A global survey has identified the top trends and technologies that will impact smart phones, smart wearables and other mobile devices manufactured in 2026.
Molex, a global electronics leader and connectivity innovator, commissioned Dimensional Research to conduct The Future of Mobile Devices global survey in July 2021, polling 207 qualified participants representing mobile device OEMs and suppliers. Questions were asked to identify the features and timeframes for future mobile devices, as well as gauge the growing impact of 5G and connectivity innovations, along with barriers impeding overall progress.
No unanimous description emerged of a typical mobile device in 2026. However, the top-five disruptive features most anticipated, and ranked in order, by respondents are self-charging; holographic or projection displays; fully recyclable; environment-proof, such as dust- or waterproof; and no-break displays. Also on the list are foldable devices, pop-up cameras, health biosensors, rollable devices and separation of device and display. Time will tell which features attain enough practical applications, market momentum and customer traction to become standardized in five years, if ever.
While 90 per cent of those polled expect mobile devices to take on different form factors over the next five years (e.g., screen size, shape, etc.), there wasn’t consensus on whether they would be smaller, larger or different altogether. Nearly two-thirds believe demand for novel wearables will grow, including smart clothing (40 per cent), glasses (33 per cent), earpieces (29 per cent) and watches (29 per cent). Typical consumers will likely have more specialized devices by 2026, according to two-thirds of those polled. Still, 64 per cent believe smartphones with integrated capabilities will minimize or replace the need for tablets.
Respondents were also asked to rank up to five of the top features poised for the greatest amount of innovation in mobile devices manufactured in 2026. They cited data connectivity (42 per cent), followed by wireless charging (36 per cent), cameras (33 per cent), Wi-Fi connectivity (28 per cent) and built-in speakers (28 per cent). Additionally, 82 per cent expect consumers to reap significant benefits from 5G-enabled mobile devices by 2026. Ultra-fast 5G or mmWave ranked first (42 per cent) in enabling technologies forecasted to drive disruption in mobile device manufacturing, followed by two-way wireless charging, optical waveguides for smart glasses, cameras with wafer-level optics, and nanoscale or micro-scale components.
Among mobile device OEMs and their suppliers, technology challenges remain that could impact plans for building future mobile devices. According to the survey participants, the most difficult problems to address are performance of 5G cellular connectivity (37 per cent), high-speed wireless charging (37 per cent), battery life (36 per cent), sustainability (35 per cent) and inability to produce small components at micro or nano scale (27 per cent).