Like a sci-fi film, smartphones are mating, multiplying, imbedding and ingratiating.
At the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the bellwether of all things tech, smartphone innovations dominated. No wonder: In 2013, 56% of all cell phones in the US will be smartphone, according to eMarketer, with 2012 smartphone demand up +24%. Morgan Stanley predicts that 2013 will be the year that global Internet connections via smartphones surpass connections via computers.
Tons of new brands and models are flooding the market with cool phones. They’re all smart. They all run on Android and quad-core processors (super fast). They all have 13-megapixel cameras and HD displays. They all have Bluetooth and/or WiFi. And, they’re all open ecosystems that encourage Apps. The standard bar has just been raised (sky rocketed, in fact), and iPhone better watch out! Spoiler alert: Apple shares will drop in 2013.
smarter phones have higher IQs and EQs
The design of smartphones is evolving quickly. They’re not only getting more intelligent (higher IQs), they’re also gaining in Emotional Quotient (higher EQs). There’s been a big industry shift from “specs to UX”, meaning less attention to “features” since phones operate on similar platforms, and more attention paid to User Experience (UX) and design. From paper thin phones that FOLD (see photo) to Huawei’s “magic touch” phone you can operate while wearing gloves to Samsung’s round-edge phone (see photo) to Sony’s waterproof phone to a plethora of “phablets” (large tablet size phones, that appeal to aging eyes).
Phones are being redesigned with insights if you consider the past 3 years “beta test” years. For example, they’ve learned that the swipe/touch-screen isn’t ideal for every function; the new Sony Xperia has physical camera button that “clicks”, replacing the unreliable tablet “tap”, eliminating “did it take the picture?” frustration.
smartphone as mobility-enabler
The biggest impact of smartphones on our culture is: mobility. Having the ability to access information, geo-locate and communicate anywhere has set us free. Rural communities have new opportunities. Small enterprise can thrive. People can travel and explore like never before. Some of the biggest leaps in civilization have been predicated on mobility (i.e., the transportation of ideas and/or people).
Reflect on the impact of some of the cultural game-changers: the wheel, domesticated horses, boat design, carrier pigeons, the auto, the airplane, the radio wave and the Internet. Like the smartphone, each of these inventions were culturally catalytic. Expect our society to undergo huge transformations in the next decade as smartphone penetration rises in the US and globally…
smartphone as remote control & joystick
The smartphone is actually a “remote for your life”: key, wallet, diary, camera, controller, etc. Some phones are now equipped with Infared Blasters (IR) that turn the phone into a universal remote control, replacing everything that operates on a clicker: TV, TiVo, air conditioner, ceiling fan, smart appliances, garage doors, etc.
In addition, the smartphone becomes the master joystick in the game of life. Consider the games that are driven by the smartphone (see picture). Many “SoLoMo” (social + geoloco + mobile) games debuted at recent “Come Out & Play Festivals around the country in 2012. Augmented Reality apps turn the smartphone into a “looking glass”, adding layers to IRL (“in real life”; the mere fact that we even need this expression denotes a schism between real and unreal life). And now there’s an actually joystick device that attaches to the touch-screen surface of a smartphone, giving fingers a more tactile joystick-like experience to control anything from a game, to a drone. It can also be used for real-time voting and measuring mood and opinion (think: CNN ‘s +/- approval trail graphs that run on the bottom of thr TV screen during the presidential debates).
smartphone as engine (“iPhone Inside” replaces “Intel Inside”)
CES also featured a number of new products that are driven by a smartphone. In other words, the smartphone becomes the brain of the consumer electronic device. For example, Will.i.am launched his camera exoskeleton, called “fofo.sosho V.4”, which houses an iPhone (see photo). This replaces the limitations of the “phone camera” with a “camera driven by a powerful phone”. Another invention is the Felt speaker: a powerful, small speaker system that snaps onto the phone, replacing docking phones in speakers – now speakers attach to the phone. A big opportunity for inventors is to capitalize on the trend of smartphones functioning as processors to drive the function of devices. It’s possible that “Intel Inside” might be replaced by “iPhone Inside”.
smartphone’s negative impact on culture
And so we burst into the “Era of Mobility” with the smartphone at is core. While the smartphone might seem like a positive piece of technology, consider the impact is has on human behavior and culture. Ponder what it will be like to live in a world where there is:
- Less Courage – a smartphone is a safety net and life line that reduces risk and thus the need for courage. Explorers who scaled mountains or crossed seas without the ability to call for help had real courage. With a smartphone in hand we don’t even need “social courage” because we have a distraction in our hand.
- Less Commitment – the innumerable choices at our fingertips presents the paradox of choice and dissatisfaction with the choices we make; we avoid committing when we have the option to find something better. Smartphones enable us to find, search and compare options.
- Less Chance – the smartphone is a control device and remote for life; it tells us the fastest route to take from point A to point B and what’s the highest rated restaurant. But, sometimes we need to meander, get sidetracked and try things out to expand out horizons.
- Less Truth – Fact is not truth. Information is not knowledge. Confronted with an overwhelming amount of data that we tend to treat as truth, we lose the ability to discern data, truth gets lost and “authentic” turns into “authenticishness“
Welcome to the “can you hear me now” nation.