The phone of the future

AT THE 1964 World's Fair in New York AT&T unveiled the Picturephone.

In the future, the world's biggest telecoms firm pronounced, people would communicate via round, black-and-white screens that plugged into the wall. That prediction, like so many others about the future of communications, was wrong. The majority of today's phones are mobile handsets, not fixed-line ones, and although the technology for video-calling is widely deployed, hardly anyone uses it.

And yet speculation about the future of phones persists, and no wonder. The telephone has changed beyond recognition since its invention in 1876, and is now both the most personal, most social and most rapidly evolving technological device. So to imagine the phone of the future is also to imagine the future of consumer technology, and its personal and social impact. What mobile phones will look like in a year or two is easy to guess: they will be slimmer and probably will let you watch television on the move.

But what about ten or 15 years from now? …