Compared to the cell phone of tomorrow – the omni-function imbedded or external mini-peripheral perhaps with the processing and communications capability of today’s supercomputers – the contemporary smartphone may look even more primitive than 20-year old cell phone bricks look today. The future phone may not even be visible.
The contemporary cell phone has many features: voice and data communications, a camera, music player, contacts, calendar, data storage and games to name a few. Texting, VOIP and data links have reduced the imperative of traditional voice telephony to a mere offering in the feature suite. The many functions of the cell phone could easily keep proliferating.
Other obvious features
Miniaturized headsets could become earring-sized objects for external wear or internal implantation. Subvocalization technology could allow everyone to talk silently and privately all the time without disturbing others; one side effect could be that world intelligence units attempt to develop throat-reading skills. 3D projection technology could be used for a visible full-size keyboard and navigation, video, gaming and entertainment applications.
Cell phone components could be retractable or detachable, such as clipping the handsfree headset into the handset body for storage. The accelerometer (now standard componentry of the iPhone and G1) could be detached and popped into a belt or armband for exercise or sleep measurement or elder monitoring. USB ports could be pulled out for universal connectivity to external hardware. The camera could pop out to an unobtrusive ear, forehead or hat anchor-point to capture continuous streaming video as a life-cam rig, accompanied by continuous audio recording. Life-cammed AV could be streamed via the net to a storage location, ideally in a tagged, parsed and abstracted form.
Once mobile processing is more rigorous and automated data access occurs through machine environment sensing, positively-unobtrusive technology can happen.
Positively-unobtrusive technology is when one’s data environment makes unobtrusive suggestions for better navigating a situation.An example would be using facial recognition, location recognition and a contacts database search to display critical information on a smart contact lens such as the approaching person’s name, kids’ ages and summary of last conversation.
The farther future: sensors, microscopy, spectroscopy
In the longer-term, the cell phone could contain an all-purpose sensor, a microscope, spectroscope and other features. The sensor could provide both health and environmental monitoring, tracking biomarker readings (e.g.; cardiac event, blood pressure, breathing, metabolism, etc.) and ambient air quality and toxin exposure, serving as an early warning system. Microscope-on-a-chip and spectroscope-on-a-chip technology could be used for advanced diagnostics, using physical port or wireless connectivity to read recyclable or disposable cartridges of blood prick slide samples for mobile diagnosis or to determine the composition of any physical sample. Energy may be supplied via solar power (like the Nokia Morph concept phone), ambient body-heat recharging or other thermoelectric mechanism. Carbon-offsetting, organic interfaces and other componentry may be standard.