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The death of the pocket: could a smartphone be the only thing you need one day?

Posted by Joe McNamara on 31st March 2014

Smartphones are making their way through our collection of personal belongings and replacing their uses at a rate of knots. We’re relying less on bulky alternatives such as TVs and laptops and spending more time with our faces buried in those portable devices that give us every feature under the sun.

But will smartphones begin to replace other ‘things’? And, if so, how will this affect the way they are marketed?

Phone, keys, wallet…

These items are pretty much the only three things that non-smoking males check their pockets for before they leave the house. Well the good news for skinny-jeaned tech enthusiasts is that we may all have a lot more room in our pockets very soon – in fact we might not need them at all.

We’re already witnessing the smartphone being asked to hold more than just the more ‘every day’ requirements (messages, calls, photos and gaming). For example, Starwood Hotels & Resorts are trialing a smartphone app that allows guests to use their smartphone as their hotel room key.  Could we be using our smartphones to access buildings such as our workplace or even our home in the near future?

What about the fate of car keys? The smartphone is fast becoming a central device in the vehicle to the point that companies such as Hyundai have trialed smartphone car keys using NFC technology. Our pockets have never looked so sparse…

But surely we’ll still need our wallets? Well, why will we? Our smartphone is (and this is frightening) probably our most specific form of identification. It certainly tells people more about us than a passport. So they could quite reasonably be used as a form of universal identification. Furthermore, if you can conduct contactless payments using a bankcard – you can easily get exactly the same chips and data into a smartphone too.

The marketing minefield

I have no doubt that device manufacturers, app developers and potentially operators are eyeing up these opportunities to set themselves apart from the competition. In fact, it’s already happening when you consider the role the smartphone is beginning to take as a medtech, health and wellness device. Using wirelessly connected peripherals, we’re seeing developers come up with everything from advanced pedometers to glucose monitors.

The wireless technologies and processing power in smartphones are getting to a point where anything is possible. The problem is that it’s a massive leap of faith for consumers to take.

Do I want my smartphone to be my one port of call to get into my house, offices, car, pay for a pint, prove my age to buy said pint? Hell no! Not in a world where everywhere I go I’m being begged to share my personal data and international banking systems are still being hacked – no thank you. But it’s going to happen. The arguments for the “one-device-fits-all” smartphone will soon outweigh these concerns as wireless security is tightened up and we are forced begin to embrace this evolution.

There’s a big job for PRs and marketers to win consumers over here though. These developments will change the questions smartphone users ask considerably. It’s no longer going to be how quickly can I download films. Try, so if I lose this thing how do I pay for my shopping or get into my house? The mobile industry will have to be ready to face the backlash and answer these questions.

photo credit: William Hook via photopin cc

Joe McNamara