25 years ago I picked up my first US Robotics Pilot 1000 PDA and I've experienced incredible advancements in mobile technology since then. Smartphone form factors stabilized on metal frames with glass back and front panels a couple of years ago with a heavy focus on camera performance in 2021.
For many years we saw the "megapixel race" in smartphone cameras, but most companies have settled on 12MP as a standard for smartphone photography. The software algorithms and intelligence were advanced and perfected in 2021 with Google and Apple taking computational photography to the next level. It's awesome that smartphones help you take great pictures, but there is a lot more to a phone for productivity than taking photos.
Google released Android 12 in late 2021 while Apple brought us iOS 15 and both of these major updates offer glimpses of what we can expect in 2022. Our phones will finally start to use intelligence, data, and computing power to take on the heavy lifting without our constant interaction while providing us with an experience where we can more easily connect with others, focus on the people and world around us, and trust that our smartphones are serving in the role as valued personal assistants.
About a decade ago I attended a Mobius influencer event where we brainstormed ideas of where we saw smartphones in the future and it has taken much longer than many in my group envisioned to get to a place where phones were taking care of things in the background based on patterns captured from vast amounts of data and then using this data to provide a personal and focused user experience that is unique to each individual.
Google Android 12
Android 12 customizes the colors and widgets so that your home experience is designed just for you and is not the same as everyone else running Android 12. The conversation widget puts the people that matter most to you right on the home screen to help you connect and stay informed about them with little effort on your part.
We have also seen developments in Google's apps to help you in a number of ways. For example, Smart Reply suggestions make responding to emails faster as computing power is used to create responses that are based on your past history and interactions. Google Assistant and voice-to-text entry have improved the way you can find things and interact with people faster and in more situations.
Google Search is also being implemented deeper into the OS with AppSearch providing the ability to search for people, settings, music, photos, and more. This capability may change the way you interact with your phone so instead of making several taps and swipes to get deep into the app you want to use you can simply enter in one place and skip many interim steps. Cutting down on the manual interactions we have with our phones is a major way to take advantage of the phone's power and get us back focused on the people and real world around us.
Apple iOS 15
Apple has also taken steps to enable your iPhone to take on more work and make your life easier. The Focus option helps you define your period of time away from your phone and then provide the ability to share that with others so you are not interrupted. Enhancements in FaceTime have been especially useful in 2020 as people work remotely and connect more via video than ever before.
Something we should have seen years ago is Live Text where text from a photo can easily be made actionable. With a photo of a realtor sign you can call that realtor, send them a message, or even look up directions for an address. You no longer have to bounce between a photo and other messaging, phone, or mapping apps to take action on text from an image.
Like Google has had for some time, Apple now also provides Visual Look Up so that you can learn more about various objects in photos you capture. I've spent many hours identifying flowers, trees, bugs, and other objects with this using Google Lens.
Google and Apple made great strides in enabling our smartphones to take on more for us in 2021 and using the vast amount of data gathered by the companies to intelligently assist us with our daily lives. As computing power continues to advance and our smartphones continue to gather data on our usage, machine learning and AI should reduce the number of decisions we have to make on a daily basis. Reports indicate that the average person makes more than 35,000 decisions in a day and given the amazing power we now hold in our hands it is clear that smartphones can make many of these decisions based entirely upon the data patterns the phones have collected.
Given that battery and display technology have plateaued, camera technology has advanced so that photos from most devices are nearly indistinguishable, the next step forward for smartphones is having these tools reduce our stress and take care of the thousands of minor decisions we make daily.
In terms of hardware, Samsung has set the bar for foldable technology and will continue to improve in this area, but there is not much innovation in hardware from others in the smartphone sector.
What do you think we will see from smartphone makers in 2022?