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The smartphone of 2014

By S21, 7 Jun 2013

The dust has hardly settled after the launch of the Sony Xperia Z, HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, and there's still no definite news of the iPhone 5S/6, but in this article we're looking forward to the smartphone of 2014.

Traditionally only the brave or the foolish try to predict the future, but fortunately Brave and Foolish are S21's middle names. In any case, the future has already revealed itself to the astute observer.

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It's all about size

We're talking about screen size. There are two strong trends in screen size. The first is that smartphone screens are getting steadily bigger. This year's flagship Android phones are measuring 5 inches for the first time, and the newly announced Galaxy Mega "phablet" from Samsung stretches to 6.3 inches. The other trend is that tablets are getting smaller. The original iPad had a 10 inch screen and the latest iPad Mini comes with a 7.9 inch display. And guess what? The iPad Mini is cannibalising sales of the bigger iPad 4.

From the trends in the graph it looks a safe bet that smartphones, phablets and tablets are headed for convergence in a device with a screen measuring between 5 and 7 inches. Let's say 6 inches.

At the same time let's dispense with this silly "phablet" word. Nobody wants a phablet, so let's just consign that name to the dustbin of history and pretend it never happened.

Now you might be scoffing at this prediction saying, "Nobody will want a phone that big!" But those with a medium-term memory will remember that only a few years ago people said things like, "Nobody will want a phone with a camera!" and "Nobody will want to browse the web on a phone!" It's true that it'll be hard to handle a phone this big, but only if you try to use it with one hand. How many hands do you have? Right … so that's the solution.

But how can you hold a six inch slab against your ear to make a call? What's that? You still use your phone to make voice calls? You still communicate with your mouth? Your mouth is for drinking Lattes, surely?

According to Forbes, a recent survey shows that mobile data consumption is soaring and voice calls are in decline.

Skinny is the new skinny

We're not talking about Lattes now. We're talking about skinny phones, because if a phone is big in two dimensions, it had better be tiny in the third. The original iPhone was a porky 12mm thick. The new iPhone 5 measures less than 8mm. Apple did everything they could to make it this thin, using a nano-SIM, replacing the old 30-pin connector with a new Lightning connector and putting their iPhones on a strict low-carb diet before final packaging.

How thin will next year's smartphone be? Vanishingly thin. Turn it sideways and it will literally disappear from view.

Let's get social!

No, not sociable. We don't mean talking to friends, we mean communicating with your connections and followers. We mean social media, those two words that fit together so frequently, yet so uncomfortably. Friends? They'll be entirely optional in 2014, unless you mean Facebook friends.

Already mobile accounts for more than half of all Facebook activity and 27% of LinkedIn usage. Facebook is hungry for even more, which is why it launched Facebook Home, a strategy designed to turn your Android phone into a Facebook phone by stealth, and annoy the pants off Google.

Facebook Home may or may not take off, but you can bet that in 2014 we'll be spending even more of our time getting social via our phones.

The mobile internet

As the Facebook usage statistics show, the mobile internet has long ceased to be a gimmick or a luxury. Increasingly, the web is mobile and mobile is the web. With 4G and Wi-Fi being the norm, the always-on world will become a reality and data will migrate increasingly to the cloud.

User interfaces

If you still think touchscreens are cool, you're in for a shock, because touchless is the new touch. After all, if your phone can recognise your voice, your face and your eyes, why does it need you to poke it with your fat fingers? That's not very polite now, is it?

Whether its voice control, eye control or gesture recognition, touchless interfaces are the next big thing. You might even interact with your phone via a gadget. We're thinking watches. We're thinking glasses.

And your phone won't be a passive device sitting around waiting for your next command. It will be busy doing stuff by itself. Already smartphones are downloading software updates, making calendar appointments and fetching train times on your behalf. With developments in Siri, Google Now, and Windows Live Tiles, phones are increasingly going to be living out busy and interesting lives of their own.

Quad core, octa core, hexadeca core, …

OK, when processors contain more than 4 cores, using the Greek numbering system doesn't work so well. Let's predict that the phone of 2014 will have 16 cores. Why? Because Moore's Law says so. The question is what to do with all those cores? This is a serious question. And the answer is playing games.

Gaming

Games developer Electronic Arts made sixteen of its games available on Google Play for the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4. Titles included games like The Sims, Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Real Racing 3.

Can the S4 play games in 1080p HD resolution? Yes, it can. Can it mirror its screen wirelessly on a compatible TV? Yes, it can. Does it have motion sensitivity controls? Yes, it does.

Next year's smartphone will have more processing power and graphics capabilities than a PS3 or Xbox 360. With motion control built-in, it isn't really a smartphone anymore. It's a games console in disguise.

Console manufacturers should already be more than nervous. More than worried. They should be scared. Who knows what may happen? Perhaps we'll see Nintendo enter the smartphone market. Perhaps the PS4 and Xbox One will be last-gen consoles, not next-gen.

Poor old Microsoft. First tablets killed sales of PCs and laptops. Now Android and iOS are killing sales of Windows Phone. The next generation of smartphones looks like it might kill the Xbox One before it's even launched.

Cost

As always, there's a price to be paid for this. It's going to be paid monthly, and for a minimum of 24 months. The reason most phone contracts have switched from one year to two years isn't greed on the part of the wireless providers. It's because phones have evolved from simple devices for calling and texting into portable supercomputers, demanding huge subsidies from the likes of O2 and Vodafone. As the thirst for ever greater power continues to accelerate, don't expect to see a reduction in your mobile phone bill in 2014. The trend is up. How far it can go is anyone's guess, but Apple seems determined to find out, and where Apple goes, Samsung and the others will follow.

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Comment by Tim B from UK on 17th Oct 2014
Apple have the right core.

Comment by Johnk139 from USA on 1st May 2014
Very neat article post.Much thanks again. Much obliged.

Comment by Erick from United Kingdom on 17th Apr 2014
I agree with the article saying that there will be a gradual move towards touchless interfaces that will accommodate voice and gesture control. This will create new markets and widen the use of communications devices to the elderly and others who may find current interfaces daunting.

I also concur with the fact that the tablet and the smartphone will gradually converge for the mass market.

Comment by arnold from uk on 21st Mar 2014
Very entertaining piece of comedy this article is. It's 2014 and I'm still waiting for the 16-core processors you said would be here by now "because Moore's Law says so". Doh!

Comment by VJ from Bangladesh on 4th Feb 2014
I cann't wait to see that!

Comment by Greg from UK / qatar on 3rd Feb 2014
Yes, very entertaining, love the site too - never bought anything that didn't have five stars on s21 or mobile-phones-org.uk, or whatever it was. My money on it being the same author / editor

Comment by Wardono from Indonesia on 20th Nov 2013
Everytime I buy a smartphone, the technology in it is obsolete already. I am sure the key word for 2014 would be "octa-core", even for mid-range products. And that's where I am going to settle in and be comfortable at. I use smartphones just for sms, BBM, YouTube and light browsing. I hope octa-cores would help these perform quicker.

Comment by raul from usa on 8th Nov 2013
what sense of humor enjoy it reading

Comment by Ashley from United Kingdom on 23rd Oct 2013
I really enjoyed reading this post. Not only the attractive theme of gadgets but the charm and style of writing. Very enjoyable indeed

Reply by S21 from UK on 24th Oct 2013
Thank you for your kind words, Ashley. We very much enjoyed reading your comment!

Comment by Jonathan from Nigeria on 22nd Oct 2013
Andy, I cant agree with you more. some of us just want a phone that is just that, a phone. That is where blackberry is still my phone if choice. it offers best call, text and email. if I want to play I use my iPad as a toy for games apps and for reading. Any other serious computing business goes to the computer.
This race to the bottom in tech is a time waster to many young people.

Comment by Andy from UK on 29th Sep 2013
Scary how things develop so quickly - However, not everyone is on Facebook (nor want's to be) or any other Social Media website, not everyone wants a phone that you can play games on or watch a film on - there is a market out there for those who just want a phone to do what it was supposed to do as in the early days, - text - calls - email. It's time for manufacturers to come up with a decent candy bar sized phone that does just that... Anything and everything else can be done on a laptop, tablet, game system, camera etc etc should you so desire. It's not because I'm a dinosaur I just want a phone that works like a phone with the added bonus of accessing my emails - surely not too much to ask is it? :-)

Comment by Ben Godber from UK on 24th Sep 2013
It's an old concept now, but PAN (personal area network) is a good place to look. The phone as CPU, watch as biometric data gatherer (non-invasive blood measurement is something Apple has been hiring around, for instance) and secondary display, or maybe something google glass-y.

Throw in "the internet of things" and the smartphone of the future is in fact just part of your digital accoutrement, the centre maybe, but still just one aspect. Maybe the phone of the future doesn't even have a screen, you just pick whatever size screen you want and the system-on-a-chip is elsewhere. A 6" 2mm thick screen appeals to me and is possible if you offload the rest of the system.

Comment by lee from nw england on 19th Aug 2013
Smartwatches are the future ! ;)

Comment by KDM from UK on 13th Jun 2013
What amazes me is the rivalry/hatred between smartphone owners. I guess it stems from the lawsuit patent thing that is dragging on and on and the strong rivalry between phone manufactures that is fueling it. I think choosing a phone is a lot like choosing a car, it's what you want it do do for you that influences your decision... I want a phone to fit in my pocket, take a good pic, be a good music player, be fast on the net but most importantly, be easy to use! (guess what phone I have lol)

I can understand people who want a huge screen to watch films or play games on, or to customise their phones, and want to tinker with the OS, there are some great phones out there for that. It is funny and interesting to hear peoples opinions of different phones, there are some great 'facts' out there for both Android and Apple that just aren't true or have been wildly exaggerated! (maybe you should do a myth busters article?)

Anyway, good luck S21 with your choice for the upcoming smartphone of 2014... your winner will no doubt cause tantrums and tears from die hard supporters from all camps!

Reply by S21 from UK on 13th Jun 2013
We hope so, KDM. After all, what is an award ceremony without tears? We'll be picking the best in time for Christmas 2013.

Comment by Bob from England on 7th Jun 2013
Every time I see a mobile phone article with a picture of Captain Kirk all I think of is when will we get a proper trek communicator?

People may say we have that now but they're nothing but poor shadows that need an endless array of towers and bank accounts to work.

Reply by Bob from England on 9th Sep 2013
Interesting to read the new Nexus 7 review. I bet the new Nexus 4 phone copies some of those improvements. Like 16GB to 32Gb memory and stereo speakers.


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