Will we soon no longer need our Smartphones?.

Business can’t remind themselves this often enough: Mobile is not about technology.

Mobile is not one screen or two screens. Or three screens (smartphone, tablet, and e-reader). Google Glass? Samsung Galaxy Gear? Mobile is about behaviour. The only common thread uniting the vast and diverse mobile arena is that consumers are taking a connected device with them on the go. I cannot stress how important it is to grasp this if you desire to create meaningful success in the mobile arena.

Modern consumers move fluidly across devices and platforms, like a continuous engagement. Mobile is a key enabler to this, however mobile is not about just having an app on both Android and iOS operating systems, but by being present across a variety of devices and taking advantage of the powerful features each has to offer within the ecosystem of a consumers life. When business see mobile as a technology or a channel, they consistently create mediocre experiences, offerings or engagement.

Gadget-overload-nike-fuelband-fitbit-flex-pebble-watchIn the recent year two trends in mobile have taken the mobility market by storm, mainly the Phablet and Wearable Tech. Both of these see significant changes in the design of technology that we’ve been carrying in a pocket since the start of the millennium. Adding new gadgets to our collection may seem ridiculous, but they appeal to the behavioural side of how and why we use mobile devices in the first place. The ability to add context, insight and information, anytime, anywhere. Many of us question the relevance of viability of projects like Google Glass, Samsung’s Galaxy Gear and Nike’s FuelBand.  But what these represent is a strong indication of our invisible mobile future. Could these point to a future where the smartphone doesn’t exist? Could the devices that rule our daily lives be slowly slipping into the shadows?

Let’s take a closer look at the two largest trends today:

The Phablet

flat-top-with-a-ghetto-blasterI live in Asia, and Phablets seem all the rage here. The Samsung Note, which only looks bigger in the hands of the mote petite frames found in the region, has been one of the strongest sellers since its launch. Some of you might have witnessed this after encountering someone speaking on an extra-large phone in the mall or even in your office. Well, there are people who think it is okay to make calls on extra-large size phones. Kind of reminds me of the days carrying a Ghettoblaster on your shoulder was hip. But these are different. These are the phablets – what you get when the smartphone has a love child with the tablet. What results is either an oversized smartphone… or a midget tablet.

The primary driver behind the smartphone consumer demand stems from the desire to not have to buy two devices, a tablet and a phone. So manufacturers thought it would be better to offer something that could provide the use and value of both. Phablets are not new. The first of this breed came out of Dell’s stables in June 2010. But the five inch Streak was way ahead of its time and did not have a victorious run. A year later, at the IFA 2011 in Berlin, Samsung announced the original Galaxy Note. It is a phablet with a 5.3-inch screen size which is between that of the conventional smartphones, and the larger tablet. It also comes with its own stylus pen which Samsung calls the S-Pen.. Its sequel repeated the success a for-phablet-fans-samsung-release-galaxyyear later. Like everything else in the smartphone market, this success was good enough for others to see an opportunity. As of October 2013, Samsung has sold over 45 million Galaxy Note devices over the past two years and a month. 5 million units of the Galaxy Note 3 have been sold within its first month, 30 million were of the Note II, while the Note (Original) sold around 10 million.

The clear trend is the Phablet is here to stay. As our daily lives crave more and more content, while our decreased demand for voice calls, content focused technologies like the phablet are likely to become a consumer choice.

Wearables

The Samsung Galaxy Gear is an Android-based smartwatch produced by Samsung Electronics. Unveiled during a Samsung Unpacked event in Berlin on September 4, 2013, the device serves as a companion for all Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets which run Android 4.3.

The Galaxy Gear was released to generally poor reception; it was criticized for the overall design of its interface, the implementation of some of its software, the few apps available, its poor battery life, and its dependency on the Samsung Galaxy smartphone and tablets.

One of the biggest criticisms of wearable devices is that their bulky screens and geek-centric designs can ruin an otherwise fashionable ensemble. Two women from Atlanta aim to address this problem by launching a fashion-conscious alternative called MEMI.

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Marketed as a smart bracelet “made by women for women,” the sleek device looks just like any other silver bracelet, but contains a link to your smartphone. With no screen or the many functions that are often features of wearable tech, the MEMI only alerts you to important phone calls by silently vibrating on your wrist.

But like other technologies, the ability for us to create more designer technology increases as the technology matures. Granted the first version of Google’s Glass isn’t pretty but as things develop, I’m positive Google will design a more fashionable version.

Google had it first. At a very basic level, Google Glass syncs with email, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, takes photos, records movies, and can search the web as well as provide location information, maps and directions. All displayed in a small prism above a user’s right eye. At a more advanced level, there are applications in the works that span the gamut from healthcare diagnostics to augmented reality gaming. There have already been surgeries stream

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ed from glass to medical students for educational purposes.

As of now, Glass is not available for consumers, but do not fret, it’s for the best. The current developer program is helping Google improve Glass’ experience to soon become a consumer-facing device. In the name of leadership in innovation, Google wins.

Companies like FitBit, Nike and Pebble also have product on the market which natively integrate with smartphones and tablets. Creating extension to the devices you already carry. But do they also replace parts of the role that a smartphone plays in your life.

Is there a future for the smart phone?

For the foreseeable future, it’s unlikely that smartphone will disappear. But what is likely is the shift in the role the smartphone plays in your life. Let’s face it, we no longer have a smartphone where their primary function is voice calls. Instead their role is that of an integrated connected mobile computer. A role that it is thriving in at the moment. The enhancements to mobile data bandwidth have only accelerated the potential of a smartphone, as video, voice, content and streaming now comfortably flow through mobile networks. Thus opening the door for more cloud based services to centralise commutation, service aggregation, contextualisation, etc. Coupled with the extensions of wearable technologies and the adoption of phablets as connected content devices we are likely to see more devices stay in our pockets. Leaving us to interact with the device through headsets, glasses, watches, sensor, and more.

Once the shift is significant enough, we may see the design of the smartphone change in an adaptation to behaviour.

 

 

© Scott Bales 2014. All Rights Reserved.