Business as usual. Most new flagship phones came out with small improvements over the previous models, mostly in the camera department and occasionally the display. Just how it was in 2020, and just how it’s shaping up to be in 2021.
We’re down to small camera upgrades – boring!
Apparently the average smartphone consumer is most interested in their smartphone’s camera quality above all else, so that’s the one thing that phone companies are consistently upgrading year over year.It’s not the speaker quality, the battery life, the performance or anything else that brands truly put their full effort to improve upon and wow you with.
Phones – those little rectangles we use to entertain ourselves, socialize, and occasionally watch society collapse in real time, have really reached their maximum potential, haven’t they?
At least when it comes to mainstream, flagship phones, there isn’t that much left to change and improve anymore.
So as it usually happens in the world of mobile technology – it’s coming time for something new. We had MP3 players, then MP4 video players came. We had those, then smartphones came to retire them next. But since smartphones became mainstream with the first iPhone 14 years ago, they haven’t been replaced with something better, yet.
But they will be. Companies are secretly, and not so secretly working on the next big thing. And it’s exciting!
Something new and huge is coming, and it’s not foldable or rollable phones (although they’re coming too)
Foldable phones seem like they’re on their way to becoming mainstream, thanks mostly to Samsung’s hard and consistent efforts to improve and market its Galaxy Z Fold and Galaxy Z Flip series worldwide.
Those two have been Samsung’s smartphone enthusiast phones for a few years now, while the Galaxy S-series, including the upcoming Galaxy S22, are something to keep the casual, mainstream consumers happy. Similarly, Apple’s next iPhone 14 should keep the Apple fans happy until the Cupertino company’s AR glasses are ready for an official introduction.
The Galaxy S22 will be mostly like its predecessor in terms of the design, but with slight camera improvements, and we can say pretty much the same about the iPhone 14. Nothing too spectacular, and definitely nothing that we could consider “the next big thing”.
But back on the more exciting foldable phones. So while Apple may have decided that foldable phones are not a worthwhile step to take between “normal” smartphones and AR, Samsung took that step. That’s admirable, as foldable phones may be short-lived, and just a little something for the tech enthusiasts until AR is ready to really change things.
Now we have other brands like Motorola, Huawei, Oppo and TCL either also consistently releasing better and better foldables, or at the very least joining the small, yet competitive folding phone market strong. Google is also likely to enter it next year with its Pixel Fold, and Apple has folding iPhone patents popping up too.
LG quit the phone market this year, so when it comes to phones with rollable displays, the LG Rollable is out. But rollables from other brands may still be coming next year.
But, if foldable and rollable phones, and their upcoming successors, aren’t the next big thing, what is? Well, they’re a big thing alright, but more like a stepping stone until something bigger comes. And that something, that true “next big thing” is AR, which we already mentioned a few times. AR – in the form of wearable augmented reality glasses.
Will Apple be first to introduce “the next big thing” to the mainstream again?
Apple may not usually be first to develop the most exciting new things, but it’s definitely often the first to make them mainstream. MP3 players, smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, wireless earbuds, they all became mainstream after the iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and AirPods came out, respectively.
And there’s a good chance that Apple will be first to introduce augmented reality to the masses with its upcoming Apple AR glasses. We’ve seen countless patents for those pop up, so we know Apple is working on AR, and we’ve heard the company’s CEO Tim Cook share his excitement for AR (augmented reality) many, many times too, so we know he’s on board. And he’s definitely expecting AR to be huge.
Here are some of Tim Cook’s most memorable quotes on AR:
“AR is going to take a while, because there are some really hard technology challenges there. But it will happen, it will happen in a big way, and we will wonder when it does, how we ever lived without it. Like we wonder how we lived without our phone today.”
“I do think that a significant portion of the population of developed countries, and eventually all countries, will have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day, it will become that much a part of you, a lot of us live on our smartphones, the iPhone, I hope, is very important for everyone, so AR will become really big.”
If you’re interested in learning more about AR and what it will be like, check out: AR is the future of smartphones. Most notably, AR will take your current smartphone experiences and mix them with the real world.
By wearing AR glasses while exploring a new city, you’ll be able to see directions to tourist spots floating in the air, and while looking at a sign in a foreign language, it will get translated before your eyes.
Imagine you’re sitting down at a coffee shop and browsing social media in a floating popup window above the coffee table, that only you can see. Or even playing a podcast that only you can hear via embedded tiny speakers in the glasses’ frames.
Those are some of the amazing things we can expect from AR. No more phones – limited, physical rectangles that you have to hold and stare at. Your digital world will be mixed with your real world surroundings.
So I shouldn’t be excited about the Apple iPhone 14 or the Samsung Galaxy S22?
On the contrary – you are absolutely right to be excited! Phones these days are incredible, even if the upcoming flagships from Apple and Samsung are arguably minor upgrades over this year’s models, which were minor upgrades over last year’s models.
Be excited! But be even more excited about AR; be excited about it before it becomes mainstream! AR is coming, and it’s probably coming pretty soon, perhaps as soon as 2022.
According to trusted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the iPhone has 10 years left before it is replaced by AR, and we can surely expect other phone brands to try and introduce AR sooner.
Before the iPhone is replaced, Apple is likely to introduce its AR glasses as soon as next year, which at first will serve as a companion to the iPhone, using its processing power. Because, the technology to fit an iPhone’s worth of components into the frames of AR glasses isn’t quite there yet. And that’s why the 10 year prediction until a full replacement.
Other than Apple, Google is also working on an AR operating system and an AR headset, Facebook is investing hundreds of millions in its Meta AR and VR program, Verizon has teamed up with Motorola to develop AR glasses… Most big tech companies are headed that way.