It’s been nearly a year since U.S. smartphone penetration passed 50 percent, and with all of the recent hefty holiday discounts — including the iPhone 5 for $127 — it’s a safe bet that this year’s figure will set another record. That means an even bigger market for smartphone apps.
We recently spoke with Nick DiCarlo, vice president of product planning at Samsung Mobile, about how smartphones might evolve over the next few years.
How do you see smartphones evolving from a hardware perspective (e.g., form factor, cameras, processors) over the next five years or so? For example, how much thinner and lighter can they get — and what trend might replace thin-is-in once that can’t be pushed any further?
Nick DiCarlo: Forecasting five years out in the incredibly fast-moving smartphone business is next to impossible. Technology is moving so fast, and predicting what is going to catch consumers’ attention is difficult.
Smartphones are beginning to reach a tipping point, where the majority of Americans are carrying one and, soon enough, smartphones will be in a large percentage of the global population. Over the course of the last year, Samsung has established that people really love a big, high-quality screen on their smartphone and have redefined what a smartphone should look like.
In the future, smartphones will be able to integrate into more parts of people’s lives, such as connecting to their smart TV and perhaps even appliances, homes and their physical data. Smartphones will also be able to provide more insight to help you through your daily life by understanding the context of the environment that you are travelling through. The next five years will be incredibly exciting.
For many people, smartphones are now a camera, sometimes their only one. What other types of devices might smartphones displace or complement over the next five years?
N.D.: Smartphones are providing a great experience for people with their email, photos and Internet browsing. We think that smartphones can enhance travel experiences through sharing with your environment, via NFC, sharing with your devices, using technologies like [Samsung’s] AllShare…and S-Beam. We continue to expect these new types of experiences to grow in the future.
How do you see smartphones evolving from an apps and OS perspective?
N.D.: As a company, Samsung is committed to supporting multiple platforms for our products, including Android, Windows Phone, Tizen and our proprietary operating systems. I think consumers will be the biggest decision-maker in the future of operating systems. As far as applications are concerned, we want to make consumers’ experience with all of their content and services, including applications, as useful and fun as possible.
How will the roles of device vendors and carriers evolve? Do you think we will see more or less OS customization by vendors and carriers?
N.D.: Customization is vital toward meeting as many consumer needs as possible. One size does not fit all for mobile software, content-sharing services and operating systems, along with hardware. If we can introduce a specific feature or enhancement that satisfies both our carrier partners and the end-consumer, we will do it.
What’s surprised you most about how smartphones have evolved from a hardware and/or OS perspective over the past five years? Do you think it was pretty easy in 2007/2008 to look at Moore’s Law and predict the capabilities of today’s smartphones, or do today’s smartphones exceed even your wildest expectations?
N.D.: We’ve been thrilled by the way consumers have embraced large-screen smartphones. Today’s smartphones are becoming easier to use for even non-tech savvy consumers and a big part of that is content-sharing services. With features like [Samsung’s] S Beam, people can now share content just by tapping their smartphone against another. We plan to enhance our content services even more in 2013 by offering a clean, cohesive and consistent experience across all consumer electronics device categories, including mobile.
Tim Kridel has been covering all things tech and telecom since 1998 for a variety of publications and analyst firms. Based in Columbia, Mo., he still enjoys the teenage hobby that led to a career in writing about technology: ham radio. Tim is a frequent contributor to Digital Innovation Gazette.