What the Apple iPhone Will be Like in 10 Years

What new technologies will literally change the face of the Apple iPhone in 10 years? How should it properly evolve? I'm putting on my futurist hat. Ready?


Of course, I don't claim to have any special knowledge of Apple's plans. What follows is just informed speculation and opinion. And yet, I think there are some very reasonable assumptions to make.

Separation of State

I am personally convinced that the proper goal for the evolution of the smartphone is to separate the visual presentation of information from the guts of the device: the CPU, radios and battery.

The fact that the iPhone display has grown in size, phablet size, as the processing power has grown, is indicative of the fact that a leap to a larger visual presentation is inevitable. 

Even now, with the Apple Watch, we're seeing a minor move to making the information from the iPhone more immediately accessible. With the iPhone itself, you have to pull it out of a pocket, touch your finger to the home button and perhaps navigate to the desired information/app. The Apple Watch will go a long way towards making certain critical information immediate. Just raise your arm and the display lights up.

The dramatic increase of iPhone speed over the years. Image credit: Apple

In the long run, however, the Apple Watch is not the solution. Where we'd really like to be is to have the guts of the iPhone, much, much smaller than today's iPhone 6, tucked away in a pocket as, say, a digital hub. It would somehow communicate all its information to our visual field and a BT earpiece.

To do that, we need a couple of technology breakthroughs.

Siri and Natural Language

While Siri is great, it's an early technology. We often make fun of it, but our gut says it's a step in the right direction. The ultimate goal, naturally, is to have a Star Trek-class intelligent agent that can pass the Turing Test and communicate with us in a natural way. See, for example, the movie Her or the Enterprise computer in Star Trek: TNG . I think that's within reach in 10 years. Being able to chat with an iPhone in a conversational way is one essential step towards getting away from a 4- to 5-inch display.

Next page: Overlaying the Visual Field

Page 2 - Overlaying the Visual Field


The next breakthrough we need is a way to superimpose information on that which we normally only get from our eye's retina. That can be done in several ways. I'm being only very speculative here and haven't done a literature review. But I am aware of some of the early concepts.

For example, one of the keys, I believe, is decoding the information that the retina places on the optic nerve and being able to mimic that so that artificial eyes for the blind can generate the same images in the human brain. That research is well along. See: "Decoding the Human Eye."

If there were a way to surgically replace the eye, or just the retina, with a transparent graphene microchip, all kinds of extra information from the phone could be added to the visual field.

Another possibility is a contact lens with graphene circuity. It might be possible to transmit information from the iPhone hub in the pocket to the contact lens and overlay our visual field with all that we need. (A BT earpiece privides the audio.) In a real sense, Google was on to something with Google Glass. It's just that the technology was too early, too crude, too large and Google hosed up the social aspects by adding video recording. (No one is going to be thrown out of a bar for wearing an Apple Watch.)

Another possibility is a headband that is able to impose the proper signals on the brain's optic center (or optic nerve) in order to superimpose information on our visual field. I think that's the least likely of the three avenues, but who knows?  Perhaps a simpler, integrated BT earpiece, also used for Siri, stuck well in place, may be all that's necessary to write images into the brain's optic center.

Natural Evolution

I believe the natural progression is to remove the limitation of a small LCD display that we walk around with, staring at all the time. It's socially awkward for people to always be holding a gadget in the hand. It's unnatural and even dangerous to be glued to a small display like that. (Unless, of course, you're trying to ignore the creepy guy next to you in the subway.)

Our visual field is the most natural and powerful part of being human. It's the equivalent of hundreds of megapixels updated at a phenomenal rate. (Just turn your head fast. You'll never see any optical artifacts. That's huge processing power.)

Eventually, the visual field is where all our smartphone and indeed desktop computer information should reside. That kind of evolution will dramatically change our iPhone in the next 10 years.


Teaser image and optic nerve image via Shutterstock.