Your 2025 Smartphone

With apologies to Zager and Evans (look ’em up), in 2025, I will surely be supremely embarrassed. Someone—maybe even me—will dig up this column, read my fearless predictions of what smartphones will look like and how they will function in that year, and find them to be (hysterically) wrong. Or—maybe I’ll be hailed a genius, a modern Nostradamus sans quatrains. Who knows? Regardless, here goes nothing.

In 2025, I predict the first 6G phones will make up around 10% of all smartphones shipped. 6G you say? Yes, 5G phones will make up more than half of smartphones shipped this year, but will be comparative cellular jalopies compared to 6G. Why? Geometrically faster connectivity speeds. But 6G could well present the most radical shift in personal communications since the original cellphones hit the market in the early 1980s. 6G’s biggest selling point will be the establishment of low latency satellite connectivity, which means you’ll be able to get connectivity everywhere on planet earth. Hopefully major global carriers or nations can somehow agree to launch as few 6G satellite constellations as necessary to avoid our low earth orbit becoming as dangerously mobbed as a Premier League finale. China, South Korea and Taiwan have already announced development on their own 6G satellite systems, for instance. But a 6G satellite cellular phone will be about as close to Star Trek‘s communicator as I can imagine.

With ubiquitous global connectivity in the offing, I’m betting 2025 smartphones also will transform into another Star Trek gadget—a universal translator. We’ll be able to hold up our phone to a foreign language speaker and, using any pair of true wireless devices, hear what’s being said in our own language. And when we reply, our phone will auto translate our aural pearls of wisdom into the language of our co-conversationalist.

Will 2025 smartphones also serve as Star Trek-like medical tricorders? I’m not willing to go that far, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Maybe they can perform diagnostic tricks via some MagSafe attachments—oh, yeah, all 2025 phones (iOS and Android) will accommodate magnetized attachments.

Physically, most 2025 phones will be foldable. Some will flip up into a tall skinny screen, some will open like a tiny book presenting a more squarish display, some will be tri-fold to create a widescreen viewing experience, some will roll up or out of a tube like an old fashion Roman scroll. Just like now, everything old will be, indeed, new again. Yes, right now, folding phones are expensive, but chances are you’re going to want one.

Inside the phones will be smaller 3nm and even 2nm SoCs powerful enough to allow phones to nearly think for themselves. This will enable the aforementioned universal translating and creating the kind of AI personal companion and adviser personified by Scarlett Johansson in Her.  

Combined with smaller, more power-efficient chips, 6G networks and folding or flat AMOLED displays, and larger, more powerful batteries, phone usage life will be measured in days, not hours in 2025. Not that we’ll have to worry about manually recharging our phones in five years. By 2025, wireless low power transmission will be present in a growing number of public, retail and restaurant spaces, as well as our homes and offices, providing continual phone trickle charging over the air. Physical charging your 2025 phone will be seen as antiquated as a fax machine or VCR. Yet even in 2025, we’ll probably still archaically call tapping phone numbers on a touch keypad “dialing” and refer to recording video as “taping.”

More powerful phones will enable more powerful virtual shopping experiences. Thanks to 5G mmWave connectivity replacing Wi-Fi outside the home, most public venues, retailers, hotels and even restaurants will work like Amazon Go stores. We’ll have contactless payment accounts with stores so we can just waltz in, collect our goods or meals, then waltz out. All locks of all kinds will be smart locks and our phones programmable keys. Our phones will enable mirrorless XR/AR try-on for fashion right by the rack, and both measure and virtually place home and office furnishings in our own spaces before we buy.

And don’t worry about those stupid screen notches. By 2025, all front-facing cameras and biosensors—fingerprint, face, and iris scanners and even speakers—will be located unseen under an un-notched display.

Finally, in 2025, iPhones will still include lightning cables. Just kidding! No phone in 2025 will need a jack or cables. Physical phone connections will be SOOO 2021.

Now set a calendar reminder for 1 January 2025 with a link to this piece to see if I deserve ridicule or acclaim!