Remember only a few years ago, we were lugging around brick-like phones that would let us make a call if the wind was blowing in the right direction… and not much else? Thankfully, those days are over, and handsets have evolved into intelligent and stylish pocket pals that many of us can't live without. But if you think your phone can do everything, hold tight – you ain't seen nothing yet. That device in your pocket is about to become the engine that powers every facet of your life.
Your pocket valet
One of the most exciting innovations of the next few years will be smartcars, with our phones playing an integral role in making them the must-have vehicle on any self-respecting gadget lover's driveway. Not only will we be able to lock and unlock our cars remotely (saving us the frustration of losing our keys), the driverless vehicles will also be at our beck and call.
At this year's International CES in Las Vegas, BMW showed off a modified version of its i3 electric car with an incredibly cool new feature: Remote Valet Parking Assistant. With this, you can get out of your car at the shops, whereupon it will go off and find a free parking space. Laser scanners built into the car will help it to avoid any nasty bumps or dings when parking, and when you're ready to be picked up, you can use an app installed on your smartphone or smartwatch to tell the car your exact location, so it can be ready and waiting.
The best bit? BMW estimates that this new tech will be on the market in five to eight years' time – so those 2025 shopping trips to buy a space kettle are going to be a whole lot easier.
If The Jetsons is to be believed, having a futuristic, hyper-connected home will land even the most average-looking man an impossibly attractive wife.
In reality, you're at least guaranteed an easier life – and possibly a more secure one, too. Whispers abound that the biggest smartphone brands are planning to replace your traditional pin-and-tumbler door lock with a smart version that will grant you entry when you tap your phone against it.
The worry here is that someone could nab your phone, nip in and steal your family silver without so much as having to climb in through the bedroom window – but fear not, as fingerprint-scanning tech will become an option for those wanting a little more peace of mind.
The benefits of a smarter home can be scheduled to kick in as soon as you arrive home from work. You can pre-warm or light your house from your smartphone (not while you're driving, obviously – although that won't be a problem when driverless cars become available). Once you've kicked your shoes off, there's tech that will enable you to do everything from control your home cinema to rustle up some haute cuisine – all from your handset.It's certain that your home entertainment will be completely revolutionised. Of course, the tech-minded among us have long been using our smartphones as all-in-one remotes for our vast collection of media devices, but even we are merely scratching the surface of what's possible.
A small number of current phones can take ultra-high-definition 4K footage in their stride – something that even the most expensive home-theatre kits sometimes struggle with. Android TV is set to become a feature in most new flatscreens, so most non-iPhones will be able to instantly chuck the latest blockbusters onto a larger display without the need for fiddly wires.
But, as any movie buff will tell you, it's not just about putting decent video on the screen. If you don't have amazing sound, your efforts at having a film night will simply be ruined – but don't worry, your smartphone is coming to the rescue there as well.
Most modern handsets can handle not only high-quality audio but also multiple audio channels – ideal for surround sound. With many of the latest phones running on powerful Snapdragon 810 hardware, and able to decode Dolby Atmos soundtracks, the latest generation of immersive surround sound usually reserved for cinemas and high-end home theatres is coming to that small device in your pocket – and in five years, even budget phones will have that power.
If you're more into music, you'll also be spoilt for choice. Forget Spotify Connect being the future – when you walk into your house in 2020, you'll
be able to seamlessly spread the sound to speakers embedded in the walls. And it'll sound great, too, as wireless standards improve to the point where you can stream full lossless tunes wherever you are.
Cooking up a storm
Your cooking skills might be limited but we've all got to eat, and your smartphone is perfectly placed to help you do that. Whether it's your kettle, toaster, microwave, scales, oven or fridge, everything is being transformed to be powered by your smartphone. But the future is about to get
Electrolux's Design Labs have come up with Global Chef: a holographic projector that will ease the worry of putting those ingredients together. The small, lamp-like device sits quietly in the kitchen, but when you need to rustle up a hasty dinner party, you can join live classes as elite chefs show you the food, weights and methods of cooking to take you from hopeless ready-meal heater to all-round culinary genius. Given that holographic smartphone displays are already in development, it'll be as simple as plopping your new Galaxy S12 down and being taught how to make pizza by a real Italian, or proper Finnish karjalan piirakka (if that's more your thing).
Skyping your mum to find out how to make beans on toast without burning the house down will be a thing of the past.
Safe on the road
You've had a drink at the pub and want to drive home. While you should never totally trust a piece of machinery to tell if you're safe to drive – the safest way is not to drink at all – there will be times when you've had less than the legally allowed amount and yet are still over the limit, so your phone being able to give you an alcohol readout could literally be a lifesaver.
You've probably heard of phone-based breathalysers, but these third-party add-ons cost around £80. Most of these plug into the headphone jack on a smartphone and are about the size of a battery pack, but nobody's going to carry one of these little boxes around with them on the off-chance they'll be going down the pub.
In the next couple of years, manufacturers will see the benefits of the feature and install the technology directly into your smartphone's headphone jack. Just blow down the side of your phone and it'll give you a reading on whether it's safe to drive or use that piece of heavy machinery.
With even your pub landlord able to simply whip out his smartphone and prove you're too drunk to drive, the technology is set to save many lives in the years to come.
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