Social distancing in public during the height of the pandemic was difficult for Lucy Edwards, a blind UK-based journalist and broadcaster. So he tried the iPhone’s People Detection feature, which can be found in the device’s Magnifier app. uses iPhone 12 Proof and 13 Pro‘s lidar sensor detects the proximity of other people and calculates their distance to the user.
“I’m going to have to get used to it, but I’m excited to be driving again,” Edwards said in a 2020 BBC video documenting his experience.
Lidaror light detection and ranging is just one example of how the technology works inside iPhone developed in the last 15 years. When the first iPhone went on sale on June 29, 2007, it had a 3.5-inch screen and a single 2-megapixel camera, which would be considered small by today’s standards. Now Apple’s most sophisticated phones are equipped with fairly advanced triple rear cameras making moviesSensors that help people like Edwards navigate the world and powerful chips with billions of transistors.
The iPhone The digital assistant Siri served as a catalyst for embedded technologies such as mobile payments or wireless charging, helping to drive the evolution of how we live our mobile lives. But in the future, the most important part of the iPhone may be everything around it. This is according to analysts who observe the general trends of the mobile industry and Apple’s strategy.
In the short term, we’ll see incremental improvements like higher-resolution cameras and larger displays. But in the next decade, the iPhone could become the hub for smart glasses and other devices. AirPods, Apple watches and cars with CarPlay functionality could be just the beginning. Key elements of the iPhone, including its display and charging systems, are also expected to receive a significant boost.
“The next quest for a smartphone is to figure out what it will connect to next,” said Runar Bjørhovde, an analyst at market research firm Canalys. “Because the smartphone hasn’t necessarily reached its potential yet, but as a standalone device I think the smartphone is getting closer and closer to the edge.”
Your iPhone is at the center of everything
There’s a lot of speculation about what’s next for the smartphone. The sound consensus seems to be smart glasses with companies like Meta, Snap and Google all working on their own version of high-tech glasses.
Apple is no exception; According to Bloomberg, the iPhone maker could debut mixed reality headsets that support augmented and virtual reality technologies this year or next. According to the report, a pair of smart glasses powered by AR technology could arrive later this decade.
So what does this have to do with the iPhone? Maybe everything. Though Apple headset it is expected to function as a standalone device, with the apps and services it runs likely originating from the iPhone.
Think Apple Watch. It doesn’t need an iPhone nearby to work, but a big part of its appeal lies in its ability to sync closely with Apple’s phone. Many of Apple Watch’s notifications are also linked to accounts and apps installed on your iPhone.
Whether it’s a smart headset Apple WatchDevices that support AirPods or HomeKit, analysts expect the phone to remain at the center.
“The phone will be the anchor,” said Gene Munster, managing partner at technology investment firm Loup Ventures and a longtime Apple analyst.
But it’s not just about connecting to new personal tech devices. Apple is gradually turning the iPhone into a wallet replacement. weaves it even tighter to the non-digital aspects of our lives.
Apple has made a lot of progress in this area over the past year, introducing new features Digital IDs for Apple Wallet and Tap to pay, this turns the iPhone into a contactless payment terminal for merchants without additional hardware. Apple has also announced a new Then Apple Payit allows Apple Pay users to split a purchase into four equal installments paid over six weeks.
“Obviously there’s a lot of momentum in financial services with Apple, and I think we’re going to see more progress there,” said Nick Maynard, head of research at Juniper Research.
Better lidar, more advanced artificial intelligence for better spatial awareness
Making educated guesses about Apple’s overall direction iPhone is easier than identifying specific changes that may be forthcoming. But analysts have some ideas based on the seeds that Apple has planted in the current iPhones.
Lidar will likely continue to be important as the company pushes deeper into augmented reality. Apple added lidar to the iPhone 12 Pro in 2020 to improve the performance of AR apps, enable new camera tricks, and facilitate accessibility features like the ones mentioned above. Detection of people. The technology measures distance by determining how long it takes for light to reflect and bounce back from an object.
However, the iPhone’s current lidar sensors may not be sophisticated enough to bring Apple augmented reality ambitions to come true, Munster said.
“What needs to happen in particular is that the map of the real world is more accurate,” he said. “And until that happens, AR won’t really happen.”
Lidar improves the iPhone’s depth-sensing abilities, but it’s still up to the phone’s processor to make sense of all that information. Apple has turned to artificial intelligence, one of Silicon Valley’s favorite buzzwords, in recent years to give its iPhone and other products more context about users and their surroundings.
To see this approach at work again, look to the Apple Watch. Apple’s smartwatch uses artificial intelligence and data collected from its sensors to perform tasks such as tracking your sleep and washing your hands.
Hanish Bhatia, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research, provided a hypothetical example of how AI improvements could one day manifest themselves in future iPhones. He envisions a future where an Apple smartphone can observe a person’s habits to figure out whether the phone’s primary user or a family member is using the device.
“How do you use your phone, what angle does your smartphone tilt at… Do you press with a specific pressure or just tap with your nails or something like that?” he said as an example. “These are all different types of behavior that are very unique to the user.”
Bhatia’s example is speculative and does not reflect Apple’s actual plans. But with advances in technologies like AI and lidar and the like ultra wideband Giving the iPhone more location awareness, it’s easy to imagine such a scenario.
Screens and charging technology could get a big change
Perhaps one of the biggest questions about Apple’s future smartphone plans is whether the company will ever create a foldable iPhone. Samsung, Apple’s biggest competitor in the mobile space, has already introduced several generations of phones with flexible designs. Motorola, Huawei and Microsoft have all followed suit, as has Google rumored to be working on the bendable Pixel. According to International Data Corporation, shipments of foldable smartphones increased by 264.3% in 2021 compared to 2020.
But experts like Munster and Maynard are skeptical that Apple will take a similar approach. Although there is a tech giant given patents These documents don’t always show Apple’s plans for mobile devices with flexible displays. Sales of foldable phones are on the rise, but shipments are still weak compared to conventional smartphones. (Research firm IDC estimates that 7.1 million foldable phones shipped in 2021, compared to 362.4 million phones shipped in the fourth quarter of last year). And then there is the question that folding devices really bring something new or meaningful to the smartphone experience.
Munster says there are also challenges in creating a true foldable glass screen. The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip has a glass screen, but this glass is also combined with a “special material” to “achieve consistent hardness”. CNET reported in 2020.
“What’s the missing piece from my perspective [Apple] would really do it,” Munster said.
The iPhone’s charging experience is probably due for an upgrade. Between USB-C, Lightning, and MagSafe, it’s no exaggeration to say that Apple’s charging options are complicated. Maynard believes European Union pressure and US senators could indicate that a switch to USB-C could be in the iPhone’s future.
But more dramatic changes may also be in the pipeline. Rumors about it all portless iPhone has been swirling for years, and Maynard doesn’t think it’s entirely impossible.
“I suspect that if any vendor is going to launch a fully portless system, it will probably be Apple,” Maynard said, citing Apple’s decision. Remove the iPhone headphone jack in 2016.
Wireless charging has also been a focus for Apple in recent years, further supporting the case for a portless iPhone. Apple has relatively new MagSafe chargers, and many CarPlay-enabled cars also support wireless connections. Apple has also patented wireless charging systems that will be installed directly into MacBooks, allowing Apple’s laptops to charge iPhones, Apple Watches and iPads. iPad Pro’s Smart Connector also provides a quick and easy way to connect accessories to your Apple tablet without a port.
“There are fewer and fewer systems that are actually 100% cable,” Maynard said.
Otherwise, analysts expect the usual updates to the camera in the near future. Munster says the iPhone’s front-facing camera has room for improvement, while Bhatia expects Apple to continue to use screen size and scale. camera quality to differentiate regular iPhones from Pro iPhones.
Without Apple’s input, it’s impossible to know what’s next for the iPhone. But experts seem sure of one thing: Apple is laying the groundwork for the future of the iPhone today. Current iPhone features, such as Apple’s lidar-enabled accessibility tools designed to help people like Edwards, may offer a hint of what’s to come.
“Everything they’ve done over the past few years bodes well for things to come,” Bjørhovde said. “Because I think a lot of what they’re doing is setting themselves up for the systems they want to integrate the iPhone into in the coming years.”