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The future of mobile phones doesn’t include phone calls

Reuters/Andrew Kell
Even better than the real thing.
By Leo Mirani
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The idea of using a mobile phone to actually talk to people already seems quaint to many young people. According to data presented in Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report (pdf), a biannual study of how the world uses phones, mobile phones will be used less and less for calls, and more for video.

The report contains some fascinating nuggets, chief among them this: Voice traffic on mobile networks will peak in 2015, then revert back to around 2011 levels by 2019. By the end of this decade, our mobile phones will be devices we use primarily to access the internet. Video, and everything else, will happen on the back of that connection.

Tech companies are already moving to make phone calls via mobile networks obsolete. Apps such as Skype and Viber are built for that single purpose. Google has long pushed Voice as a way to bypass telecom operators. And just yesterday, June 2, Apple announced that it will introduce a function allowing users to route iPhone calls through their desktop computers.


As more people buy mobile phones, the total number of voice minutes used will continue to rise. But then, as more people switch from basic phones to smartphones, the average number of minutes per subscriber per month will start to decline after hitting its peak in 2015.


Unsurprisingly, the decline of basic phones will be accompanied by a rise in mobile data consumption.


So what will people use their fancy new smartphones for, now that they aren’t making many calls? A lot of it will be web browsing and social networking. But the lion’s share of data use will be for video consumption, according to Ericsson’s forecast.


Indeed, by 2019, mobile data consumption for video will outpace all other data use put together.


The future of the mobile phone, if this report is to be believed, is as a portable video-recording and viewing device.

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