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Could we exist in a world without Apple or Samsung? Maybe…

smartphone explosion, blow up cellphone battery or explosive mobile phone or explode burst fire burn out smart device with dispersion effect.

Some would argue the smartphone is the most important technological breakthrough of the last 50 years, but Google could be creating a world where the device actually becomes redundant.

It all sounds very far-fetched, and of course, there would have to be an incredible change in society for this scenario to exist, but stick with us for a second. Irrelevant as to how unlikely it sounds, it is a perfectly plausible scenario; Google could architect a digital value chain where the smartphone is actually removed.

The story begins with the Google virtual assistant. As the consumer is guided away from the touch user interface and towards the voice, different devices can be used by the user. If, for instance, you want to know the population of China, you could just say it aloud and it would be picked up by anyone of the connected devices which surround you.

If anything can be turned into a connected device with the potential for interaction, is there any need for us to carry a smartphone around? Let have a look at a couple of different ideas. Let’s say you are in:

  • Living room: Your Chromecast TV hear the command and interacts with the user through its own speakers
  • Kitchen: Your Connected Fridge hears the command and pushes the interaction with the user to the smart speaker which you have set up
  • Car: At CES Google announced it has been working with automakers to directly integrate the Google Assistant into the cars infotainment system. There will be no need to ‘tether’ your phone to the vehicle
  • Work: With the lines between mobile and PC applications becoming blurred, there why not have your messaging conversations or video calls through your laptop
  • Street: Another announcement from CES, Google has been working with headphone manufacturers to integrate the assistant’s functionality. Headphones already have the ability to make phone calls know, so why shouldn’t this be the point of interaction between the assistant and the user

There are of course a number of different arguments against the redundancy of the smartphone, but there is a small answer to each. Let’s start with the Google business model.

The Google business model in the mobile world is built on the success of Android as an operating system. For the core Google business to be effective, scale is critical. Removing smartphones does remove Android from the mobile world, however, should Google win its battle against Amazon for virtual assistance dominance, the Google Assistant could replace the Android operating system as the touch point with the consumer.

Another problem is the idea of personalization; a user downloads what he/she wants or needs to their device. A 55 year old taxi driver will probably have different needs from a 17 year old A-Level student. This is where voice recognition could place a role.

In theory, once voice recognition technology has been refined, there is no reason why several people could not use the same device, while also creating a personalised experience. It would recognize person John and pull up the right emails, but then five minutes later be able to tell Emily what is listed in her calendar.

Once a device recognises it is interacting with you, there is very little it cannot do with the power and storage capabilities of cloud computing. Nothing has to be stored locally, meaning there are few limits to how much can be accessed by any number of users. Once you have a device which is hooked up to the web through fibre (speaker/fridge/TV/fishtank), you won’t even have to worry about download speeds, or those pesky mobile signals.

Video is another area which would be a complication. You can’t watch a cat chase a laser pointer on headphones, but you can on all the smart displays and devices which Google is bringing out for the smart home. And if you are sat on the bus, don’t forget about Google Glass. Yes, it was a wonderful failure at the time, but AR has come on leaps and bounds over the last couple of years. Why couldn’t the next breakthrough be a pair of glasses which brought up a screen on one lens when you had an incoming video call, or wanted to watch something on YouTube?

The last one is a bit of a stretch, but why not throw it out into the blue sky. It sounds ridiculous to consider a world without a smartphone, but with voice recognition slowly starting to catch on, what reason do you need a physical device with such a large screen for interaction? Video content or games us probably the reason (we concede we haven’t really addressed that one properly), but the Google assistant could read everything else out to you before too long.

Another reason the smartphone might prevail is because some people will just like having a device on them. This is cultural, and is probably the same argument that was used when detractors said mobile phones will never take off. Who would want to carry those devices around with them? And now we can’t consider a day when we leave the house without a device.

Attitudes change and voice interaction will start to catch-on before too long. Combine the voice UI with adoption of wireless headphones, and people will start to take their device out of their pocket less often. Should there be a suitable AR/Video glasses solution, the device will come out less often again, and then you’ll be able to make components smaller and lighter because the battery won’t need to be as powerful with less screen usage. Once you make the components small enough and light enough, they could be incorporated into the headphones, and the smartphone becomes redundant.

Another area to consider is money. Smartphones are increasingly being used to pay for items, but what about the idea of biometric identification and authentication for finance? You could pay for your pint with your eye; nothing physical needed there.

There might also come a day when you no-longer need substantial storage on the device, or any need to store anything locally. Should Mobile Edge Computer continue its progress, connectivity be stretched to every inch of the country, and the 5G revolution live up to the hype, our whole existence could be cloud-based. The headphones could be made even lighter and streamlined.

Of course, for all this to happen, there would have to be an incredibly, fantastic series of events, which are astronomically unlikely to coincide perfectly. It might be an amazingly absurd notion, but isn’t it something to think of a world where Apple is rendered completely redundant.

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