You've seen the latest and greatest iPhone, right? It's thinner, it's lighter… it's beginning to look like a credit card! But according to a new development in lens technology, that new smartphone could soon look downright clunky.

In Nano Letters, a journal published by the American Chemical Society, a study has just come out in which a Harvard scientist, Frederico Capasso, has reported developing a new lens that will eventually be able to replace lenses in everything from cameras to cell phones. It's so flat and small that not only will future smartphones continue to operate as a de facto credit card -- in which you pay for products by swiping your phone past a credit card reader -- future smartphones could be the size of a credit card.

For history buffs, you'll be interested to know that Capasso and his chemist pals used a technology that's been around since the late 1200's, when spectacle lenses were introduced in Europe. Apparently, until now, the lenses that existed today, weren't thin or flat enough to remove distortions. This type of lens is, and so, as noted, our cell phones could eventually, reportedly be as thin as a credit card.

I'm frankly not sure how I feel about that. My initial thoughts, as soon as I heard about this, were:

  • I misplace my cell phone as it is, and I predict an even thinner and smaller cell phone is just going to increase my odds of losing it.
  • I'm all for lighter and smaller -- you see cell phones in movies from the 1980s and 1990s, and it looks like people are carrying around five-pound walkie talkies -- but how small is too small (Zoolander, anyone?) Or is this simply the gateway to eventually carrying around a hologram smart phone? Which, I have to admit, would be very cool. I'd sign up to have one of those.
  • Part of the appeal of smart phones acting as credit cards is that ideally we save a bit of time. No more fishing into our pockets or digging credit cards out of wallets, because, you know, that's so much time and effort (if you noticed a sarcastic tone, well done). Instead, we just wave our phone in front of a bar code or credit card reader, and we've bought whatever we need. So if my smartphone is small and thin enough as a credit card, that might mean I could fit it in my wallet, just like I do now with my credit cards. And then when I'm about to buy something, instead of pawing through my wallet for a credit card, I can pull out my wallet, remove my cell phone, and… hey…

So I'm not sure how I feel about this new development in smartphone and possibly credit card technology, but I'm already having fun imagining what these credit card sized smartphones will look like. Maybe they will be kind of cool to have after all.