Unfortunately, AI is the best thing that could have happened to smartphones

Google Gemini screens on Google Pixel 8 Pro
(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

AI is the next big thing in smartphones, and there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m sorry if you were hoping for a foldable iPhone or a rollable Motorola Razr coming soon. Instead, you get AI, and for smartphone makers, it couldn’t have come at a better time. 

Hoping something else would be the next big thing? Did you think it would be glasses? I thought it would be glasses. I admit I seriously overestimated the state of smart glasses technology before now. Real smart glasses are a decade away, maybe more. I still believe that smart glasses are the next thing, but now it’s more like the next next thing, or what’s after what’s next. You know, not next, but NEXT. 

RayNeo X2 Lite glasses on the author

Real smart, ahem, glasses (Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

We’re stuck with our phones. The phone you just bought won’t be the last thing you buy called a ‘smartphone.’ There will be another, and it will do more than the one you have now, and what it will mostly do more is AI. It will AI like you’ve never seen, heard, or maybe even felt. We’re never sure with AI; there could be a feeling AI coming soon.

There will be other improvements besides AI, right?

Forget about the rest of the smartphone. Forget about other improvements. They're already using titanium. What’s next, Adamantium? That’s not real, unlike AI, which is totally a real thing and not a marketing gimmick for a trick you can do with large language models.

Won’t smartphone cameras also get better? Who knows anymore. Camera numbers have stopped making sense. They’re like quantum string theory. Everybody pretends to understand them, but then a quark wobbles on the other side of the Galaxy, and we pretend that cause and effect can be reversed.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra in front of Galaxy S23 Ultra

One of these is twice as zoomy as the other (Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

Case in point: the Galaxy. We had 10X zoom on the Galaxy S23 Ultra. It was great; the best zoom ever. It couldn’t be beat. But you know what’s even better?! 5X zoom. We had 10X zoom, then we got 5X zoom on the new and improved Galaxy S24 Ultra. When it comes to having too much zoom, 5 is better than 10.

And let’s be honest, Samsung’s best camera phones are stellar because of AI, not zoom. When you take a photo of the full moon that stuns iPhone fans, it’s because of AI. AI was already here, and it’s also what's next.

But we haven't gotten an iPhone foldable yet!

There must be other improvements coming besides AI, right? Are we past the point of no return? To find the answer, I asked Google Gemini Advanced, an AI. Its answer was a mix of folderol, AI hallucinations, and a shrug. 

Gemini suggested there could be some new battery breakthroughs, faster displays, or best yet sustainable materials and manufacturing. Also, it says 6G is coming soon, so 5G needs to watch its back.

I guess this means foldable phones aren’t happening? They were just starting to get the basics right, but serious questions remain about durability and longevity with foldable displays.

Google Pixel Fold vs Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 front angled half open

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

Why isn’t the OnePlus Open water resistant? Why doesn’t Samsung offer any certified renewed foldable phones? Why has the Google Pixel Fold lagged behind less powerful Pixel phones when it comes to feature drops?

Foldable phones have had a brief, dubious history so far. The best thing to happen to foldable phones is an AI distraction.

The symptoms of AI on your smartphone

What does it mean to have AI on your smartphone? It means you’re going to need a new smartphone. AI probably doesn’t work on the one you have now. Or it works but soon it won’t. Or it may soon never have worked. AI is changing rapidly, it’s hard to keep up. 

When your phone has AI, it will be ready for the AI world. Your Pixel phone will make your photos much more appealing to the bots on Twitter. Your Galaxy phone will write messages that your colleague’s Galaxy might summarize before it automatically responds. Your AI phone will be able to call your friends and talk to their AI call screening app on your behalf. 

Remember when AI seemed so amazing!? (Also, remember when that guy loudly quit his job because he thought turning off the AI would be like killing a living being!?) It’s coming to your phone, even better than before! Also, it’s totally not scary unless you think it’s scary when AI confidently expresses satire and anecdotes as irrefutable facts. Then, it’s horrifying!

So get ready, because AI is here, or it’s coming soon, or it’s been here for a long time, depending on what phone you use. If your phone doesn’t have AI already, your next smartphone will. There’s never been a better time to never upgrade.

Philip Berne
US Mobiles Editor

Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, having reviewed his first device (the Sony D-EJ01 Discman) more than 20 years ago for eTown.com. He has been writing about phones and mobile technology, since before the iPhone, for a variety of sites including PCMag, infoSync, PhoneScoop, and Slashgear. He holds an M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University. 

Phil was the internal reviewer for Samsung Mobile, writing opinions and review predictions about top secret new devices months before launch. He left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. He has been a High School English teacher at Title I schools, and is a certified Lifeguard. His passion is smartphones and wearables, and he is sure that the next big thing will be phones we wear on our faces.