The iPhone of 2027 might be completely unrecognizable

Daniel Howley

Thursday marks the 10-year anniversary of the iPhone’s big coming out party. A decade later, the iPhone has changed the future of not just computing, but entire sectors of the economy, our social lives and transportation.

And while the iPhone has evolved a good deal through the years, the next decade could see even greater changes to Apple’s (AAPL) cash cow.

We’re talking about more sophisticated artificial intelligence to better predict what you want when you want it, voice controls that are less robotic and more conversational, an augmented reality-style interface and true multi-screen user experiences that let you leave your phone behind.

It’s impossible to say for sure, but in 10 years, the iPhone might look totally different from the black rectangle you keep in your pocket.

Predicting the future

Apple is already laying the groundwork for its future iPhone. During its Worldwide Developers Conference in early June, the company showed off how much it believes in augmented reality technology.

Augmented reality is the name for the technology that lets you overlay digital images on top of the real world. The most popular example of the tech is the game “Pokémon Go.”  

Apple is looking to dive headfirst into the technology. In fact, CEO Tim Cook, in particular, has praised AR, telling The Independent that he regards AI as “a big idea like the smartphone” that everyone can use.

According to IDC research manager Ramon Llamas, AR could evolve into the primary way we interact with our phones.

“I think of a phone as a display device and an interaction device. Before that we were using PC desktops and laptops, and from there we went to the phone and tablet and the next iteration, the next way we interact with the world will be with augmented reality,” he said.

Microsoft’s (MSFT) Hololens headset has already proven that users can take advantage of AR to interact with on-screen objects using their motion controls. If Apple does mature the tech, AR could be our primary means of using our devices.

Replacing the rectangle

So if your phone’s interface is powered by augmented reality, what happens to that classic rectangle-shaped device we’ve been carrying around in our pockets for years?

Llamas envisions the phone serving as a kind of hub for the vast array of smart devices that you interact with. Think Amazon’s (AMZN) Echo Show, which connects to your smartphone, but allows you to interact with it via touch and voice.

Talking to your phone

Speaking of voice, the future iPhone will likely depend much more on voice interaction. Apple recently rolled out an upgrade to its Siri voice assistant to align it with the capabilities of Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa.

Today’s technology already lets you do everything from control your lights and start your car to order a pizza and call and Uber. Push that out 10 years and you can begin to imagine what we’ll have in the 2027.

“We are moving from the era of technology-literate people to people-literate technology. That’s where natural language and AI comes in,” Llamas said. “The idea that my mom can talk to something, anything the way she talks to me; she can say, “Hey, TV;” “Hey, tablet;” “Hey, phone.”

As Llamas points out, just a few years ago voice recognition applications required users to issue specific keywords to complete actions. Now, however, you can tell such apps to play a song on Spotify and they’ll do it without issue.

There’s also the possibility that our phones will run across multiple screens. So if you’re in your bedroom watching TV and want to check something on your phone, you’d be able to pull up the info from your phone on your television.

These changes won’t happen overnight, though. It’s taken 10 years for the iPhone to become what it is today.

“This will be a gradual processes. It’s an evolution,” Llamas said. “Apple as well as others are already laying down the foundation to do what you’re talking about.”

“Still,” he added, “Apple always has a way as surprising consumers and industry watchers.”

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Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.