There’s little doubt the Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionized our personal and professional lives. A simple band around our wrists monitors our activity levels and health. IoT-enabled home automation systems let us check if we left the oven on 5 miles from home. There’s even a smart egg sensor that lets us know when the eggs in our fridge are nearing expiry.
In terms of business, the IoT provides more than just convenience or novelty. Its remote connection to far-off sensors is an indispensable business tool as it allows easy monitoring and control over customer-facing products. As the number of IoT devices and sensors are put to use, software like SAP’s cloud-based Digital Business Services helps aggregate, analyze, and summarize the multitude of data collected from these products. Its insight into the status and success of services these products offer holds the key to optimizing business practices.
The transformation comes with obvious and convenient benefits to our everyday lives, but the very nature of change inspires upheaval. As the web of interconnected devices expands, individual strands will weaken and break free. One such thread is that of the smartphone.
It seems unusual considering its place in the IoT’s evolution. The IoT catapulted the smartphone into mainstream usage, as web browsing and apps joined phone calls and texts as a method to connect people around the world. But like any groundling that gains flight, what comes up must come down.
Ironically, the progress of IoT will inevitably lead to the death of the smartphone. Experts predict developments at Apple, Google, and most recently Facebook are precursors to the smartphone’s death. As they experiment with AI and augmented reality, the expansion of IoT-enabled devices and sensors increase, pushing out the smartphone as a one-device-fits-all link to the world. Other, better tech will subsume its tasks in more efficient ways.
Evidence of the smartphone’s downfall is already available. The 2016 Ericcson Mobility Report predicts IoT sensors and devices will surpass smartphones as the most-used type of connected tech by next year. The report expects there is to be roughly 28 billion interconnected devices around the world by 2021 — approximately 16 billion of which will be IoT sensors and devices. Meanwhile mobile phones will only account for nearly 9 billion of the projected connected devices.
If the Mobility Report proves accurate, the smartphone will lose its position as the most popular connected device. That’s not to suggest smartphones will disappear all at once. While it’s hard to determine which generation iPhone will be out by 2021, it’s safe to say iPhones (and their Android cousins) will continue to be a personal connection to the IoT, still acting as virtual assistant, calendar, alarm clock, entertainment system, and gaming device in 4 years’ time.
Until the IoT assumes these roles in the various smart products found in and around the home, people will continue to keep their smartphones close to hand, to personalize their iPhones with carefully curated apps and tailor-made vinyl iPhone skins.
As we hurtle towards a smartphone-less future, the ways in which we treat them will evolve. The change is already happening. According to Citi, iPhone replacement cycles are already lengthening at the time of this article, with predictions it will continue to slow in the future. It’s expected people will hold onto their phones for longer than ever before, and when they do prepare for an update, they’ll turn to second hand smartphones.
The status of the phone won’t matter as much once other IoT devices determine an individual’s reputation. A used phone will become as good as the next, as long as the internal processes are still firing on all cylinders. What it looks like after it’s used is no longer significant because custom skins from dbrand use exclusive 3M colors and textures to camouflage any cosmetic damages that may have occurred in its former life.
What will be significant is the second hand economy’s influence on cell phone manufacturers’ bottom line. As of 2016, the sale of used smartphones generated $17 billion, none of which returned to the original manufacturers directly. Once it becomes common place to use a phone price checker — a tool that lets sellers see the average price of a device so they can adjust theirs accordingly—it will be easier to sell these devices faster than ever before.
In this way, we all contribute to the smartphone’s eventual demise. As sales drop thanks to lengthened upgrading cycles and second hand sales, it’s only natural for Apple and Google to turn their attention to other technological developments that will make them money. Economic success still lies in the IoT, but the growing number of devices, products, and sensors will make the smartphone obsolete.