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Mobiles of the Future: What the Next Generation of Smartphones Will Look Like

31/01/2016 19:55 GMT | Updated 29/01/2017 10:12 GMT

On 3rd April 1973, Motorola researcher and executive Martin Cooper made a call on the first ever hand-held mobile phone. Encased in heavy cream plastic and weighing in at nearly a kilo, it wasn't so much 'the brick' as 'the breeze block'. In fact, Cooper looked a lot like he'd knocked an arm off a Parthenon Marble and was still hanging on for dear life.

But the rapidly changing faces of the portable phone have left us with an entirely different beast. Over the last four decades, the antenna shortened and then disappeared altogether. Coloured casing rose to the fore and flip phones and touch screen technology emerged. Before long we'd seen monochromatic displays, Sony's Walkman phone, the QWERTY keyboard and an iPhone-shaped market shake up.

Increasingly it seems there's nothing we can't do on our mobile phones - now we're even paying for goods with them - and just when all options look exhausted, release date rumours for the new iPhone 7 come creeping out of the woodwork.

But what's left to do? What does the future really hold for our trusty technological sidekicks? Take a look at four futuristic features we can expect to enjoy sooner than we might expect...

Break out the bubbles

We waved goodbye to the treasured click of our Blackberry keyboards as the golden age of real buttons drew to a close, and dawn broke on a new era of touchscreen. But there are those among us who long for a compromise. Tapping away on a predictive touchscreen will never be quite as satisfying as the solid crunch of the raised QWERTY keyboard. Enter Tactus Phorm technology, which has developed a case that seemingly conjures fluid-filled QWERTY bubbles on request, and then flattens them over into a smooth touch screen again. All you have to do is switch the function on and off.

Currently the Tactus Phorm case is designed for tablets, but it's coming soon to a phone near you. Happy days.

Bend it like Samsung (and Nokia)

Both Samsung and Nokia have revealed they are developing flexible handsets, which use Organic Light-Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) to display content on malleable phones. The plan is to provide a decent sized screen for watching videos or playing games, but once you're done you can roll or fold your phone up and stick it your pocket. Nokia Morph engineers report that the phone's whole casing will function as a transparent display, so users will be able to look at the menu from any angle.

Projection X

And if those rollable screens are still not quite big enough for your IMAX sized appetite, you're in luck - tomorrow's phones will come with built in projectors. There are already a few models on the market that feature projectors, and the trend looks set to take off in a big way. The Samsung Galaxy Beam's Digital Light Projection WVGA projector will generate a 50-inch image at 15 Lumens - all you need is a flat surface. So convenient is the built-in projector that it caused a spot of bother on a flight to Delhi, during which a passenger was caught watching a pirated copy of the newly released Bollywood movie Dilwale by the star herself. "Told him politely that he would enjoy the film more in a theatre", actor Kriti Sanon tweeted, "but he was busy showin [sic] off his projector!". And while I can't condone piracy, a portable personal cinema is really something...

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The Force is strong with this phone

The tech world has welcomed a number of 3D-enabled phones of late, including the LG Optimus 3D, the Motorola MT810 and Samsung AMOLED 3D. The next step, naturally, will be handsets that can generate holographic projections. The hologram function won't be much more than a novelty feature for some time, but once 3D printing from handsets becomes a reality we'll be able to design a piece, examine it from all angles, and hit print. For the moment, though, the phone call as we know it is unlikely to be replaced with Star Wars-style cross-galaxy hologram communication.

The camouflage phone that perches on your ear and takes on the colour of your skin still lives in the mobile-enthusiasts' imaginations, as does superfast nano-technology charging. But with holograms, projections and fluid-filled screens to keep us busy, we'll have our hands full for the forseeable future.