Keep the Smart, Ditch the Phone

March 20, 2014

1:30 pm

Let’s start by getting something out of the way: I am stone-cold sober. Didn’t even hit CES this year. I do, however, hail from DC, proud home of Mayor Marion Barry, who was smoking crack when Rob Ford was in short pants (suck it, Toronto!), so it’s possible that there’s just a little crazy hazy in the air.

And speaking of being in the air, so am I, en route back from SXSW. Which has got me thinking. And this is why I led with confessions of sobriety, because what I’m about to say might come off as some funky pipe wisdom, and I assure you that it’s not.

Everyone keeps asking what the future of smartphones is, so I’m here to tell you: smartphones are about to die a cold, cruel death.

Well, that’s really only half true. The whole truth really amounts to this: keep the smart, and forget the phones.

Why are you carrying a 4.87″ x 2.31″ x 0.30″ brick around in your purse or your pocket? Why do you have to stop what you’re doing to charge it? It’s not a pet that isn’t house-trained, is it? And yet, here we are, constantly catering to every whim of these little bastards, living in fear that they may at any moment fail us (as they surely will). And why are we even still calling it a phone? You certainly don’t use it to talk on so much these days. The minority use case is the “phone” part.

The future of “smartphones” is all in smaller form factor and an irrelevant battery life. And I’m not talking incrementally smaller form factors and incrementally longer battery life, I’m talking ninja-stars-to-the-dome changes to form factor and Ray-Kurzweil-just-shit-his-pants changes to power source, usage, and supply.

Okay, so if it won’t be a phone anymore, what will it be? It could be a watch, but watches are kinda meh. It could be glasses – but, again, also kinda meh. If you really want to get crazy, it’s a non-device cerebrally connected to your brain, but even stopping short of that there are some pretty badass possibilities.

Why can’t it be a micro device stuck on, or embedded into, your skin? If there are the inevitable display improvements that have gotta be coming any day now, then we can simply project out, Star Wars– (or at least Minority Report-) style, right into thin air. That has to be on its way really damn soon. In other words, when displays can literally exist in thin air, the concept of form factor stops being a hindrance. So perhaps that is the first baby step we need. Forget Apple TV. You read about NoSQL every single day, right? How about NoTV? How about NoScreen? That’s the first major step to NoSmartphone, which is where we are headed like immediately, shun.

So: the screen dies an imminent death. No more physical displays – finally! So now we just chopped off a huge blocker in terms of form factor, surface area, and, essentially, the physical acknowledgement of anything for that matter. Yes, there must be some physical processor or device, but maybe we can put it somewhere that we don’t notice – and yes, I anticipate your lame-ass “stick it in your ass” jokes, haters, and I welcome them.

We don’t require screens. We can see our display right in thin air. There is an utter lack of form factor. We don’t carry a device at all, right?

Battery life is no longer an issue as it is powered through natural resources like our own bodies’ energy or sunlight. This is already right around the corner. We can now humblebrag on Facebook simply by breathing. Tweetstalk hotties without lifting a finger, or saying a word.

</rant>

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Danny Boice is the CTO of Speek – a 500 Startups-funded startup that lets users do conference calls with a simple link (speek.com/YourName) rather than using phone numbers and PINs. A serial startup/technology entrepreneur and executive, Danny started his career as a software engineer working for startups like Network Solutions and MusicMaker.com in the 90′s. You can find Danny on Twitter @DannyBoice.

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