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The last smartphone (I may have bought)

Updated: Jan 15

Last week marked the end of an era for me – my trusty iPhone X, a faithful companion for 6 years and 1 month, finally bid its farewell.

Therefore, I had to buy a new smartphone.

Without hesitation, I went to the Apple store and got a new iPhone 15 Pro Natural Titanium, expecting it to match well with my two silver M2 and M3 Mac Book Pro.

My brand-new iPhone15 Pro Natural Titanium

Now, after the CES 2024, the famous Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and after one week of using my new iPhone (without any exciting highlights), a profound realization strikes me.

Assuming that the cycle in which I upgrade my phone is on average 6 years and 1 month, last week might have been the last time I bought a smartphone.

The reason behind this idea might not be that I plan to switch to a different operating system or competitor specifically. Instead, it's because I believe that the landscape of personal technology has rapidly evolved in the past 6 years almost more than it did since I got my first iPhone 3G back in 2008. Consequently, new spatial, extended experiences might be delivered by a variety of devices that could potentially take the spot of my current iPhone 15.

There is an underlying force that is rapidly changing the technological landscape: the faster rate of innovation that democratizes both disruptive and incremental technologies (see Clayton Christensen) to the larger consumer market.

Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Spatial Computing, often referred to as Mixed Reality, are no longer just futuristic concepts but have become or are becoming commercially available not just for early adopters, like it was the case for many technologies years ago but for the large consumer market.

Look at LLMs and how they have reshaped our interactions with digital devices in profound ways over the past year since the public launch of ChatGPT.

The tech landscape is shifting towards smarter, more immersive experiences going beyond flat apps and the confines of rectangular screens.

In 2017, it would have been unimaginable to foresee the launch of visionary products like Vision Pro, the Humane AI Pin, or the Rabbit R1 – a tiny, orange box that challenges the conventional smartphone paradigm only a handful of years ahead.

Left: Rabbit R1. Right Humane AI Pin

Looking at some of the recent launches and what companies showcased at CES in Las Vegas this past week, it seems that the eyes are all on transitioning technologies that embed AI into minimal devices like the Rabbit R1.

The Rabbit R1, a device half the size of traditional smartphones, represents a departure from the app-centric model. Driven by a large action model (LAM) and OpenAI's GPT-4 language model, it aims to be a smarter virtual assistant.

By learning and automating users' interactions with apps, the R1 promises a new level of convenience, akin to handing your phone to a friend for specific tasks.

Companies like Xreal, TCL, and Lenovo have long been developing smart glasses, anticipating a shift towards a mixed reality future.

Apple's Vision Pro, a head-mounted computer, marks a significant stride in this direction. The CES 2024 showcased the spotlight on smart glasses, signaling a transition from handheld devices to immersive, head-worn solutions.

Let’s see how customer adoption will turn in the next couple of months.

What is my take on this?

Well, considering the longevity of current devices, and if I assume that my brand-new iPhone 15 Pro is expected to last at least 6 years and 1 month, the prospect of me purchasing a new smartphone seems distant.

Instead, the market may usher in devices offering diverse embodied experiences, engaging multiple senses, and catering to a wide range of user needs.

Technological advancements in the next six years (which will take us to 2030, a milestone where 10 years ago we were envisioning 2030 as the era of the future, well not that far from now) and beyond may render the traditional smartphone obsolete, making room for solutions that redefine how we connect with our digital world.

As we bid ‘adieu’ to the era of conventional smartphones, we welcome a future where devices are not just tools but companions, understanding and anticipating our needs.

The Rabbit R1 and Apple's Vision Pro, although being very different devices, may offer a glimpse into a world where technology seamlessly integrates with our lives, enriching our experiences beyond the constraints of rectangular screens.

Maybe, instead of thinking as “this is the last smartphone (I may have bought)” we may think that this is not the end of smartphones, we are just approaching the beginning of a tech renaissance that puts people at the center.

PS: By the way, we didn't even scratch the surface on privacy, ethics, and inclusivity of these new technologies.

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