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What part of a smartphone is still ripe for innovation?

What part of a smartphone is still ripe for innovation?

Displays, wearables integrations and multidevice ecosystems are still areas where improvements can be made, members of the Braintrust say.

Good afternoon! It doesn't feel like that long ago that typing out 'lol' in a text took eight clicks of a button on T9, but how arcane that process seems today speaks to how far smartphones have come in a relatively short amount of time. With this week's question, we asked experts around the mobile phone ecosystem to reflect on how far the tech has come and think about the parts of a smartphone that still have the most growing room. If you want more on the topic, David Pierce led a panel discussion on the topic this past week, and you can find a replay of the event here.

Drew Blackard

Vice President, Product Management at Samsung Electronics America

Consumers are relying on their phones now more than ever. Across all segments of the market, we're seeing demand for innovations that make consumers' lives easier and more enjoyable, whether that's larger screen size, personalization or seamless experiences across their devices.

Samsung's new foldable lineup offers game-changing innovation, driven by the insight that consumers want larger screens for productivity, streaming, chatting and gaming. The Galaxy Z Fold3 gives users the best of a tablet with the portability of a smartphone — unfolding to an expansive screen for gaming, working or streaming, then folding shut for a portable smartphone that fits in your pocket. Using Flex Mode, Galaxy Z users can partially fold their phone at any angle to video chat hands-free or multitask in entirely new ways. Developers are starting to tailor their apps to deliver experiences that can only be achieved on a foldable.

We're also seeing a growing expectation from our customers that their favorite services and experiences work seamlessly across their devices. Whether it's pushing video from your smartphone to your TV for others to enjoy, or capturing a 4K video on your smartphone then editing on your PC, the experiences need to be seamless.

Realizing this multidevice ecosystem means taking an open approach to collaboration across the industry when it comes to our devices and software. And with the emergence of 5G and the new and creative ways that consumers are using their devices, the future of smartphone innovation has never been more exciting.

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Stephen Stokols

EVP, Boost Mobile at DISH Network

Last week, the new iPhone 13 was revealed, and while anticipation was high, battery life was the most compelling improvement consumers actually cared about. Although incremental improvements have become less and less exciting with each new generation of smartphone, truly disruptive changes to the phone are coming in the next few years.

New and innovative display technology will forever change how we engage with our phones. Specifically, the ability to project holographic imagery will enable more immersive consumption and open the door to a whole new set of AR-based applications. Think "Star Wars," where holographic messages spring up from communicators — this same concept, but on your phone. The technology to drive this leap is already being developed and it will move from science fiction to reality in the next few years.

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Ron Marquardt

Vice President of Advanced Technologies and Innovation of Technology at T-Mobile

As we move into the 5G era, we see that the smartphone continues to be more relevant than ever as a major growth driver for new 5G products and services. Smartphones are the most powerful connection to our world, and we see a dramatic increase in 5G data usage when we equip customers with an advanced device, powerful network and high-value plan. For example, T-Mobile customers with 5G smartphones using our Magenta MAX plan stream 39% more video, use 36% more data for social media and have double the mobile hotspot data usage of other T-Mobile customers. This trend will only continue as more powerful devices that can take advantage of a high-performance 5G network become available, delivering more immersive experiences to consumers. For example, with iOS 15, Apple Maps now offers step-by-step walking guidance in augmented reality.

Smartphones tethered to smart glasses are bringing immersive XR capabilities to life, giving consumers new experiences such as the one we built this season for baseball fans at T-Mobile Park. And smartphones are increasingly becoming a gateway for new wearables such as smart apparel that improves athletic performance, biometric devices for remote patient monitoring or smart glasses that allow deaf and hard-of-hearing students to receive live sign-language interpreting overlaid on their classroom environment — these are just a few examples of the type of development we are seeing through our T-Mobile Accelerator program aimed at fueling 5G innovation.

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Alex Katouzian

SVP & GM, Mobile, Compute & Infrastructure (MCI) at Qualcomm Technologies

We envision a world where virtually all devices are much more intelligent, simplifying and enriching our daily lives. The smartphone is and will continue to be the central device in our lives, and on-device artificial intelligence, gaming and camera capabilities are the areas that are still ripe for innovation.

AI: AI provides the ability for our phones to perceive, reason and act intuitively, and when you combine 5G with AI, you have the two essential ingredients that will allow a proliferation of connected devices to communicate seamlessly with the smartphones at the center.

Camera: The smartphone has turned into a professional camera for consumers capturing and documenting our lives, especially during the pandemic. Future improvements include enabling higher resolutions, more color depth, richer depth-sensing for augmented reality experiences and more.

Gaming: Smartphones have turned into powerful gaming machines. In fact, mobile gaming accounts for more than 50% of all video gaming revenue worldwide. It is imperative that smartphones continue to deliver console and desktop level features along with new games and incredible battery life for consumers.

Our Snapdragon mobile platforms are at the heart of premium Android AI, camera and gaming experiences globally. Tune into our annual Snapdragon Tech Summit event to hear the latest innovations.

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Christina Cyr

CEO at dTOOR Inc. SPC & The Cyrcle Phone

1) The smartphone form factor is ripe for innovation. Imagine having shapes which fit better in your hand and your pocket, yet still provide access to the apps you love.

2) A sustainable smartphone is possible. As the number of take-back programs and repair facilities have increased, reuse is on the upswing. As recycling technologies have become more efficient and raw material costs have risen, the opportunity to upcycle our own e-waste is a triple win: for businesses, consumers and the planet.

3) Audio is an area that has so much potential, but is frequently ignored in the pursuit of cameras and photographic software. During the pandemic we learned that quality microphones and speakers can help us feel better connected to our colleagues, friends and family — at a time when we could not necessarily be together. I am excited for what quad array mics and better stereo sound capabilities can bring to the smartphone scene, in addition to new software capabilities (like making the voice track of your movie audible above the background music).

4) Sensors are only getting started. With 5G some of the bottlenecks for getting biometric data transfer are being removed. There is so much we can learn about our bodies and the environment around us with this new infrastructure and hardware. It will take software development a while to take advantage of it all.

5) Privacy and security is becoming more of a focus for consumers these days — expect to see the smartphone industry respond.

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Mo Katibeh

Senior Vice President, AT&T Network Infrastructure & Build at AT&T

Smartphones have evolved alongside the networks that they need to perform their best. Think about your first smartphone and now think about how your device today supports high-quality entertainment, productivity, health and business — in addition to communications.

In 2021, the number of 5G smartphones is expected to more than double to 600 million, according to Strategy Analytics. 5G is here now, and as it continues to grow, so will smartphones. Mobile apps are now more immersive and impressive, because of the ultra-fast speeds, incredibly low latency and massive connectivity enabled by 5G. While the 5G experience provides higher speeds and capacities, it will ultimately do so much more. It is delivering immersive experiences that are more vivid, dynamic and interactive.

Today, customers can take advantage of 5G's potential through gaming, entertainment and more — from new AR reading and learning experiences to immersive fan experiences for sporting events and gaming. With 5G you may soon be able to have a private concert with your favorite musical artist — right from your living room! Think about being to download your favorite movies, books and podcasts on the go or while you're traveling. We need a wireless network that is prepared to support these functions.

So, alongside smartphone innovation, considering the innovation of the networks is just as important. It enables us to really benefit from the experiences those devices deliver.

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Jamie Beaumont

Chief Operating Officer at SoapBox Labs

According to research, more than 80% of children already have mobile phones by the time they're 8 years old. And yet, the only smartphone experiences available to kids today are experiences designed and built for adult mobile users. So, when I think about ripe opportunities for innovation in smartphones, I think about a walled garden approach that gives kids safe, age-appropriate experiences every time they pick up a phone, whether their own phone or that of a parent or guardian.

Think Netflix where adult and kid profiles are set up, and the mode is determined before viewing continues. Bringing the power of that more personalized, kid-specific experience to smartphones, when it comes to the apps they can use, to how they access the app store, to navigating menus and preferences, would be a huge step forward.

The way kids interact with technology is very different from adults. Younger kids especially find smartphones hard to use: Small screens and text-based menus are complex and confusing. Voice-enabled smartphones and mobile apps create the frictionless interface that resolves those issues. Smartphones and apps powered by kid-specific speech technology become a portal for kids to enjoy more immersive and impactful educational and entertainment digital experiences.

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See who's who in the Protocol Braintrust and browse every previous edition by category here (Updated Oct. 7, 2021).
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