Nanotechnology: The future of mobile phones?

Does the recession matter?

However, Nick Jones, technology market analyst at Gartner, does not share Bishop's enthusiasm: "To be honest, we're less likely to see these devices now more than ever, due to the current state of the economy."

"The reduction of the market by 10 per cent has forced the phone companies to focus on mainstream, rather than speculative products."

He added: "If I had to speculate I would put Apple in front of Nokia for something like this, as they cater to a more exclusive market. Nokia are mainstream, and very eager to hold on to their 42 per cent market share," said Jones.

"Once firms like Intel have developed the technology, it is likely that it will trickle down to the mobile phone companies. However, this is still very far off into the future - science fiction, basically," he added.

When will the future arrive?

Indeed, Nokia say it will be at least seven years before technology from the Morph will be integrated into high-end, off-the-shelf phones. However, the odds of it being actual nanotechnology are doubtful, particularly when you consider the present silicon paradigm is expected to last until 2020.

Motorola, according to Kamin, "concentrate on getting the technology exactly right before they release it, due to the fact that consumers needs and requirements change so rapidly," concurring with Jones' sentiment about manufacturers focusing on mainstream markets, as apposed to speculative and exclusive ones.

Additional boundaries to technology development, particularly nanotechnology, are the research costs, which are gigantic, and currently led by Intel.

But even when they develop something new, it doesn't mean it's hitting shelves. Intel's recent development of 'graphene', which is a form of graphite that consists of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb pattern, allows for rapid information transfer at a minuscule scale when compared to existing chip sizes, and serves to further bridge the gap between science fiction and reality. But it's still a long way from being anything more than a prototype.

So unfortunately we can't expect a nanotechnology-based mobile phone anytime soon, which is certainly a shame. However, what is clear is that mobile designers and researchers are clearly moving towards a new technological paradigm that will eventually see the light of day.

"While you do have to view these devices as essentially marketing tools - I do feel that in the next five years we'll see a new definition of what constitutes a mobile phone," said Jones.

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