Tomorrow's Technology

The Future of Cell Phones

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What's Next: Speed Is Just the Beginning

Today's mobile phones can already send e-mail, browse the Web, and keep you in touch with friends and colleagues via voice or text message. Tomorrow's handsets will add even more to the menu, morphing (as needed) into always-connected portable game consoles, full-featured TVs, and credit cards. Here's a quick look at what's coming:

Networks: In the next few years, cell phone networks will move data at several megabits per second, and will coexist with WiMax, Wi-Fi, and, for TV, DVB-H or MediaFLO. IMS will let them work together.

Handsets: Look for sleek designs (such as Frog Design's Ubik), better battery life, e-payment support, and graphics muscle for true TV and console-style video gaming.

Cameras: Expect not just high resolutions (8 megapixels and beyond), but also the same image-processing capabilities found in current digital still and video cameras.

Network Hopping: Enabling Seamless Internet Access

Rob Scheible, IMS/Multimedia Director, Nortel
GSM, CDMA, Wi-Fi, WiMax: Can't we all just get along? With IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem), we just might. Now in trials, IMS network technology will allow any type of packet data--voice calls, video, music, HTML, you name it--to move seamlessly between IMS-enabled networks. With IMS, you'll be able to start a call on your cell phone and end it on a VoIP landline, watch pay TV on either a handset or a big screen (smart-card technology identifies you), and access your contacts from any connected PC or handset. But the benefits will kick in only once IMS is widely deployed, which will take several years.

Tomorrow's Phone: Fold It and Go

Many of today's hot new phones started out as just a glimmer in an industrial designer's eye. The most successful of these new designs are picked up by handset manufacturers and eventually offered to you by your cell phone service provider.

We asked Frog Design, the Silicon Valley industrial design and consulting firm with clients as diverse as Victoria's Secret, Maxtor, and Yahoo Music, what a cell phone might look like several years from now. They shared with us this innovative prototype design. Click on the image to see more features.

Special Report: Tomorrow's Technology

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The Future of Cell Phones The Future of Privacy
The Future of the Web The Future of Nanotech
The Future of OSs The Future of You
The Future of Fun 100 Fearless Forecasts
Incredible Tech: Lies Ahead A Look Back

Yardena Arar is a senior editor for PC World.
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