Imagine life without a mobile phone. Imagine not having instant access to all the information on the Internet, communicating with your ‘friends’ on social media platforms or by email, or having to actually do something other than work on your way home on the daily commute. Mobiles have transformed the way we live our lives, and they’ve managed to do it in less than a generation. Just 35 years ago mobiles were anything but – huge ‘bricks’ that had the battery life of a mayfly and the range of a short-sighted hamster.
Today, we have touch screens, 4G, inbuilt cameras and an entire record collection’s worth of tunes in one, tiny device. The technological advances of mobiles has have been quite literally, extraordinary. But what of its future? Will we grow as bored with mobiles as quickly as we have embraced them, and what’s holding mobiles back from their next evolutionary leap forward?
One of the biggest failings of mobiles to date is their continued reliance on one particularly outdated technology – glass screens. Despite the size of our mobiles shrinking to the point where it’s all too easy to lose the wretched things, the glass screens have made these phones and devices heavier and more fragile. Glass screens crack and break too easily and they weigh more than the rest of the phone put together.
So the primary focus for developers isn’t on cramming in more apps – it’s sorting that pesky screen problem out. And hope is on the horizon, with flexible plastic screen technology. It’s pretty clear that plastic screens have two immediate advantages over glass – it’s far more robust and it’s a lot lighter. Flexible screen technology could revolutionise mobiles, and it’s the one single development that is set to transform how manufacturers design and produce their phones.
Currently, the frame rates of flexible plastic displays aren’t yet fast enough to be used for devices like iPhones, and the colour palette is still quite muted. But companies such as Plastic Logic, who are at the leading edge of flexible display technology research, are working on these issues now. “Plastic Logic’s development of a colour flexible plastic display is particularly significant, since the same process could enable shatterproof flexible display solutions with other media such as LCD and OLED,” commented CEO Indro Mukerjee recently.
Turning the case into a second screen
We’ve already got phones with two cameras, so how about cases with two screens? Once again, it’s Plastic Logic that are incorporating their flexible screen technology into case design, in partnership with PopSLATE. The clever design produces an interactive cover that produces an integrated secondary electrophoretic display (EPD), creating a customisable screen that can support apps, and is extremely user-friendly.
Technically, current mobile phones are ‘carry-ons’ rather than wearables. But in 2014 the big news is all about wearable technology – including smartwatches that have similar functions to a smartphone, but you wear them like a watch. This is perhaps a question of semantics and is fundamentally a smartphone in a different case with a strap on it, but what it does do is once again incorporate flexible screen technology to make it light enough to wear. Can you imagine wearing a smartwatch with a glass screen? Exceptional processing power in the form of quad and octo-core processing means that even more functionality can be crammed into smaller wearable mobiles.
Apart from other general concerns such as security, the primary game-changer in mobiles will be, without doubt, flexible technology. It’s the driving force behind the majority of innovation currently taking place in the mobile industry, and will dictate what form our future mobiles take – whether they’re still that familiar oblong shaped, glass screen contraption, or if they take a radically new direction. We predict it’ll be the latter.
About the author
Charlotte blogs about gadgets and technology, covering everything from the latest mobile advancements to display technology. When she’s not online Charlotte enjoys swimming, cycling and travelling the world.