How 5G will usher in a new era of ‘smart’ devices in your home (but at least not for a couple of years)...

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Laptops have now fallen behind Smartphones as the UK’s preferred method of accessing online content.

This is partly due to the convenience of having the internet in your pocket but country-wide access to 4G is the largest factor behind the rise.

From a mediocre take up just a year ago of a few million, to fast approaching 30 million devices using the high-speed network, we might even see speeds slow a little now.

Until the arrival of 5G however, our seemingly insatiable appetite for online content on our handhelds is prompting content providers to not just focus their efforts on mobile friendly websites, but also on developing websites that function better on smart devices.

Disappearing are sidebars, content tabs across the bottom of screens, and useless paragraphs of information stuck on websites, exposing the egos of developers.

Streamlining web content doesn’t always seem up there in innovation terms at first glance, but this is because we’re letting it, as with much technology, permeate slowly into our psyche. Nothing in the way we’re browsing is changing in an instant, but you’ll notice we use more apps to access what was previously entered via a browser gateway. More of the content you view on your smart device is presented with an ‘m.’ at the beginning of the browser bar (‘m’ signifying a site designed for mobile use) and generally, some pages load far quicker.

The Ofcom 2015 Communications Market Report not only showed laptops languishing but that the demographic driving the shift is right across all ages and that our daily online life on smartphones is now double what we spend on laptops.

This seismic shift in behaviour may well have caught some corporates unawares; rest-assured, their mobile development teams have been called in on overtime duties.

But if you thought mobile phones are the be-all and end-all of modern technology, think again, says Prof Colin Pattinson, professor of mobile and converging technologies and head of school of computing and creative technologies at Leeds Beckett University. He says it won’t be long before other devices are muscling in on broadband width.

“The thing about bandwidth is that we always find a way to fill it. So, it used to be the case we were quite happy with low res images but not any more. Dare I even say it, we used to be happy with just a phone.

“Certainly, 4G has really taken off and that’s helped put mobile phones ahead of laptops. The thing about them is they are so instant - everything is right there, there’s no loading up time, no logging on. There are positives and negatives to that. The positives being that we can have things like satnav, the negatives being it’s sometimes better to think about things before you respond.”

But he says 4G is just the beginning of a new era in mobile technology.

“We expect 5G to become available in two or three years time and it will offer more bandwidth but I can tell you already that we will find ways to fill it. We’re talking about having smart fridges that know when running low on milk and a home central heating system linked to your mobile phone which knows where you are and whether you get held up in traffic or not so it can turn the heating on at the right time.”

Security will also be an issue, as will efficiency, as more devices eat up power.

But he says the brave new world of interconnected devices won’t suit everyone.

“People talk about the digital divide but as more and more services link themselves to mobile phones, it becomes harder not to sign up and once you are signed up, it’s then difficult to determine just how far down that road you go.”