Five years from now, smartphones may look pretty much the way they do today. Internally, however, they are likely to be very different.
In the decade-plus of their existence, full touchscreen smartphones have upended nearly every aspect of everyday life, transforming the way people consume content, communicate, conduct transactions, remember events, and stay connected to the world at large.
Smartphones’ dominance should continue over the medium term. Deloitte Global predicts that smartphone penetration among adults in developed countries will surpass 90 percent by 2023, up 5 percent from 2018. The organization also predicts owners will interact with their phones an average of 65 times a day (with some users reaching hundreds of times a day) in 2023—up 20 percent from 2018—and that 86 percent of all adults will use a smartphone on any given day in 2023, as compared with 79 percent currently.
Yet amid this increased popularity, it’s likely smartphones have reached a plateau when it comes to general appearance. …Over the next five years, as the smartphone becomes the primary gateway to the digital world, the focus will be on internal innovations.
Some of the key innovations will include:
Better chips. By 2023, dedicated AI chips, which are designed to assist machine learning applications, and field-programmable gate-array chips, which can be programmed multiple times to do specific tasks after manufacture, will likely be standard features on many new smartphones. These innovations should free up processor space for tasks such as optimizing reception on a cellular network and helping applications—augmented reality and route mapping, among others—run more smoothly.
The average smartphone sold in 2023 will have 128 gigabytes (GB) of storage, up from 32 GB, while RAM will likely range from 2-16 GB, Deloitte Global predicts. The greater memory will likely include space for both additional, richer, and more complex GB-scale apps and for photos, videos, and music. Both memory upgrades should make the smartphone more useful and valuable as it becomes the default device for a growing range of digital applications such as smart-lock door keys, office entry cards, and stored-value payment systems.
A new generation of chips should also improve location accuracy, giving the next versions of smartphones accuracy within one foot, compared with the current 15 feet. This advance could make current applications such as ride-hailing easier to use, especially in urban areas. Navigation capability on smartphones could also be bolstered through improved support for indoor locations (shopping malls, office buildings, transport hubs, and the like). This improvement could enable better location-based targeting for retailers, help city planners understand people flows better, and enable workers to be guided to a specific meeting room rather than forcing them to find it.
Batteries and biometrics. While new technology for extended battery life is not on the immediate horizon, processor and CPU advances that split tasks off to other chips can help reduce battery usage. In addition, industry adoption of a wireless charging standard could help users recharge their devices when they are out and about.
By 2023, three-quarters of all smartphone owners in developed countries will use some form of biometric authentication, and 80 percent of devices will have at least one dedicated biometric sensor (such as a fingerprint reader or 3D facial scanner), Deloitte Global predicts. Fingerprint scanners are likely to see ultrasonic upgrades that enable them to be used through glass and metal, and even when fingers are wet or greasy.
Better cameras. Similarly, smartphone cameras are likely to benefit from upgrades such as infrared sensing. Indeed, over the medium term, a key decision point for consumers selecting a smartphone is likely to be the quality of its photo app and hardware. Increased availability of features such as bokeh (in which the subject is in focus and the background is blurred) and image stabilization can improve image quality and likely lead to greater sharing and use.
… Better-quality photos are more likely to be shared, which could be a boon for companies working to build buzz for events and social marketing programs.
Increased enterprise use. … an area for major growth may be in the enterprise arena, transforming the way work is done in settings from retail store operations to health care operations, restaurants, and dozens of other services and processes. In the European Union alone, Deloitte Global estimates 45 percent of the region’s workforce of 100 million people will use a smartphone as the primary (or only) device. Accordingly, development of features to smooth employee protocols—security badge information, time and expense reporting, and accessibility to company resources, to name a few—will likely see increased development.
In some ways, 2018 is reminiscent of the early days of the internet era, when enterprises started adopting browser solutions to transform how employees work and changed how they engaged with core business applications. Similarly, in the near term, the role of technology will likely be more about improving existing processes, with redesigning the underlying nature of work for mobile optimization following rapidly thereafter. For instance, vendors will be able to send invoices (with accompanying proof-of-work photos) via phone, and busy chefs will be able to order ingredients directly from a supplier without resorting to a traditional PC.