The new race for hearts and minds

The smartphone was a key form factor for the past two decades. However, a new effort to find the next winning hardware is already ongoing between Meta, Apple, and Google. Let's take a look at how those companies are approaching the space of personal devices, and what AI has to do with it.

The new race for hearts and minds

Different companies... different approaches.

Meta (Facebook)

This company is the most radical one and prominent with its vision... After buying Oculus, Meta is doubling down on the Quest lineup. Facebook desperately needs hardware, currently, they are 'at risk' with whatever Google and Apple will force them to do (privacy changes) and their product innovation is never better than one from Google/Apple. This is a make-or-break moment for Meta, and having its own hardware platform will allow them to be in the lead of whatever is on it.


Right next to Meta is Apple. Rumors about Apple VR/AR headset are already a year old, and in 2023 there are new ones each month. If rumors are true Apple is aiming to deliver a 1.0 version of the device to customers, whereas Meta is choosing to develop much in the open and test their next hardware versions on real customers.

My bet is that Apple is not pursuing this area on its own agenda but as the effect of Meta investments in this space. The risk of Meta hitting the bull's eye and having no own response would mean losing the eyeballs of customers and being cut as a middleman for any software or services.


Foldables... This is a very different path from the ones above and assumes that VR/AR is not going to succeed in a ~5/10 year timeframe. This is an iterative approach that stems from smartphones. While this requires a lot of technical R&D and problem-solving - it doesn't push a radical new device form-factor. UX is almost the same as with a phone/tablet. Keeping the status quo is a good thing when you are a leader in it (as Google/Samsung are).


This article won't be complete without some mention of an AI ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

But hear me out - this has the potential to disrupt the future of pocket-form-factor. I'm not sure if voice is going to finally take over, but ... maybe you don't need a 7" smartphone to display hundreds of apps if you have a personal AI running on your device. If the voice will win... then probably an earbud as in Her movie will be sufficient.

Maybe Microsoft with unfulfilled dreams of Windows Phones, Zune, and later Nokia... with access to OpenAI is in a perfect position to unexpectedly launch a new device?


This is the end of smartphones
(as we know them)

Doesn't matter if VR, foldable, or AI-device will take over... it will change the market.

  • VR - most radical, very oriented on media consumption
  • AR - less radical but has the same principle
  • Foldables - still focuses on media consumption, not a radical product
  • "AI" focused devices - still a big question mark how it will look like, very focused on productivity, no media consumption

Meta and Apple are fighting to make headset happen, and Google is playing safe with Samsung doing foldables... but my hunch is that all those companies might have overlooked how AI will influence even this sector.

The shift from dummy phones to Blackberry, and to smartphones happened because of neatly packed productivity and "better" services (why call a cab if you have an app...), and I think the same will happen with our pocket devices. Why click something on your phone if you can have your AI assistant do it for you?

This will be what Google Assistant promised but failed to deliver, and this will eat the world as we know it, for a decade to come.

But one thing won't go away... doom-scrolling and media consumption. So maybe the next big thing will be foldable with AI on the outside (microphones? simple display? keyboard?) and a big inner screen for media consumption when needed.

One thing is sure - the race for a new personal form factor is on...