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New Releases Mark 10 Years of Smartphones

Rick Kowalski, Manager, Industry and Business Intelligence, Consumer Technology Association (CTA)

Upcoming fall product releases mark the smartphone’s 10th year on the market. The first decade of smartphones had a considerable impact on the consumer technology market and culture as a whole. It’s hard to imagine a day, let alone a lifetime, without our phones.

The first generation of smartphones in 2007 amazed us with their ability to combine numerous technologies into a single pocket-sized device, integrating functions such as navigation, computing, web browsing, digital imaging, music playback and more. The revolutionary device elegantly merged these features into a user-friendly operating system and made them accessible through a touchscreen interface. It wasn’t long before almost everyone swapped their standard cell phones for smart ones and began to realize the potential of ubiquitous connectivity.

Within a few years of their introduction, smartphones brought the word ”app” into the common lexicon, and with it, a whole universe of software that expanded the device’s capabilities. The smartphone became a portable gaming system, television, fitness tracker, digital assistant, video phone, credit card, smart remote and augmented reality device all rolled into one.

The technology’s influence produced a ripple effect through the entire industry, laying the foundation for even more new connected devices. Smartphones are the key interface for wearables and smart home devices and have opened opportunities in wireless audio, driving sales of Bluetooth speakers, wireless headphones and over-the-counter hearing aids.

In 2017, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) expects smartphones to make up more than 20 percent of industry revenues in the U.S., up from just 5 percent in 2007.

What to Expect in the Smartphone’s Teen Years

Here are some things to keep an eye on over the next 10 years:

Internet of Things (IoT): Apps make it easy for a smartphone to function as an interface for the connected devices surrounding it. As this world of connected devices expands, smartphones will continue to play a major role in how we interact with these devices.

5G: The next generation of wireless connectivity aims to greatly increase connection speeds. For smartphones, this opens up the possibility of offloading processor-heavy tasks to other computing devices on the network, which in turn reduces the need for the smartphone to do all the work. 5G could also allow for low-latency, high-resolution video streaming on smartphones, potentially contributing to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications.

Augmented and virtual reality: Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore AR software development kits will allow programmers to explore new ways to layer VR over our real-world surroundings. The smartphone will serve as a testing ground for what will be possible on the AR eyewear tech companies are currently developing.

Digital health: Smartphones will go beyond fitness tracking to make us healthier. Digital therapeutics apps enable consumers to maintain their dietary goals, manage their diabetes and even train themselves to get a better night’s rest. Other apps let consumers take charge of their medical records, allowing them to consult with physicians remotely and send health data through phone apps.

We may be headed to a future where all the screens we use today will be virtually displayed on our AR glasses, eliminating the need for a smartphone screen altogether.

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