What will phones look like in 2015? According to Vodafone's resident futurologist, we're in for phones with hi-res displays that bend in the middle...
What’s the next big development coming to the world of smartphones? Things are getting so good it’s becoming difficult to see where they’ll go next. Luckily, we know someone who has exactly that kind of inside industry knowledge.
Design your own phone
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Patrick Harrison-Harvey is the man at Vodafone who’s already seen the phones we’ll be buying tomorrow, next month and next year, which is why we regularly sit him down for a chat about the future of mobile tech. So what is coming up for smartphones? According to Patrick, we should expect better, bendy screens…
Twice as sharp
“To help us really enjoy the benefit of all the things you can now stream over ultrafast 4G,” Patrick begins, “mobile phone screens are going to get even better. Screens are soon going to take a big jump up in quality on high end devices.”
Currently, most flagship smartphones boast full HD displays, which is no mean feat for such small devices. But as pristine as the resolution is on the current crop, Patrick insists that things are about to get twice as sharp:
“We’ll be moving to what’s called 2K resolution,” he tells us. “That’s technically ‘Quad HD’ or ‘QHD’. At the moment, the screen on a high-end flagship device with a full HD display has a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels. QHD is much higher.”
To be precise, a QHD smartphone display will boast a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution, which Patrick says will make a huge difference when it comes to watching movies and playing games:
“If you hold a full HD phone side by side with a QHD one, the difference is very noticeable. It’s similar to 4K TV (the next generation of HD on the big screen), in that it also upscales the standard definition stuff as well. If you put the same video side by side on a full HD phone and a QHD phone, the quality will be really different.
“On a handset that’s five inches, that’s a massive resolution; it’s really impressive. QHD provides so much depth in the picture that it almost looks 3D, and that extra oomph will become more important as what we do with our phones continues to change. We’re still on the start of that journey, in terms of how people see their phone when it comes to streaming content.”
But things aren’t just about to get sharper – they’re about to get bendier, too.
Be a bit flexible
Last year, Patrick told us that phone screens would soon gain a new power: they’d begin to flex and bend. “I still think that my older predictions on that are right when it comes to timescales,” he says.”
“I haven’t seen anything concrete that’s going to be coming round the corner incredibly soon, but that’s not to say I’m not anticipating something impressive. The earliest I can see a phone with a truly flexible screen coming will be the end of this year.
“I’m anticipating a fold-out hybrid device further down the line, and I would expect either Samsung or LG to be first out of the gates with that, because they’re the companies that tend to invent those kind of things. Samsung has already showcased some conceptual demos, and I think the Youm concept, which is the one that folds open with a screen on the inside, will be close to what I expect to launch.” You can see that here:
“You’ll have one fixed part,” Patrick explains, “so that all the components like the battery that don’t have to bend and can stay in one place, and so it’s only the screen that has to flex. It’ll be a phone on the front, and a tablet on the inside. You open it up and you’ll have double the screen size.
“That’ll be fairly soon, but I expect another round of the slightly curved phone before then. Anything really technically different will be more into 2015.”
But whenever they arrive, will bendy screens be here to stay, or will they be a flash in the pan?
“It won’t be any sort of gimmick,” Patrick says in closing. “These phones will be a genuinely mainstream type device. Manufacturers will have to be careful because that solution might end up cannibalising their own tablet business, but it’s those kinds of technical advances that will enable them to make a big jump in sales. If one manufacturer doesn’t do it, another will.” Watch this space.
More futurology… We’ve got plenty more on the way from our recent chat with Patrick, but if you want another fix of futurology right now, check out his views on mobile platforms here, wearable technology here or super-powered phones here.