The death of the smartphone is vastly exaggerated

April 06, 2016 //By Jean-Pierre Joosting
With all the buzz surrounding the IoT and smartwatches some have dared to suggest that we will soon be seeing the decline of the smartphone. The argument follows the analogy of the desktop computer that morphed into laptops and eventually into tablet computers. However, even after all this the desktop computer lives on.

Smartwatches have a place and might be the next big thing. However for the next decade or two, the smartphone will reign. Innovation in the smartphone has become evolutionary rather than revolutionary. But, I would argue that we are not even half way through the smartphone revolution. Improving services as 4G advances will push new use cases, mobile payments being one such example. Even NFC is beginning to take off. A recent Strategy Analytics report claims that mobile payments made via NFC-enabled handsets will approach $240 billion in total value by 2021, with handset NFC payments users to pass 100 million in 2016.

Nitesh Patel, Director, Mobile Payments, at Strategy Analytics noted, “Transport for London has highlighted the importance of wide reaching contactless payment acceptance in driving adoption and use. With three percent of all journeys paid for using contactless driven by mobile phones in December 2015, just six months after the launch of Apple Pay, it is clear that NFC-based payments have strong potential for future growth.”

The smartphone will live on through added use cases. Potentially these are many. We will see evolutionary changes to the smartphone, such as longer lasting batteries, wireless charging, depth sensing and 3D cameras, more sensors for smarter phones, augmented reality, multi-screen capabilities, gesture control, and possibly flexible screens. It still remains the case that all this is nice but the use case will drive market.

Mobile payments are one use case, but many more exist. Using the smartphone as a home controller is another, and the market here is emerging with heating and lighting systems that are controlled via an app on the phone. Similarly, the security and surveillance camera market would also benefit. Another area that has barely being touched is the medical monitoring market. As 5G begins to emerge there will be a huge boost in coverage and reliability to move medical monitoring from a personal level to a professional level. That being said, legal issues will need to be resolved.

Smartphones could also eventually replace the entertainment hub in cars, as well as provide connectivity. Apple CarPlay is an example of what might be in store for the automotive industry. Just as many industries leveraged the common PC platform, so will many leverage the smartphone app model. Not only can this get products to market quickly, but is ideal for companies with little or no wireless expertise to compete with larger companies that have the financial muscle to develop their own systems.

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