All this week we've talked about mobile creativity and productivity, be it what we can do with cameras or speakers or business apps. Today we're going to talk about those same things, but not so much what we can do today, but what we'll be able to do tomorrow. It's time to tackle the future of creativity and mobile business.
There's no doubt that the sensors, processors, radios, screens, and batteries that comprise our phones will improve over time. It's the inexorable march forward of technology. These better bits and the inevitable new bits will make things faster and open new avenues of computing. But what will we be able to do with these new things?
Just what does the future of mobile photography look like, and will it be good enough for us to never regret leaving the point-and-shoot at home? Is it lagging technology or corporate resistance that's holding back mobile video? And how can our smartphones make us even more productive while on the go?
Let's get the conversation started!
by Rene Ritchie, Daniel Rubino, Kevin Michaluk, and Phil Nickinson
Bigger sensors, brighter pixels, and smarter software
Mobile photography in 2013 is on the cusp of some radical innovation. That’s because everyone runs the same processors, the same RAM and the same high definition displays. Two areas that haven’t evolved much are cameras and batteries, and it’s the former where things are happening.
The big advancements that are coming in the coming years are optical image stabilization (OIS), which allows jitter-free video and longer exposures by eliminating hand shake. Such mechanisms rely on ball-bearing systems and “floating lens” technology to allow the camera to compensate for your unsteady hands. That technology is already out in high-end smartphones, but like all tech it will seep downward into more mid-range devices for the masses. It’s truly a game changer in terms of quality improvement.
Cramming better sensors into our smartphones will continue unabated. There are a few routes a company can take. Samsung and Sony are gunning for more and more megapixels, while HTC actually dialed back the pixel count on the HTC One so they could have larger pixels for better light detection (and smaller 4-megapixel images).
Nokia's Lumia 1020 went in the opposite direction with a massive 2/3-inch packed with 41 million pixels. Apple is splitting the difference between HTC's giant pixels and Nokia's giant sensor with the iPhone 5s, which has a larger sensor than its predecessor, but is still 8 megapixels for larger, more sensitive pixels
Samsung gets points for trying with the Galaxy S4 Zoom but between critics and consumers alike balking the awkward design, I'm not convinced that physical zoom lenses are the next trend. Still, it’s an interesting solution to a vexing problem: how to see more with less. Sony, too, gets points for trying with the clip-on QX10 and QX100 sensor-and-lens packages.
Software will define what makes a camera great in the coming years.
But more than bigger pixels, better stabilization, or brighter lenses, it will be software that defines what makes a camera great in the coming years. The Nokia Lumia 1020 takes great pictures, no doubt, but coupled with Nokia Pro Cam for fine manual control it can take amazing photos. The iPhone 5s can take a rapid sequence of photos and automatically pick out the best of them for you. Software is the future of the camera.
With 2014 around the corner and mobile photography the next big thing, we expect a lot of investment and production creation in this field in the coming years, allowing you to finally not doubt your choice to leave the dedicated camera at home.
The real future of mobile photography is going to come from the software behind the lens.
- Derek Kessler / Managing Editor, Mobile Nations
Phil NickinsonAndroid Central
Mobile audio has many battlefields left to conquer
I remember arguing with one of my former newspaper editors — who was completely enamored with the iPod when it was first announced — that, no, it wasn’t going to change the way we way we listen to music. It still was making its way from headphones to your ears, right?
Maybe I was being a little ornery. iTunes did significantly change the way music is bought and sold, legitimizing digital music in the process. Dedicated MP3 players are hanging on, but they’ve already been relegated to niche status.
Like cameras, the best music player is the one you have with you. And that means your phone or tablet. Thankfully, these devices are almost universally competent performers.
The proliferation of cloud-served music has ensured that you’ll always have all of your music with you. Not just what can fit on a 16- or 32- or 64-gigabyte device. If you haven’t yet thrown out all your old CDs, you will. It’s only a matter of time. With services like iTunes Radio, Pandora, and Google Play Music All Access you can even listen to music you don't own. There’s a good chance that many of us have already purchased our last spinning audio disc.
There’s still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to playback. Audio compression can always be better. Most of us still have wires connecting our headphones to our phones. Bluetooth — when it works — can work well. But on occasion it can still cause massive headaches. We need something that’s 100 percent reliable 100 percent of the time. That audio is still restrained by the quality of the drivers inside the headphones. They've gotten markedly better from the early days of the iPod's pitiful white earbuds, but there's still frequency response to be conquered at an affordable price point.
We need something that’s 100 percent reliable 100 percent of the time.
We’re seeing inroads made when it comes to automobiles, but infotainment systems still tilt favorably toward iOS. And that’s to say nothing of any number of late-model vehicles whose infotainment systems are flat-out embarrassing. It’s changing, and it will get better (or, if you have a Tesla, it will get awesome). But not fast enough.
And the living room still is a wide-open frontier for mobile music. How easy is it to play music from your phone through your home entertainment system? The answer, probably, is not easy enough.
An independent online video future
I’d like to believe that the future of video is anything we want to watch, anywhere we want to watch it, at any time, on any device. I’d like to believe that, but it’s not true. The powers that be in Hollywood won’t let it be, at least not now. At least not until they’ve gone through whatever the business equivalent is of an extinction level event (see: music, Napster, iTunes). Not until their traditional fear and myopia are replaced by new management that not only understands the future of mobile video, but embraces it.
Maybe that will involve the established studios. Maybe one day I’ll be able to pay to watch Avengers 3 on my tablet the same day it comes out in the theater, or Game of Thrones over streaming video the same time it hits traditional cable boxes. Maybe they’ll understand that a customer with money is a customer with money, and that embracing the future means surviving to see it.
There are alternatives. Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (itself born of frustration with big studios) showed that you could launch a quality production online, debuting on Hulu, then iTunes and Amazon, and then physical discs. Its singing soundtrack hit the Billboard Top 40 despite being an online-only release.
Netflix's House of Cards showed that you can produce an entire season of premium-channel-quality television without a broadcast or cable network distribution model. Every day, while traditional media companies retreat into protectionism and give way to fear, smart people are thinking of smart ways to disintermediate them entirely.
Studios and theaters and retailers established a system that let them dictate terms.
Creation is a powerful thing that for decades was controlled by those with oligopoly control of distribution. Film and discs, studios and theaters and retailers established a system that let them dictate terms to the consumer and own everything and anything put to picture.
Digital is and will continue to change that. Mobile is and will continue to change that. Creators who can figure out how to sell directly, merchants that decide they want to fund programming directly, will continue to change that.
Whether or not Hollywood gets a piece of that future depends entirely on Hollywood. But it’ll happen eventually, either way.
And I can’t wait.
The future of mobile creativity is in our youth: An entire generation first exposed to computing in this form.
- Chris Cheung / Senior Product Manager for SketchBook products at Autodesk
A productive future through predictive usage-based balancing
The quickest way to increase your future mobile productivity is actually rather simple, though it could be expensive and unwieldy for some, not to mention a big adjustment: carry two phones!
In all seriousness, carrying two phones isn't an option for most of us, and I honestly can't say that it would improve your productivity by leaps and bounds. Today, the best way to be maximally productive with your phone is by taking the time to set it up properly, but tomorrow's phones can be more productive by actively optimizing how they work and what they do to fit our uniquely individual usage patterns.
Setting up your smartphone for maximum productivity is not unlike setting up an office. On your your first screen should be the stuff you use the most and nothing that's going to actively distract you. Your office desktop should be the same way; just the things you frequently use, nothing more.
If you aren't using that stapler every day, it doesn't need to take up precious space; if you don't open the clock app all the time, move it off the first page. Your drawers are the next pages of your launcher: stuff you need often, but not frequently. Folders put infrequently-used apps even further from reach, this is your filing cabinet.
This process takes time, and as you do new things, download new apps, and move to new devices, your usage patterns change - your job might change to where you need that stapler out every day. Adapting your mobile device set-up takes conscious thought about how we're using them, thought that could be better spent just doing.
The future of productivity will be when our phones actively anticipate our needs.
The future of productivity will be when our phones actively anticipate our needs. Google is edging into this space with Google Now, surfacing information as it thinks we might need it. But our smartphones and tablets could go much further.
They could actively keep apps running in the background when they know we'll using them during the work day, and dial back during evening and weekends. They could realize that while at work you try to ignore notifications from Facebook, and thus silence them when you're at the office. They could see that you haven't opened that app on your home screen in four weeks, but that new one you've used daily, and suggest swapping them out.
The future of mobile productivity is smart, predictive, and self-balancing. The only problem is the baby steps we're taking to get there.
Future smartphones will surely be faster, thinner, lighter, longer-lasting, and all the stuff that new materials, smaller circuits, and bigger numbers bring. Old smartphones got faster and better too, and while new physical technologies have changed things, it's really the software that's revolutionized things.
The future of cameras will have bigger and better sensors with more advanced optics and stabilization. But it's the camera software, be it smart shooting, improved controls, or better processing, it's the software that's going to make the difference.
Advancing software has a role to play in the future music and video, no doubt, but here it's actually the entrenched interests that are in need of a revolution. Until the the studios get with the program of the future, there won't be the change we deserve.
And the future of productivity all comes down to making things easier for you. The best way to do that is by anticipating your needs and adapting to our habits. It's not enough to suggest information or search queries - our smartphones need to be more proactive and responsive.
The future of mobile creation and productivity is bright, but it's going to take some work to get there.