A lot of science fiction movies feature different species from across the galaxy easily overcoming the language barrier (that is, they all speak perfectly understandable English). The shows that bother to plug this plot hole usually credit a universal translator device.
"Just talk into the barrel."
We're guessing approximately every single person reading this has had at least one occasion in their life where they would have killed for such a device. Though it was less likely a sexy alien than an angry Mexican police officer.
Well, already a company from Massachusetts has developed software that will let your phone translate foreign text into audible speech. They have a prototype that can read text from seven different languages and translate it into English, and they estimate a commercial version will be available within two to three years.
From there, speech to speech translation is the next logical step and numerous designs are already in the works. The last real hurdle in the way of them reaching the market is that cell phones just aren't powerful enough to handle them yet.
But they will be, and sooner rather than later. So be prepared to turn your Nokia into your own personal Babel Fish sometime in the near future, opening up a world of travel, multicultural togetherness and annoying tourists at Disneyland harassing you to take their picture because you're no longer be able to pretend you can't understand them.
Cell phones have come a long way from those hilariously clunky models that 90s era action movie villains carried around, but they've pretty much hit a plateau as far as how small they can be made without the constant threat of accidentally eating them. And current alternatives like Bluetooth earpieces don't do anything to make the user look less like a douchebag.
Really, the difference is negligible.
The solution appears to be to throw that "traditional design" crap to the wind and go with futuristic, flexible materials. Nokia, for example, has a pair of concept phones that embrace this idea. One, the 888, can be rolled or folded up so you can wrap it around your wrist, clip it to your belt, and in all likelihood break it right the fuck in half.
It's like a snap bracelet, only way more impractical and expensive.
The Morph concept takes it a step further. The idea behind this one is to not only be flexible but stretchable as well, so you can fold your phone up to put in your pocket but then stretch it out to take a call or use its touch keyboard. We'd like to think you can keep stretching it to make a hat or a Frisbee or something, but the details are vague.
Also, the phones of the future will be lime green for some reason.
These designs are mostly theoretical at the moment, but it gives us a good idea of where cell phone design might be heading. The concept videos (here and here) also imply that only hip 20-somethings will be able to use the phones of the future, but that's how Apple markets the iPhone so in many ways the future is already upon us.