The post-handset society

Understandably, mobile occupies a key place in companies’ strategies and is without doubt a key pillar of the contemporary digital economy. There is reason to believe, despite the forecasts of global saturation, that the mobile as we know it may be soon replaced.

screenless

Some of the coming changes are undoubtedly iterative; new processes and mediums still using the smartphone as a basis, whilst others are more revolutionary and suggest new ways of obtaining information. Either way, fundamental changes are coming, with HTC CEO Cher Wang already stating that ‘…we have had to rethink phones as a company. Virtual reality is more important[i].’ If virtual and augmented reality, or mixed reality, disrupts the notion of the screen as we know it, advances in artificial intelligence will further question the underpinnings of design. The whole experience – perhaps incorporating audio, haptics and gestural interfaces and even using our own skin as the screen will all help orient the notion of mobile away from the phone as we seek to engage more of our senses.

In fact in 2015 an Ericsson survey found that a majority of smartphone users believed that by 2020, A.I interfaces would take over, replacing smartphones[ii]. Perhaps such a forecast is premature, but the general direction should be noted not just by consumers but those designing the next generation of apps. With numerous wearables including contact lenses able to take photos and provide social media updates, already in the labs – the human is set to become the next interface, rather than the screen.

This ultimately means that how and where people get their information will change. The opportunities that emerge will be significant for a range of industries – perhaps most obviously retail, but could also help revolutionise remote working and provide an effective way of working in regionally or globally dispersed teams. Virtual personal assistants, built on forerunners such as Amazon’s Alexa will increasingly handle our mobile interactions.

Since mixed reality, gestural interfaces and audio provide a more efficient and intuitive way to have a chat with the sophisticated artificial intelligence that will saturate future devices, the future of mobile lies beyond the screen. This will include your advanced Google searches, checking of Facebook and booking your next vacation with Expedia – together with a quick virtual reality tour of your chosen destination’s property. Companies need to start exploring what this means for them and specifically their consumer-centric processes. The immense opportunities to add value to the consumer that could arise from engaging more senses and designing for a complete experience will need to be mapped out and planned for if the potential of the post handset society is to be realised.

[i] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2016/01/19/htc-ceo-cher-wang-we-had-to-rethink-phones-as-a-company-vr-is-mo/

[ii] http://www.kurzweilai.net/ai-will-replace-smartphones-within-5-years-ericsson-survey-suggests

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