We will soon be living in a post smartphone era, but what will that look like?
In the dark recesses of all IT departments in all businesses there will be some It products of yesteryear gathering dust. Fax Machines, Palm Pilots and laptops that were the size of suitcases all reside there now that sun has set on their time as a primary business tool. It may be hard to imagine it now, but the smartphone, the cherished device of almost everybody maybe heading into that pile sometime in the not too distant future.
During its September 2017 launch on the iPhone X, one of the Apple executives discussing the Apple Watch 3 and it’s capability to make and receive calls thanks to it’s built-in cellular connectivity, uttered the words ‘You can now leave your iPhone at home’. That may be the first time that Apple publicly stated, that it knows the day where iPhones are relegated in popularity to being just ‘one of many devices’ as opposed to the ‘one device’ that it is now.
But what will come next?
The answer can be found in what has occurred in parallel to the rise of the iPhone over the last decade. That of cloud and pushing all manner of data up to it. When the iPhone and the smartphones first hit the market the vast majority of the data contained within it had to be synchronised from a computer. Music, Photos, contacts all were stored on a desktop and when plugged in the iPhone would quietly update itself to any new data, and also send any new data that has been created on it back to the ‘mothership’. As the years proceeded, cloud availability and cost dropped, connectivity significantly improved and the iPhone become untethered from its desktop cousin.
Fast forward to today and users store tens of thousands of photos, documents and more in cloud services that are almost invisible in their speed and functionality – meaning that that data can now be accessed by a wider variety of devices assuming they have connectivity and a supporting variety of the application that can read the data.
Take an Apple Watch 3 for example, it can use a tiny subset of the cloud data that a user has created, small enough to be useful but not required to be a highly rich experience. As a user progresses up form a wearable device to a phone, to a tablet, laptop or desktop the experience becomes richer but the mobility becomes restrictive
Other devices, beyond the traditional IT devices, are also now pulling on that data. A smart TV can pull in a user’s preferences and history of streaming services, or their personal photo streams. A wide range of IoT devices pulls on subsets of this data to create a home or work environment that meets a user’s individual preference. And as the connectivity in cars improves users will hook them into their cloud-based services of choice to access their music, address books (for navigation) and other services. The data will follow the user regardless of what device they are using.
And that is the answer to what the post-smartphone dominated world will be like. The smartphone will not be replaced, but it its functionality will be replicated in whole, or in part by a plethora of other devices.
The future winners in the post-smartphone world will be many and varied, starting with the cloud-based organisation who provide the services that span the greatest array of these devices. Then the device manufacturers, those that adopt the favored cloud services of the masses.
With any consumer-led digital transformation, which the post-smartphone world will be, it will also inevitably find its way into the workplace. What will this mean? Far more devices, for more data and far more management! In years to come, we will look back at the era of the smartphone not as an end, but as just a beginning.