Smartphone obsolescence: How the personal cloud and IoT will disrupt the handset

1Executive Summary

While the high-powered smartphone is currently the flagship device for personal computing, its days may be numbered. The current rate at which new smartphone models are introduced annually is economically and ecologically unsustainable. At the same time, the market itself is full of risks to all manufacturers and service providers, and mobile hardware is becoming far less important than the networks and services that support it.

As the cost of supplying smartphones continues to rise and informed users begin to reassess the value of high-powered, multipurpose devices, something must change. One potential solution is the modular component handset. While it carries some amount of risk and a high amount of resistance from entrenched vendors, modular handsets may present a viable economic and ecological alternative as we look toward the inevitable post-smartphone world.

Key findings in this report include:

  • The expansion of cloud services, the IoT, and wearable computing will shape future developments of the smartphone economic model.
  • Smartphones are increasingly portals to services delivered through the cloud.
  • New modular smartphone initiatives such as PhoneBloks, Project Ara, and WandUlar are providing key technologies for bringing component devices to market.
  • Significant hurdles to modular handset adoption still exist, including industry resistance, end user conformity, and market inertia.
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