It has been many years since mobiles were used only for making or receiving calls. In those far-off 90s, the market was looking for the smallest device, so the aim was to produce a mobile that could fit snugly into the palm of one’s hand. Mobiles from those days, such as the Motorola StarTAC and the Ericsson T28, now occupy pride of place in vintage phone collections.
As operators replaced the famous 2G 64kbp bandwidth with the much wider 3G 2000kbp, they began to discover a whole new world of uses, and phones went from being mere telephones to true information management systems.
I remember when the BlackBerry 7290 first appeared in 2004. It had an enormous keyboard for the time, whose only purpose was for reading and sending emails and SMS messages. This was a huge change, as it now meant that the telephone could be used not only for calls, but also for dealing with mails when away from the computer.
The iPhone changes everything
When Apple’s iPhone burst on to the market, the other brands (Palm, Samsung, Nokia, Blackberry, etc.) had to rethink their products and make browsing more user-friendly. At that time, a large keyboard combined with a small screen was the preferred solution, as the narrow bandwidth of the previous years did not allow for high image resolution and encouraged 100% linear flow browsing.
The arrival of the iPhone and the accompanying technological developments allowed us to focus more on content. In addition to making calls, the user could use the phone to consume content and manage information. This meant that the size and the quality of the screen would become increasingly important.
10 years have gone by since the first iPhone, and new technological developments mean that voice processing and artificial intelligence are beginning to take the place of the keyboard. This means that we will be using our fingers much less to access content on our mobiles in future.
In fact, Gartner predicts that 30% of mobiles browsing will be done without a screen. The truth is that large companies are investing an increasing amount in voice browsing. Major investment, for example, has been made in Amazon’s “echo” and Google’s “home” virtual assistants.
A host of factors have led to large companies and user experience professionals focusing their efforts in this area. These include the advent of virtual assistants and artificial intelligence, and users who are increasingly keen to do more things in less time while continuing to interact with their mobile when working, cooking, doing sport, or chatting with friends.
The future of mobile browsing
Brands like Thomson are piloting mobiles like “Alo” which, with the support of the prestigious Philipe Starck and UX teams, have created a phone which offers 100% holographic browsing.
At the 2017 Las Vegas CES, Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei, announced that the smartphone was becoming obsolete. In an intelligent world where devices are constantly detecting and collecting information from the surroundings, mobile devices equipped with artificial intelligence “will be able to anticipate our needs with new functionalities that will truly match the way we think and feel”.
But as Richard Yu comments, this interconnection is not only between devices, but also between devices and human beings. Companies like Google and Facebook are now able to use technology for prediction, and it is no secret that both companies have voice recognition systems which are capable of recognising user conversations. While both companies insist they do not use this system for commercial purposes, Internet privacy experts don’t rule that out happening in future. Researcher Kelli Burns of The Independent warns readers that she wouldn’t be surprised if one day the Facebook app started to listen in to conversations in order to suggest related advertising.
And neural engineering also has much to offer us in the coming decades. We won’t have to use our hands, nor even our voice; users will expect mobiles to react to mental stimuli. In fact, the Biomedical Neural Engineering group in the Miguel Hernández University in Elche has developed an interface which allows users to browse the internet and handle computer applications using only their thoughts. Responding to EEG signals, the system can detect one’s intentions by registering what the user is looking at on a light-emitting virtual keyboard.
A more immediate solution has been launched by the Chinese producer ZTE, which surprised participants at the 2017 CES trade show with the Hawkeye, a smartphone equipped with an eye-tracking sensor which responds to the movement of one’s eyes. When you look down, the system scrolls down the website you are looking at, and when you look from right to left, you move to the next page.
King eclient will be constantly on the lookout for new developments on the market in order to help you get the very best out of your digital environments.
Written by Javier Aguilar