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Death of the smartphone13 Apr 2017

Don't be scared of the future


They say you should live in the present. But mobile phone people don’t do that. Particularly not Fuss Free Phones people. We love living in the past, the traditional values of service and having a friendly voice at the end of the phone to help you make calls, send texts and look up things on the internet.

But we also realise there is a world away from big button mobile phones, and we like to live in the future too. A future which is very much more exciting. One of the questions we get asked a lot is “What will Fuss Free Phones do when everyone is used to using a smartphone”. The answer is a little glib; “We’ll provide an easy to use smartphone service”. It’s something which is under development. The problem isn’t with the answer, it’s with the question. Those asking it assume we’ve reached a full stop. That in ten year’s time mobile phones will be the boring black rectangles of today.

That’s not going to be the case. A phrase beloved by Ericsson’s last president Hans Vestberg is “Technology will never move as slowly as it does today”. The phones of ten years time will look nothing like the phones of today.

A good way to look at the future is to look back a similar length of time and see how things have changed since then. Back in 2007 the iPhone was new and niche, top selling mobile phones all had keypads, they were flip phones, slider phones and bar phones. A camera was new and innovative and web browsing was painful and slow.

I was recently at a meeting of super-smart, sage engineers and industry experts. The discussion was around highly technical topics like millimetre waves and satellite backhaul, and there was a view that the smartphone’s race is run. Innovation has stagnated. The iPhone 7 is an incremental improvement on the 6 and the 6 on the 5, and so on. The technologies are lining up for something radically different.

It’s much harder to say what but there are ideas floating around. Back in the day when Orange was the innovative tech leader – before the turn of the millennium –  it produced a video of ideas for the future of technology. It saw a time when all you had to communicate was an ear-stud which you touched, spoke to a friendly voice and asked for help and information. While this sounds a bit like the Fuss Free Phones telephonist, in the Orange vision,  the voice was a computer based avatar.

Another vision of the future from about the same time came from Motorola R&D. The thought was that people would wear little cameras like badges and stream a video of what they were doing 24 hours a day.

More recently, albeit four years ago, Google launched an experiment with Google Glass. A phone built into spectacles. The project was widely criticised but it’s a future which cannot be dismissed. Before the Sony Walkman the idea of someone listening to  music walking down the street was completely alien. Before the iPod no-one entertained the idea of carrying all their music with them the whole time, and before Spotify no-one thought about having instant access to almost all the music they would ever want. And that’s just how music has changed over recent years.

And if the thought of a future where people are wearing the Microsoft Hololens – modelled here by Lucy – wearing an all-capturing badge and talking to an earring makes you fear for the future don’t worry.

Fuss Free Phones will be here for you with a good old-fashioned, easy to use smartphone.


Simon Rockman