What’s Next for Smartphones
The mobile phone of the future will be a metaphor
By Uday Dandavate
Motorola recently made a bold move. It revived the nostalgia of the wildly popular Razr phone of the 2000s by introducing a pocket-sized flip phone with the intelligence of a modern smartphone.
Today, most premium phone brands have adopted the design language and user experience principles set by Apple. Differentiation between brands is diminishing, as competing models begin to look and feel the same. So, what does the future of mobile phones look like?
One of my professors in design school believed that an ideal design must not stand out, but become an almost invisible–yet inseparable–part of the user’s life. This design philosophy will influence the future of mobile phones and other tech gadgets.
Some of the principles that will guide mobile phone designers are:
Designing interfaces around metaphors will be more important
Instead of solely creating new aesthetic design languages, tech companies are focusing on designing unique experiences using cutting-edge technologies, such as AI/ML and mixed reality. Using metaphors in their systems helps achieve this goal. A metaphor maps a relationship from the real world to the interface with a technological product.
Assistance will depend on what people expect from the product
Selecting the right metaphor and defining a user’s relationship requires careful study of what assistance the user expects from the product. For example, Tesla has based the relationship between vehicle and driver on AutoPilot, which allows the vehicle to take over if the driver is not focused or shifts their attention elsewhere.
Products will be both intelligent and empathic
To best assist the user, products must have the capacity to know what the user needs, how the user feels, and respond appropriately. Sensor technology and AI/ML have created new ways for designers to develop personalized experiences.
Empathic design is another big focus. Designers are conceptualizing experiences that measure emotions and stress levels to create a more comfortable and joyful environment. Google Home, for example, caters to both the assistance and emotional needs of every family member.
Personal data must be protected
For users to allow a phone to track their behaviors, location, and preferences, they must trust that their data is confidential. If trust exists, a long-term relationship with the brand can be formed.
Voice assistants must be humanized
Current voice assistants speak to the user in a mechanical voice, but people will feel more at ease if empathy and humor are introduced into conversations. Chinese automobile manufacturer Neo introduced Nomi, a voice and graphical interface that is expressive and emotional.
Smartphones will be able to better relationships
People will pay attention to how their smartphones influence the environment around them, both socially and physically. If a device can change the mood of a gathering or improve the physical sensations of the environment, then it will be seen as a part of the group dynamic.
People already have access to tools for communication. In the future, the focus will be on deepening connections with more insight into people’s personalities, attitudes, and values. These features will create close and reciprocal relationships.
Buying smartphones will be a new experience
The entire customer journey will be designed to be a meaningful ritual with emotional resonance. The use of form, colors, light, voice, and other sensory stimuli will transform the process of purchasing, tapping into nostalgia and current trends.
Today, the Apple Store is considered the benchmark for a delightful retail experience, but all future customer journeys will be more immersive, intelligent, delightful, and personalized.
About the Author
Uday is the Founder and CEO of San Francisco based co-creation firm, SonicRim. He is recognized as a pioneer in co-creation and frequently travels worldwide to conduct workshops and teach senior executives and university students the importance of co-creation in visioning the future. SonicRim has conducted research studies in over 45 countries worldwide.