There was the brick, the flip, the lipstick, and the smartphone… what’s next?

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Back in the early 80’s the cool kids on Wall Street owned the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X (for those too young to know, it was a the first commercial mobile phone the size of a brick). In the 90’s cell phones rapidly shrunk to pocket-size and you were pretty fly if you were sporting a flip phone. Then in early 2000, phones rapidly decreased in size with the Nokia 7280 being nicknamed the “lipstick” phone or the “toy for the rich”. In 2007, Apple took a revolutionary bite into the mobile market with the first iPhone. The iPhone was slick, élite, and versatile offering an experience that no other mobile phone could offer.

The days of the iPhone versus Samsung office wars are over. They all do more than we know or have the time to use (seriously, I’m a year into my Samsung and I’m still finding “new” features). So, what will come next? When will the next revolutionary phone become part of our lives?

I don’t know about you but I’m a bit uninspired with the latest smartphones. I’ve been waiting a few years now for something new and innovative to happen in the market. Revolutionary things happen when a new name is announced and the old product is ditched. The first iPhone and Galaxy phones were exciting, but an iPhone7/Galaxy7 doesn’t sound that appealing, let alone exciting to me. This is because everyone loves a first – the first electric car, the first 3D printer or Sir Edmund Hillary as the first man to climb Everest. The interest dramatically decreases for the second, third, or fourth person or product – go ahead and try to name them. So come on Apple and Samsung – stop at six and come out with something new, or someone else will!

While the release of the Apple Watches and competitor smart watches are exciting, they are not in my mind ground breaking and I certainly won’t be exchanging my fossil watch for one anytime soon.

So what am I waiting for? Is there someone out there who can really rock the market with something to replace the number 6’s? Well recently, a Kickstarter caught my eye (as many do these days), their idea makes me think of the future and get excited!

Stop for a moment, and without getting too far ahead of ourselves; think about how good this would be: you have one less thing to carry, you do not have to juggle a large phone in your hand, spilling liquid onto it or dropping it isn’t an issue. Imagine a display on your hand, arm or lap, where you can change the screen size as you desire, do everything a smartphone can do, and all with the simplicity of being projected off your bracelet or watch?

The Kickstarter who caught my eye is Cicret, who have the vision to “make your skin your new touch screen” with their wearable technology called ‘The Cicret Bracelet’.

Now this truly is innovative thinking and a start to making a new revolutionary phone. Forget the bending phones that can fit nicely in your hand or pocket – that’s not revolutionary, it’s a crawling caterpillar approach. Let’s all become digital butterflies and make our futuristic childhood movie concepts come to life. I believe the Cicret Bracelet is only the start of what is yet to come – I just hope it comes sooner than later as I don’t want to see a number 7.


This blog post was originally posted on the Potentia blog.

Smartphones are meant to bend

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You’ve no doubt heard of the issues surrounding the iPhone 6, but do you personally know of someone that it’s happened to? It may be corporate espionage but that’s another topic… For today, imagine a material 100 times stronger than steel – flexible, elastic, transparent, can conduct heat 10 times better than copper and produces electricity 100 times better than silicon. No, I’m not talking about something from a sci-fi movie; I’m talking about graphene and it’s been around for a whole 10 years!

Graphene is one of those exciting discoveries that has opened doors for so many new advances in technology with many tech giants such as Google, Samsung and Apple working hard to patent new products. There is even a graphene & 2D Materials Live conference in its fifth year, which covers the latest technology, applications and commercialisation progress for graphene.

What is graphene? Graphene is made from graphite. It is a one-atom thick layer of graphite that is so thin that it is considered two-dimensional and looks quite like a honeycomb. To put the size into perspective, it is 1/1,000,000th the thickness of a piece of paper.

What are the possibilities for Graphene? There are many possibilities for graphene and in the short term, being transparent, thin and flexible makes it perfect for touchscreens – so truly (versus possibly faulty) bendable smart phones may not be that far away. Just imagine pulling a phone out of your pocket, which fits into the small palm of your hand, which you can then flip, and stretch open to the size of a large tablet – no longer will you have to debate the pros and cons of what size phone to buy.

Graphene doesn’t just stop at bending smartphones. It plausibly has the capability to be used for removing toxic waste from our oceans, power semiconductors, creating computer chips that run 10,000 times faster, and lots of medical applications and sensors for monitoring cholesterol, glucose levels and more. Then it really turns sci-fi movies into reality with the capability to see in the dark with night vision contact lenses, generating electricity through house paint that absorbs sunlight and finally high-tech temporary tattoos that are wired to light up or act as a display.

Why are we still waiting for the bending phone? Originally, there were whispers that we would be in the market by this year. Now there is conjecture that the next Samsung 6 could be bendable, however the reality is that there are still challenges with graphene including somewhat unsurprisingly cost, and manufacturing good quality sheets on a large scale that we first need to be overcome.

It’s no longer a matter of will we have a Smartphone that bends but a question of when. Moreover, it’s not just about bendable software – graphene has the potential to drive innovative change across many aspects of our lives. So who will win the race to make the first Smartphone that bends and is graphene the material of the next industrial revolution?

 

This blog post was originally posted on the Potentia blog.