Most smartphones have a very similar shape, but that's about to change as new technology is applied to forward-looking designs. Mobile phones and associated wearable electronics are now part of what is called the Internet of People (IoP).
The IoP encompasses internet-enabled personal electronics. It is rapidly spreading into the fabric of society giving a burst of new growth to add to the easing growth of mobile phones, tablets and other conventional personal electronics and associated networks and services.
Many internet-enabled peripherals and alternatives are arriving that are worn, embedded in textiles and in products. This is thanks to new materials and ways of making electronics and more suitable human interfaces.
They will often have very flexible displays, some tightly rolled into a conventional phone body. When pulled out, these screens will gather useful amounts of electricity from the sun as the user enjoys the large screen created with its haptic (feel what you do) keyboard.
Indeed even flexible batteries have been demonstrated recently, according to the latest market assessment by IDTechEx. Incorporating screens that unroll will be easier now the public has accepted larger phones because these can more easily accommodate roll-out displays.
Samsung has said that it will launch phones with such screens. The screens pull out, click into place then snap in for storage.
Achieving this poses formidable hardware challenges calling for printed organic light-emitting diode displays (OLEDs) and other printed electronics including alternatives to indium tin oxide (ITO) transparent electrodes, where printed silver nanowires and fine metal patterning are strong candidates.
Flexible barrier layers are also needed. To get reasonable battery charging from the sun, new tightly-rollable printed photovoltaics PV is being developed including fully organic photovoltaics with about 10 percent efficiency.
Those designing must have phone hardware will jump at flexible, foldable and tightly rollable technology – a dream ticket for the creative smartphone designer. Competitive advantage beckons to those manufacturers that can re-imagine the smartphone design.