Thanks to the iPhone, and more recently the Android handsets, smartphones have exploded into our lives. And now, for most of us, our mobile phone has become an essential tool for much more than just calling others.
Smartphones are now used extensively for social networking, media consumption, navigation, checking the weather, receiving restaurant recommendations, playing games, watching programmes, listening to music and, of course, calling people.
Add to this the advent of augmented reality (a view of the world augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery) and it is clear that the Age of Smart is seeping into all areas of our lives.
In 2012 it is estimated that smartphones will sell more units than both laptop and desktop PCs put together. Wireless data will get faster and cheaper to access through our handset. And by 2013 27% of all mobile phones will be smartphones (Morgan Stanley). Furthermore, Google’s mobile search traffic grew 50 percent in first half of 2010 and the average smartphone user will download 5 applications a month.
This rapid adoption is causing accelerated innovation which is reinforcing this growth.
Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, has stated that our interaction with these devices will become more fluid and natural – they will “just work”. They will grow and begin spreading even further, for example the Android operating system will be able to act as a remote control device for Google TV, understanding verbal commands perfectly. Even more exciting is the concept of a universal translator which understands your voice and translates it into a chosen language.
He goes further, stating rather creepily in an interview with The Wall Street Journal:
“Let’s say you’re walking down the street. Because of the info Google has collected about you, “we know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are.”
Google also knows, to within a foot, where you are. Mr. Schmidt leaves it to a listener to imagine the possibilities: If you need milk and there’s a place nearby to get milk, Google will remind you to get milk.’
Obviously, it is not just Google steaming ahead with smartphone innovation. A recent picture was spread around the web showing how the new iPod Nano could look and be worn like a watch.
It is clear that smartphones will get smaller and more powerful until we can fit them comfortably anyway on our body (and maybe inside our body).
Undoubtedly this new Age of Smart will bring with it renewed discussions around privacy and security.
With our phones constantly receiving and sending information it will become easier to keep us under surveillance and expose us to abuses of power.
We will also become more susceptible to the techniques of marketing, an industry that keeps an eagle eye on technology for the next possible sales opportunity.
The latest topic in marketing is the possibilities of push notifications – the process of popping messages up onto your mobile after you opt in to receive them.
Smartphones are also a perfect platform to target and engage with the young, as they are the ones who are spedning the most amount of money and time on their smart mobile devices.
So in this new age of Smart we will become more distracted and convinced to spend online, our tiniest movements will be monitored and recorded whilst privacy is discussed more hotly than ever before.
And when our smartphones begin to do many of the tasks we do ourselves, remembering everything for us and recommending where we go and what we do – we need to ask if we are going to get less smart as our phones get smarter.
Whichever way it goes – for the first time technology will truly leave the box and spread out into our environment. And this might happen at a rate unparalleled in human existence, truly heralding the arrival of the virtual age.