Will Smartphones Really be Gone by 2021?

Jordan Hill
By Jordan HillHead of Client Strategy
5 minutes to read

By 2021, smartphones will be dead. Or at least that’s what some articles want us to think.

Now we’ll be the first to admit that smartphones have come a long way in the last 10 years but are they really entering their death throes? We’re not so sure.

The rise of voice

Some people believe that the rise of the virtual assistant is the catalyst that will lead to smartphones dying out. From Siri to Google Assistant, Alexa and Samsung’s own Bixby, it’s now the norm for a new piece of technology to be voice compatible.

All of these AI helpers are already diminishing the reliance we have on our phones. Many of the more intelligent, yet incredibly affordable, devices can make calls, read you the news, play music and even do your weekly shop. You don’t even have to look at your phone.

Forget virtual, it’s all about augmented reality

It’s not just virtual assistants that are paving the way. Remember when Google attempted to make Google Glass a ‘thing’? Well other big tech firms have noted Google’s mistakes and are trying to break ground.

Facebook, Microsoft and Google are all competing to build augmented reality headsets. Think Pokémon Go but instead of it appearing on your phone, it looks like it’s actually in front of you. It sounds reasonable but each of these companies want to project detailed 3D images directly into your eyeballs so all you’ll see is the augmented reality.

So if you can talk to a device and have images beamed directly into your eyes, what’s the need for a phone?

So far technology has failed

In 2014, Google Glass was released to the wider public but quickly came under fire. Privacy groups and activists claimed the glasses were a huge invasion of privacy as it could potentially record private conversations, recognises faces, and store information about others without their approval. It was subsequently banned from some companies in the US and was actually deemed illegal in Russia and the Ukraine. So in 2015 Google discontinued the device.

But earlier this year, Glass made a comeback. Glass Enterprise Edition is being put to use in workplaces to help improve productivity. It’s predicted that by 2025, 14.4 million workers in the US will be using the device. Has Glass finally been put to good use? Time will tell.

Snapchat’s parent company Snap attempted its own version. In 2013, Spectacles landed unannounced in yellow vending machines in many parts of the US. Unlike its Google counterpart, Spectacles were relatively affordable selling for $130. As such, massive queues formed and garnered a lot of media attention.

However, Snap has revealed that the specs haven’t sold as well as it hoped with hundreds of thousands of units sitting unsold in warehouses. Only 150,000 pairs have been sold but the novelty quickly wears off. The company has reported that less than half of owners used the glasses after a month.

3D TV was also heralded as being ‘the next big thing’ but in January this year LG and Sony announced they would no longer support 3D in their sets. They were the last companies to do so.

All three of these technologies have one big thing in common – they require us to wear glasses. This is just speculation but is it our vanity that’s preventing this technology from taking off? If the smartphone is to be replaced by similar pieces of tech, this is a big stumbling block Silicon Valley will have to overcome.

We’re still social creatures

Every now and then a video takes the internet by storm that laments how technology is making us antisocial. In fact Google’s TV campaign for Google Home played on this fear. If we’re having conversations with technology and instead of looking at others, we’re seeing an augmented reality is a backlash inevitable? Could our phones become an alternative to the tech that could just increase our isolation?

Mobile is adapting

The latest versions of Samsung and Apple devices both support virtual or augmented reality. The tech companies have identified the threat and incorporated it into their powerful devices. If our phones continue to adapt and offer new technologies, why would we need separate pieces of kit? Our phones could soon ‘do it all’.

This isn’t the end

Smartphones as we know them will undeniably look different in five years’ time but they’re so ingrained into our daily lives that removing them will be a stubborn, grubby fight. Virtual assistants are definitely here to stay but until tech companies manage to conquer our vanities or produce products that are innovative without invasion, we don’t need to start thinking about how we advertise directly into someone’s eyeballs just yet.

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More about Jordan Hill

Jordan is an experienced digital marketer who has spent his entire career working in agency client service and strategy roles.