Lucy Edwards, a blind UK-based journalist and broadcaster, found it difficult to maintain a social distance in public during the height of the pandemic. That’s why she tried the iPhone’s People Detection feature, which uses the iPhone 12 Pro and 13 Pro’s lidar sensor to detect when others are nearby.
“I’m going to have to get used to it, but I’m really excited that I can be in control again,” Edwards said in a BBC video from 2020 documenting her experience.
Lidar, or light detection and ranging, is just one example of how the technology inside the iPhone has evolved in the last 15 years. When the first iPhone launched, on June 29, 2007, it had a 3.5-inch screen that would be considered minuscule by today’s standards and a single 2-megapixel camera. Now Apple’s most sophisticated phones come equipped with triple-rear cameras that are advanced enough to shoot films, sensors that help people like Edwards navigate the world, and powerful chips with billions of transistors.
The iPhone often served as a catalyst for the technologies introduced within, whether it’s digital assistant Siri, mobile payments or wireless charging, and helped drive the evolution of how we live our mobile lives. But in the future, the most important part of the iPhone might be everything around it. That’s according to analysts who’ve observed the mobile industry’s general trends and Apple’s strategy.
In the short term, we’re likely to see incremental improvements like higher quality cameras and giant displays. But over the next decade, the iPhone could evolve into a hub for smart glasses and other devices. AirPods, Apple Watches and CarPlay-enabled vehicles may be just the start. The iPhone’s core elements, like its display and charging systems, are also expected to get a significant boost.
“The next quest for the smartphone is to figure out what it will connect to next,” said Runar Bjørhovde, an analyst with market research firm Canalys. “Because the smartphone has not necessarily reached its potential yet, but as a standalone device I think the smartphone is getting closer and closer to the edge.”
Your iPhone at the center of everything
There’s plenty of speculation about what’s next after the smartphone. The resounding consensus seems to be smart glasses, with companies like Meta, Snap and Google all working on their own version of high-tech spectacles.
Apple is no exception; reports from Bloomberg indicate that the iPhone maker could debut a mixed reality headset this year or next that supports augmented and virtual reality technologies. A pair of AR-powered smart glasses could arrive later this decade, according to the report.
So what does this have to do with the iPhone? Possibly everything. Even though Apple’s headset is expected to function as a standalone device, the apps and services it runs would likely stem from the iPhone.
Think of the Apple Watch. It doesn’t need a nearby iPhone to function, but a large part of its appeal involves its ability to sync closely with Apple’s phone. Many of the Apple Watch’s notifications are also tied to accounts and apps that were set up on the iPhone.
Whether it’s a smart headset, the Apple Watch, AirPods or…