AfterThought: Are the days of the smartphone numbered?

Comments

Look around your desk right now. Unless you work at a call center of some sort, you probably have a computer, and a shockingly stupid phone sitting right there on your desk. There is no technological reason for this. The technology to just use your PC as your phone has been around for over a decade. There are certainly advantages to using a PC as a phone, yet it is very rare to see anyone do it, because a phone is a phone. All it really has to do is ring when someone calls it, and let you ring other people’s phones when you call them. Any refinements beyond that are nice, but people have very little patience for any feature that adds complexity to something that was previously very simple.

This is exactly why I have a suspicion that smartphones are doomed. Right now we put up with them, because the choice is to have just a phone, to have a smartphone, or to lug a laptop around with us everywhere. But as the smartphone adds more and more features, it grows bigger and bigger, requires more battery power, gets more expensive and complex and generally becomes ever more like the ultra-mobile PC that threatens its very existence. Eventually you end up with a device that is identical to the ultra-mobile PC, except that it has a smaller screen, more limited functionality, and fewer input choices. At that point, why would anyone pick the smartphone?

I know, there are a lot of arguments about so-called convergence and how people don’t want to carry multiple devices, but I think if you stop an look at the success of Bluetooth headsets, you will have to admit that people are less adverse to carrying an extra device than was previously thought, provided it adds sufficient value. Hell, I see people all the time who carry their portable music player (even though their phone can play music) their traditional paper day planner (even though their phone has a calender feature), and their phone.

Back in my days as a contractor in the tech sector, I would regularly see people with a mobile phone, a pager, a PDA, and a laptop! If people see the value, they are fine carrying an extra device. I don’t think that getting someone to carry a phone the size of a Bluetooth headset, and a PC about the size of a traditional day planner is really going to be a burden to someone who already carries a bulky smartphone, and a Bluetooth headset.

No, I honestly think that over the next five years or so, you are going to see the smartphone go the way of other transitional technologies like the PDA or the electronic organizer. I think that the focus in phones will continue in the direction of smaller, more stylish ‘stupid phones’ and you will see real computers that can talk to those ‘stupid phones’ replacing PDAs and smartphones. At least that is my crazy take on the situation. What I am interested to see is if companies like RIM will be smart and find a niche for themselves in the ultra-mobile PC world, or if they will cling to the past and flounder much like Palm did as smartphones replaced PDAs?

  • CMP

    I tend to agree and yet disagree. I know it’s the “safe” route to ride the fence, but here’s my take…

    I think an ultra-mobile PC is a great idea, that will soon hit the market. Take the Sony (???) VAIO (I think)… it’s a small portable DayPlanner sized computer with a slide out keyboard. This is a great idea, but $2,000 for something that I can already do on my PC and laptop at home? It adds the inconvenience of a smart phone (i.e. keyboard size, and screen size) to a tablet PC. What makes it so much better? Or what will make the “future” models so much better?

    I can essentially do the same things on my Blackberry. So I can’t create spreadsheets or receive HTML email. I can however, respond to emails, and view attachments, and surf the internet. You need time to create a spreadsheet or type a word document. These things are not meant to be done on a handheld unit (IMHO).

    Now maybe I am trying to throw some logic in the fact that I have carried around a Blackberry for the last 5+ years, but I have become accustomed to putting events in my BB calendar and having them wirelessly sync to my PC, and creating notes on the notepad etc… If you let a smartphone/blackberry do what it’s supposed to do, and you adapt to it, it can take the place of ‘most’ functions from a PC. It may not do them as quickly or as easily, but they get done.

    Just my two cents…

  • CMP

    I tend to agree and yet disagree. I know it’s the “safe” route to ride the fence, but here’s my take…

    I think an ultra-mobile PC is a great idea, that will soon hit the market. Take the Sony (???) VAIO (I think)… it’s a small portable DayPlanner sized computer with a slide out keyboard. This is a great idea, but $2,000 for something that I can already do on my PC and laptop at home? It adds the inconvenience of a smart phone (i.e. keyboard size, and screen size) to a tablet PC. What makes it so much better? Or what will make the “future” models so much better?

    I can essentially do the same things on my Blackberry. So I can’t create spreadsheets or receive HTML email. I can however, respond to emails, and view attachments, and surf the internet. You need time to create a spreadsheet or type a word document. These things are not meant to be done on a handheld unit (IMHO).

    Now maybe I am trying to throw some logic in the fact that I have carried around a Blackberry for the last 5+ years, but I have become accustomed to putting events in my BB calendar and having them wirelessly sync to my PC, and creating notes on the notepad etc… If you let a smartphone/blackberry do what it’s supposed to do, and you adapt to it, it can take the place of ‘most’ functions from a PC. It may not do them as quickly or as easily, but they get done.

    Just my two cents…

  • http://www.kradest.com/ Krad

    The progression is slow. But i do believe in our lifetime we should see the finality if that is a word to computers and the cell/pda issue.

    What does a person need to survive in an internet age of today?

    -A Screen
    -A Phone
    -An input process
    -Content

    Solution- (Distant Future)-

    An implant, or small chip that syncs with your actual brain. What? are you crazy? ripping the matrix? no… let me explain.

    -A Screen-
    What is better than having a screen? not having one, but using your eyes as a desktop. Basically a “HUD” interface simulated by chip and processed through to your brain like sound waves.

    -A phone- or Voice communication-
    This can be easily removed where the chip can read your thoughts and actually broadcast your thoughts in your own idea of your voice to others. By simply thinking… “brian, are you available?” he can then thought reply.

    When this type of technology is available, you should be able to think of the person, and the person’s thought or smell, or idea will be linked to a human mac address.

    Input Process-
    No more carpel tunnel, your thoughts will be the input for data as well as voice.

    Content-
    Could really be anything that is obtainable over the internet, of course if you have access to it.

    —-
    I know the whole idea sounds crazy, but that is where i think it will be headed. People will be computers and will store data in their own heads…. privacy issues are always a concern.

    Also when the technology gets to this level, scientists will be able to turn on other parts of the brain that have been dormant in mankind. Possible use it for more storage space.

    Think, Johnny Nuemonic.
    __
    Lately,

    We have seen the quick departure of Pocket PC’s and Palm’s that do not have phones in them. They were quickly buried into a convergence device known as the smartphone.

  • http://www.kradest.com Krad

    The progression is slow. But i do believe in our lifetime we should see the finality if that is a word to computers and the cell/pda issue.

    What does a person need to survive in an internet age of today?

    -A Screen
    -A Phone
    -An input process
    -Content

    Solution- (Distant Future)-

    An implant, or small chip that syncs with your actual brain. What? are you crazy? ripping the matrix? no… let me explain.

    -A Screen-
    What is better than having a screen? not having one, but using your eyes as a desktop. Basically a “HUD” interface simulated by chip and processed through to your brain like sound waves.

    -A phone- or Voice communication-
    This can be easily removed where the chip can read your thoughts and actually broadcast your thoughts in your own idea of your voice to others. By simply thinking… “brian, are you available?” he can then thought reply.

    When this type of technology is available, you should be able to think of the person, and the person’s thought or smell, or idea will be linked to a human mac address.

    Input Process-
    No more carpel tunnel, your thoughts will be the input for data as well as voice.

    Content-
    Could really be anything that is obtainable over the internet, of course if you have access to it.

    —-
    I know the whole idea sounds crazy, but that is where i think it will be headed. People will be computers and will store data in their own heads…. privacy issues are always a concern.

    Also when the technology gets to this level, scientists will be able to turn on other parts of the brain that have been dormant in mankind. Possible use it for more storage space.

    Think, Johnny Nuemonic.
    __
    Lately,

    We have seen the quick departure of Pocket PC’s and Palm’s that do not have phones in them. They were quickly buried into a convergence device known as the smartphone.