Future

The hot new debate over the future of the smartphone

A smart phone disappearing into the grass
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Just 12 years after the first iPhone, almost every conceivable smartphone consumer on the planet currently owns one — some 4 billion people, according to the consensus. Which has begotten a surprising new trend: a still-small but growing chorus of forecasts (like this) of the smartphone’s demise.

What’s happening: According to the smartphone naysayers, it might look like we are bionically tethered to our devices, but we are actually poised to shed our reliance on them, one function after another. We will turn to our cars to make phone calls, send and receive texts, and get directions. Wearables and home smart assistants will do tasks, make payments, and help us stay on schedule.

AI is "awakening" surveillance cameras

Illustration of surveillance cameras with a binary code overlay
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

There are millions of surveillance cameras in the U.S., but not nearly enough eyes to watch them all. When you pass one on the street, you can rightly expect your actions to go unnoticed in the moment; footage is instead archived for review if something goes wrong.

What's happening: Now, AI software can flag behavior it deems suspicious in real-time surveillance feeds, or pinpoint minute events in past footage — as if each feed were being watched unblinkingly by its own hyper-attentive security guard. The new technology, if it spreads in the U.S., could put an American twist on Orwellian surveillance systems abroad.