October 27, 2020

The Next Decade of Smartphones

SmartphonesSmartphones have come a long way in just a matter of 20 years. We’ve gone from small phones with antennae and polyphonic ringtones to large, almost bezel-less displays with high computing power and endless entertainment avenues.

Even if we look at the last ten years since smartphones started becoming more ubiquitous, we see an exponential climb upwards. The low-resolution screens with 3G connectivity now seem like relics of the past. But what will the future hold for smartphones? Let’s discuss some of the major trends for smartphones in the next ten years.

Stretch and Fold

Ever since foldable phones entered the public eye in 2019, we’ve seen devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Fold and the Motorola Razr 2019. This trend toward foldability is likely to continue in the next ten years.

But things aren’t all that simple; many people consider foldable smartphones to be just a gimmick with most users not considering buying them as their next phone. This is not only because foldable smartphones (more like phablets) are currently very pricey, its also because the software really hasn’t caught on with adapting to the form factor yet.

But we are likely to see more affordable foldable phones within the next few years. It totally depends on the market, however, and how people are prone to see foldable phones compared with ‘normal’ phones.

Aside from foldability, there is another feature that is likely to make a splash within the next ten years. And that’s stretchable phones. Instead of folding the phone for more screen real estate, stretching the display will increase its size, much like a hard variant of clay. You’ll just pull the phone from two corners diagonally, and voila, you’ve got more screen space!

Work has already begun in the area of stretchable displays, but it will still take a number of years before they hit the market. Samsung announced its prototype of a stretchable display in 2017, which could be dented up to 12mm without damage. The display springs back to its original flat shape. This is just a concept, however, which only goes to show that it’s possible.

Stretchable displays can’t be of much significance unless the internal hardware becomes stretchable as well. That’s exactly what researchers at Michigan State University are developing with their first stretchable integrated circuit. They say that soon it will be possible to print displays which can be stretched to larger sizes, and also be applied to wearable tech and soft robotic applications.

Stretchy phones can bring with them a host of new improvements, including more immersive gameplay and videos. Not to mention the convenience of carrying a large display, which can be brought down to a very small form factor, easily fitting in your pocket.

Wraparound Screens

We’ve seen the craze that is bezel-less displays. And it seems this trend isn’t going to end anytime soon. Instead, we’ll see continued progress toward a completely bezel-less display and, eventually, wraparound screens. This will occur in tandem with hidden cameras that become visible only when the front camera is taking a picture or recording/streaming video.

This shift is likely to be accompanied by a transition toward a button-less phone. Within the next ten years, phones are probably not going to have any physical buttons whatsoever. Instead, pressure detection, multi-touch, and micro-haptics will work together in other to deliver the same functionality and even feel of physical buttons without sacrificing any screen area.

As phones become more and more seamless, we’ve seen a transition from physical fingerprint sensors to in-display scanners. They’re comparable in terms of reliability and speed. The face unlock feature has also added to this seamlessness. But with newer technologies like Sensel’s multi-touch micro-haptics, things are about to change even further.

Such micro-haptic technology can allow your fingers to feel the vibration and haptic feedback localized to only the spot where you are touching. These days, when the haptic motor vibrates within a phone, we can feel the entire phone vibrate. Replacing this with micro-haptics will not only save battery life, but it will also deliver a more immersive and realistic tactile feedback to your inputs, such as using a volume or ISO slider, etc. This will be combined with force touch, which will allow thousands of levels of pressure sensitivity and range to make smartphones of the future truly tactile devices.

Voice Control

To continue the trend towards seamlessness, voice control will play a major role. We’ve already seen voice assistants like Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa. In the years ahead, such voice assistants will evolve even further to improve their speed, reliability, expansiveness, and functionality.

Within the next 10 years, voice control is likely to become a key feature of the way we use our smartphones.

Color-Changing Backs

Phones of the future are likely going to have the ability to change their color, perhaps according to the wallpaper that has been applied. The OnePlus Concept One showcased this feature by tinting its back camera black to hide the cameras.

Now imagine this ability on the whole back of your phone. It’s made with a glassy material that absorbs all light. With just a few LED lights inside, the color could change to, let’s say, purple, green, red, or even white. With phones of the future, you might not have to face difficulty in deciding upon a color anymore.


With wraparound screens and other energy-hogging features, smartphones of the future will also need new kinds of batteries. This is where graphene comes in. Its an allotrope of carbon, which forms a single layer of atoms in a 2D hexagonal lattice. Graphene is extremely strong and is more efficient at conducting electricity than copper.

In the next few years, we are likely to see more research going into graphene batteries, which will replace our lithium-ion cell batteries. Graphene batteries allow for increased electrode density, faster cycle times, and also holding the charge for longer and improving the battery’s lifespan.

With faster wireless charging and graphene batteries, smartphones of the future could even have a week-long battery on just a few minutes of charge. However, this might become more of a reality after several years.

No More Ports

Ports take up a lot of space and restrict phone designs with the added susceptibility to water and dust. Phone designers have been working to reduce ports, and we’ve already seen it with the (sad) loss of the 3.5mm jack. These days, most phones have a single port for charging, etc. In the years ahead, we are likely to see a shift towards complete wireless.

This will, of course, be accompanied by faster wireless charging or even over-the-air charging after several years. This means that you no longer have to worry about carrying charging bricks or wires. Your phone would wirelessly charge, even over longer ranges, though this tech is likely ways ahead in the future. However, before the end of the next 10 years, we will start seeing this shift.

by Bobby J Davidson

We love our company and we love what we do.  Check out the ‘Why Percento‘ page to learn more: Love of Technology and Business!  As the President of Percento Technologies International, I provide day-to-day leadership to the company’s senior management and I am personally involved in the strategy, business development and sales activities of the firm.

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