The smarter phone

How AI-enabled devices will reshape the Technology, Media and Telecommunications industry

As the advance of AI gathers pace and scale, the broad Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) industry will be one of the first to be transformed. Over the next three to five years, the combination of AI and 5G will power the emergence of a new generation of devices that will redefine the word ‘smart’ by differing from today’s in two key respects.

First, the user interfaces of these new devices will be based not only on touch, but also increasingly on voice interfaces that work side-by-side with touch or even without it. Second, they will meet users’ needs by moving away from today’s mode of using discrete apps to trigger specific tasks requested by users, and towards applying AI driven algorithms to anticipate and infer users’ intent. Having figured out what the user wants, the devices will act autonomously to deliver the desired outcomes, by orchestrating aggregated software capabilities in ways invisible to the user.

The smarter phone

What does the AI-enabled smartphone mean for the participants in the TMT ecosystem?

A focus on personalisation, intimacy and productivity

The automation of tasks and greater intimacy and personalisation will make it quicker and easier for consumers to search for, find and choose what they want, saving them huge amounts of time previously spent in apps. The result will be the third impact of AI for users: big increases in productivity and work/leisure bandwidth, with people freed up to pursue activities they’re really interested in, rather than carrying out the mundane and routine tasks of opening apps and trawling through the digital ecosystem for content or help with activities.

A focus on the evolution of the smartphone

Mobile — or some version of mobile—will continue to be hugely important to the communications ecosystem. But rather than collecting revenue primarily from device sales or device usage, the carrier business model will also allow an ‘outcome-based’ model. The user’s ‘digital twin’ — a digital representation of the individual, based on all their demographic, behavioral and preference data—will negotiate with other ‘vendor’ sites (e.g., travel, hotel, etc.) to get the most cost-effective deal. The impact is that the effective price of the device and/or service will fall.

A focus on cognitive computing

For device manufacturers, success in an AI world will not be merely about how “slim” they can make the device, how much functionality they pack into it or how attractive they make it. Instead, it will be about how effectively the device acts as the ‘portal’ into a user’s experience of all elements of the digital ecosystem around them. And it will be about controlling all users’ IoT-connected services and devices in a proactive and augmented fashion, including through voice recognition, while still looking sleek and fashionable. We are already seeing some signs of this new ecosystem emerging in the latest generations of devices, but there is much further to go.

Leveraging creative intelligence in media

In content creation, producers and distributors will continue to converge and the traditional dividing-line between them will blur. As a result, new forms of content will emerge, including handmade content based on user input. AI will augment the production and discovery of various types of content, with innovations such as personally tailored trailers and mixes of video content from many sources, like today’s AI driven music mixes or playlists. This trend could go further, with any number of special interest groups drafting a storyline or key themes, and having other companies or AI produce short videos to promote their cause or even produce full-length ‘indie’ movies.

Seeking to become ubiquitous in the user interaction

As the intelligent device handles ever more of the decision-making about which apps to choose for which task, app developers will become less visible to users and more B2B-orientated. The key shift will be moving away from performing functions and toward understanding behaviors and producing outcomes.


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Conall Dempsey

Partner, Global Technology Leader, PwC United States

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Global TMT Industry Tax Leader, PwC United Kingdom

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Wilson Chow

Wilson Chow

Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) Industry Leader, PwC China