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5 Features That Will Revolutionize Cell Phones

Kevin Cheberenchick |
June 21, 2014 | 5:50 p.m. PDT


With the release of Amazon’s Fire phone, it’s time to envision what will be the next big things for cell phones and to reflect on when you should buy your next phone. Some of these “next big things” are already released, but are not widely adopted, yet they eventually will be. Others will be released in the foreseeable future.

Trending visions for new phones seem to focus on better sensors, personal assistants and integration, and health and fitness. Your cell phone already knows location, orientation, acceleration and what you're saying to it. However, with significant improvements in sensory technology, the phone will become more connected with actual life, rather than being a virtual distraction.

SEE ALSO: Amazon Unveils Alleged iPhone Killer

1. Hygrometer, Thermometer, Barometer

Samsung’s current Galaxy S5 has a hygrometer: a humidity sensor, thermometer and barometer all in one. It is rumored that the iPhone 6 will have a barometer too. Thus, if you’re working in a lab or just wondering what the weather is like, these sensors will provide you pinpoint weather information and not the averages that the news reports. Additionally, once the sensors become mainstream, crowd-sourced weather information could provide helpful information about gradual change if weather over location, the effects of climate change and comparisons between city and suburban weather patterns.

2. 64-Bit Phones

The iPhone 5S was the first 64-bit cell phone. These phones are amazing because they essentially bridge the gap between the smart phone and the computer. The 64-bit platform allows for an increase in phone memory past a certain threshold that 32-bit phones cannot cross. With all the new sensors being added and applications being created, phones will most likely need more memory.

3. Cameras

Improvement in cell phone cameras is a given. However, starting with the iPhone 5S and continuing with the Amazon Fire, instead of solely increasing the number of megapixels, phones will also be decreasing the aperture number. Improvements are also coming to front-facing cameras. Most cell phones have a mediocre 2-megapixel front-facing camera, but HTC’s M8 boasts a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. Other manufacturers will soon follow suit.

4. Spectrometer & Environment Scanning

A universal scanning application was the biggest revolution for the Amazon Fire phone. However, this is not a hardware issue, but software, so if the right companies released an update tomorrow then old phones could support the feature too. An environment scanning application will make cell phones less about separation from real life and more of a tool to aid you in real life. As marketed for the Amazon Fire, you will be able to use your phone to take photos of a poster and the phone will recognize the email addresses, phone numbers, barcodes, QR codes and URLs on the poster. The phone will also be able to recognize television episodes, movies, books and songs. Moreover, adding a spectrometer, or light sensor, to the phone's hardware will expand the environment scanning app to include things that the Israeli SCiO can do, such as providing an instant breakdown of foods’ nutritional content.

5. Better Automated Assistants

Usage of the new sensors will be optimized if they sync with assistants like Siri and Google Now. Additionally, to beat out the competition, Siri, Google Now and Windows Cortana will likely start to offer more and more of the same features. The assistants will be able to integrate with third party applications such as Shazaam, and be able to skip through a song by lyrics and view the lyrics in time with the song.

Other advances in cell phones might include a wider adoption of near field communication and eventually small solar panels on phones. More RAM, better screen resolution and faster processors are a given. Later on, 3D features may become more mainstream, but not anytime soon since most consumers have no reason for it. Amazon’s 3D features are not enough to convince anyone to buy the phone, nor are Google’s Project Tango 3D abilities.

With the advent of the Nokia Sensing X Challenge and the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, phones may also become health kits away from home or the doctor’s office. The Nokia Sensing X Challenge goal is accelerating the use of sensors to tackle health problems and find ways for people to monitor and maintain their personal well-being. It will end in November 2014. The Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize is awarded for creating a mobile device that can "diagnose patients better than or equal to a panel of board certified physicians." The contest will end in January 2016.

While all this tech is either already possible or soon to be possible, it will not be released immediately. Cell phone companies will spread out the improvements to their phones so that people will continue to buy new phones every few months. Lastly, all the new sensors will track more of people's information and what isn’t shown here is how your privacy and security will be protected.


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