iPhone

Welcome to your mobile phone’s future

iPhone

There are a stunning 6 billion mobile phone subscriptions in the world, which means, surprisingly, more people have access to mobile phones than they do to working toilets. The near ubiquity of cellphones and smartphones around the globe continues to grow, spurring remarkable advancements in cellular and smartphone technology.

Whether you’re a reluctant Luddite holding tightly to your flip phone or an early adopter camping out in front of your local Apple store right now in hopes of getting your hands on the first iPhone 5S, mobile phones have changed the way you communicate with the world.

The future’s mobile phones look to change things even further. In fact, the next time you replace your cellphone, you may find your phone has more in common with a space ship than with the rotary phones your grandparents used. Here is a closer look at some of the features about to be commonplace on the next cellphone rattling around in your pocket.

Biobatteries

Concerns about energy and fuel don’t just dominate researchers concerned with military transport, global warming or a car’s fuel economy. For researchers who work within the field of mobile device technology, harnessing energy sources other than wall and socket-based electricity is quickly becoming a hot topic.

Biobatteries are composed of organic materials, and these fuel cells use common biological processes to generate the needed electricity to power a device. One promising potential source of biologically based fuel is sugar.

Similar to the way a human body breaks down sugar in order to convert it into fuel, biobatteries powered by sugar process freed electrons from decomposing sugar cells in order to generate electricity. Liberated electrons power the battery that powers the cellphone.

Enzymes and proteins help the chemical reaction take place in a process that is cyclical and sustainable. Where a lithium-ion battery could last a day without recharging, these sugar-powered biobatteries can last over a week between charges because of their biological efficiency and enzyme-recycling capabilities.

Improved Battery Life

While it isn’t nearly as exciting as sci-fi potentials like teleporting, improving battery life in mobile phones is a very big deal, and almost every cellphone user could benefit. While biobatteries are one potential source of improved battery life, other promising options, like piezoelectric devices, are in the works as well.

Piezoelectric devices change mechanical movement into electrical current. While the energy a piezoelectric machine or device produces is tiny, when it comes to the nanotechnology routinely employed in smartphones and cellphones, tiny is big enough. Piezoelectric materials produce infinitesimal amounts of energy that could mean self-powered phones. In other words, someday regular cellphone use could power future use, and so on — making continued charging unnecessary.

Flexible, Folding Phones

From bracelet phones to phones whose elasticity makes breaking them virtually impossible, the flexible and folding phone is one of the most promising developments in technology making its way toward the consumer.

While bending displays have already been developed by Samsung and LG, the bendable battery and other mobile hardware have been a bit harder to come by. Prototype development is already in the works though, so pretty soon, you’ll be able to fold your phone almost as easily as you fold a piece of paper, and broken phones will be a thing of the past.

Carrier-Free iPhones

Apple originally wanted to release the iPhone on its own network but was unable to build a substantial enough network in time to do so.

While it remains to be seen whether or not Apple still harbors carrier-free iPhone ambitions, an iPhone freed from the constraints of traditional carriers would certainly revolutionize cellphone and smartphone use and service.

Imagine if an iPhone could function as its own modem and offer all the services that a computer does — without utilizing the services of massive phone and Internet companies like AT&T and Verizon. While only whispers of rumors exist, the possibility continues to entice the hopeful.

Cellphones have made their way into nearly every human hand around the globe, and they have changed, expanded and evolved. From flexible phones to batteries that function like human cells, new technology on the horizon is continually advancing your cellphone’s capabilities and shaping the future of cellphone use.

Photograph by Gonzalo Baeza

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