-panelled wallets, bags and of course solar-powered charging.

“Solar power is one of the key factors in moving the telecommunication industry towards a more sustainable future. Solar power can keep energy bills down and reserve resources, therefore reducing greenhouse emissions and slowing global warming.”

2. Self-Repair Technology

A huge technological advancement for the smartphone industry will be the ability for devices to automatically repair screen cracks and breakages.

AI generated image of a smartphone with a self-repairing screen
AI generated image of a smartphone with a self-repairing screen

Jennifer explains: “A feature like this could increase the lifespan of smartphones and reduce the amount of electronic waste in the industry. Manufacturing new devices and replacement parts uses a lot of energy and fossil fuels, so self-repairing phones would be a huge step forward in smartphone sustainability.”

3. Flexible Handsets

With modern flip phones back in style, future devices could see further enhancements made to improve the flexibility and durability of handsets.

AI generated image of a smartphone that can bend and move flexibly
AI generated image of a smartphone that can bend and move flexibly

Jennifer said: “Resilience is a word often used when referring to the topic of sustainability, but in this case, durability can equally suffice. By providing resistance to impacts and bending, flexible materials make the device more robust, meaning they should last longer.”

4. Sustainable Materials

Many industries are switching to and advocating for recyclable and low-emission materials, and the production of smartphones can follow suit.

AI generated image of a smartphone made from bamboo
AI generated image of a smartphone made from bamboo

Jennifer said: “The production of plastic is not only energy-intensive but its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is widely known. Alternative materials, especially those derived from plants, may have a lower carbon footprint.

“The development of new materials with improved environmental performance can reduce the industry’s current reliance on non-renewable resources.”

5. Improved Grip

Rather than depending on phone cases to minimise breakage, the lifespan of smartphones can be extended by making them harder to drop.

AI generated image of a smartphone with textured casing to improve grip
AI generated image of a smartphone with textured casing to improve grip

Jennifer added: “A quick win, as dropping one's phone to the ground, especially in a body of water, can be a catastrophe for the shell of the device. Reducing the incidence of physical damage, in turn, should reduce repairs and potential replacements.”

Looking into the future of the mobile phone industry, it is exciting to consider the possibilities for handsets to become more sustainable. From solar-powered charging capabilities, to more robust and adaptable exterior designs, smartphones could change drastically over the next few years to cater to environmental needs.

It will be interesting to see how consumers respond to more eco-friendly designs, with success already being seen by some new and existing mobile phone brands.

For those looking to create more sustainable smartphone habits, our guide to refurbished phones has everything you need to make an eco-friendly change.