One hundred years from now, when people recall the $500 plus smartphone era, they’ll exclaim, “You paid what? Why?”
Within the next decade, possibly even within the next five years, all phones will be smartphones. And they will be cheap—as in $19 or less. Here’s why:
The Software Phone is HerePeople have to realize that the smartphone architecture has no moving parts and thus becomes a completely software-driven product. The screen should be the most expensive part, and other components, like the cheap radio, processor, support circuitry, memory, and the speaker and mic, should be relatively cheap in quantity. The real value and complexity of a smartphone will be determined by the software. This is one of the realizations that got Microsoft into the phone game. It knows that, at the end of the day, it’s the software that counts and it is a software company.
When you think about it, these smartphones are really software phones. You could reprogram to an extreme, with different keyboards for different languages. The possibilities are limitless. I’m surprised that we have yet to see completely re-engineered smartphones. Why can’t I take an unlocked Nexus S and turn it into something totally different, with a whole new look and feel insofar as the display and workings are concerned? This is a slightly different approach than adding apps; it’s like re-writing the executive of an OS.
The Idea of a “Blank” PhoneCompanies know this is possible, along with complete OS upgrades. For the most part, phones get upgraded software. Just imagine an entirely new and alien OS installed on an Android phone the way a PC can switch from Windows to Linux. Perhaps a day will come where you can buy a phone without the OS and install any number of cool choices. Perhaps Microsoft should make Phone 7 available the same way it makes Windows available— as an installable product. We just need an infrastructure to do so.
Now that would be great.
But back to today’s reality. The fact is, it will be cheaper to build a phone around a touch screen with virtual keypads than to make a mechanical device. The touch screen could even be more reliable.
The Fashion StatementThe cheap, so-called “burner,” or disposable phone, will only differ from a higher-end phone because of the software and perhaps more memory and a better processor. That said, you can be sure that the Google Nexus and the iPhone will be the cheap burners of tomorrow. Who knows what a high-end phone will be like? Maybe not much different from today’s, which makes the money-making aspect of the better phones more dubious. Perhaps it will purely become a fashion accessory—a trend Apple seems intent on exploiting.
But exactly how fashionable can a mobile phone ever really be?
Currently, only the expensive screen prevents the eventuality of this concept. I plan to grab a front seat and watch which companies will survive a shake out when each and every phone starts from the touch screen paradigm. I expect to see a lot of colors other than black.
And, hopefully, as things progress, a “blank” phone, as described above, will become a reality.