1: WiFi Phones
For years, cell phones have operated on a strict carrier contract basis, but that's beginning to change with Wi-Fi phones. While phone owners may still have a carrier, the phones can connect to home or office Wi-Fi networks. This ability frees you from having to count minutes or worry about other charges. Some phones operate strictly on Wi-Fi VoIP networks, freeing you from a traditional carrier completely.
2: Mobile Augmented Reality
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Many technology enthusiasts dream of an "all-in-one" portable device, which can handle all of their communication and entertainment needs. As smarter and smarter phones like the iPhone come out, add to that list of desired features "mobile augmented reality". This technology will tie together the internet, accelerometers and GPS to superimpose digital information on the real world. Traveling to a new city? Point your phone at a building and it tells you anything from the history of its construction to visiting hours to restaurant reviews. All of the technology necessary is ready for the market. Expect to see these phones of the future sometime soon.
3: Open Source Cell Phones
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A true open source mobile phone could provide many of the services in today's phones at a fraction of the cost. Developers are working with some big names like Google and Yahoo to create phone software which can be used on almost any cell phone. The potential advantages are enhanced features, compatibility and lower costs by having more marketplace options to buy and use a phone.
4: Mobile Payment
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Phones may soon allow you to transfer or pay money instantly from any bank account or credit line. The potential is great for small businesses and individuals who can't accept credit cards or those who prefer an electronic payment to cash or checks. Paypal is leading the way with a mobile service tied to its already robust online payment options. The technology is available now for these services, but with so many institutions involved (including banks, stores and carriers), mainstream adoption has been slow. See How Cellular Electronic Payments Work to learn more.
5: Tactile Feedback
Since the success of the Apple iPhone, touch screen phones have gotten more and more popular. However, among people who text and email frequently from their phone, many still prefer the real buttons of a device like the Blackberry. The physical buttons seem to give better feedback and allow more natural typing. New technology could deliver the best of both worlds by creating a touch screen which feels and reacts when you type on it. This technology is being explored by phone developers in order to get the next generation phones to the market.
Phone technology is advancing at an amazing pace, so don't be surprised to see some of these features in your hand soon. Check out some of HowStuffWorks' other articles on mobile technology to learn more.