ZTE industry insight: The future of mobile technology – surely it’s intuitive?

Having attended Mobile World Congress and the IFA preview already this year, I can testify first hand that the evolution of ‘smart’ technology shows no sign of slowing – everything’s going smart. Smartphones, smart watches, smart clothing – the roll call of new ‘smart’ devices on show seemed endless: from the weird to the wacky to the wonderful.

Despite the deluge, if I think about what all the devices had in common – why they think they deserve the ‘smart’ label – their unifying end goal is fairly simple: smart technology is designed to seamlessly simplify and improve the daily life of the consumer. Put another way, you could say that it is the very lack of smarts needed to operate a device that makes it smart.

While tech companies like us continue to battle it out over who is leading the way in the smart device arena, it’s clear that consumers are the real commanders. Of the two routes a technology comes to market – either pushed onto consumers by the industry or pushed onto the industry by consumers – smart technologies fall firmly in the latter and will ultimately prove more successful in the long term as a result.

But where does ZTE see consumer demands taking us next? Faced with the ever present danger of falling behind in this fast-paced environment, on which technologies are we placing our bets over the next five years?

The mobile experience

Consumers’ device expectations are spiralling on a daily basis. Consequently, the way they interact with technology is also changing significantly. No longer content to fit their habits to the latest innovations, instead they expect technology to adapt to them: to their behaviours, their lifestyle and the way they want to experience and communicate.

Because of these demands, we predict that we’ll increasingly see technologies that enable more natural and intuitive communication move to the forefront of mobile innovation in the coming years.

Here at ZTE, we are focusing our developments in two key areas as a result – voice control and motion detection:

  • Voice control is the next iteration of the hands-free revolution. Fitting into our busy, multi-tasking lives, it allows consumers to interact with their mobile device anytime, anywhere and without the need for touch
  • Similarly, gesture control offers real practical advantages for smarter living. It allows consumers to seamlessly launch device commands through gestures rather than a long sequence of steps

As the connected world becomes a reality, we see huge market potential in the development of voice and gesture control technology – both in terms of enabling the seamless consumer experience but also in helping ZTE to stand out from the competition.

In the current hyper-competitive smartphone market, the vast majority of manufacturers, including ZTE, are focused on delivering premium devices that meet the needs of today’s consumer. But we cannot succeed by competing with hardware alone, which is why technologies that enhance the experience are of such value.

In much the same way, we also recognise the importance of stepping out of the narrow confines of the smartphone sector, and into more non-traditional device categories (such as smart projectors or wearables) that also serve to facilitate the desired lifestyle of the modern user.

The wearable debate

With the Apple Watch netting £1 billion in its first week on sale, many companies may now be considering putting all their eggs (traditional and non-traditional) into what looks to be a very lucrative wearables basket.

While we too are investing in wearable technology – launching the ZTE Grand Band at this year’s CES – wearables only form one part of our product portfolio, and we will continue to push innovation across both smart devices and wearables.

In order for wearables to make a big play for the smartphone market, and be considered a viable alternative, they need to function in the same way that smartphones do. Just as consumers expect an increasingly high level of functionality from their smartphones; so too they expect the same from their wearable devices from the offset. The focus for manufacturers like ZTE therefore will be on striking a balance between consumers’ need for intuitive technologies and providing a practical tech experience.

I would suggest that the Apple Watch, which offers a raft of intuitive features but needs its battery charged frequently, has yet to find the right balance.

Changes by the billion

At some point in 2015 it’s predicted mobile devices will outnumber people on the planet. That’s some 7.22 billion of them. So no matter what the future of mobile technology, it’s clear that there are exciting times ahead for consumers and manufacturers alike. Watch this space!

Waiman Lam is the Senior Director, ZTE Mobile Devices