What's next after the iPhone?

April 23, 2009 by
Filed under: Technology 

We all have seen the success of the iPhone, what it has done to AT&T, and how it has changed the way we look at our phones. Blackberry maker RIM, Nokia, Motorola, HTC, LG, Samsung, and others have touch phones (the last three mostly with Windows Mobile or Android) that arguably perform similar functions.   App store clones are popping up like there is no tomorrow, carriers are warming up to WiFi, GPS is now a standard feature, and web browsing on a phone is a no-brainer.   We can’t help but question what’s next?  The problem with technology that took the industry by surprise is that it is very tough to follow.  Sure there is a 3.0 upgrade in store for the iPhone but it is evolutionary at best.  We all heard the potential improvements (a real keyboard, the ability to run multiple apps, a replaceable battery for crying out loud! etc.) but no analyst or company has come up with the next best thing.  A truly smart smartphone is what’s missing.

Think about it, smartphones have gone the route of the Swiss Army Knife: they do everything but nothing really, really well.  They work like a camera, music player, email, browser, gps, messaging, oh yeah they make phone calls too.  But when possible, we all prefer the alternative.  For true navigation, my TomTom beats my phone hands down.  3 mega pixel camera (and that is a good camera for a phone) with digital only zoom; you have to be kidding me!  “Let me call you from a landline”.  Yeah I can do email, but attachments are weird, I can’t edit them and a really long email (not sure why I would do that) is cumbersome.  So, at the risk of being called heretic by the iPhone cult and geek community, I propose we start calling them “clever” phones.

In order to revindicate myself with the aforementioned community I would like to blame Microsoft.  I know they are not really the inventors of the problem, but they are the responsible party to it popularity.  I mean the Graphical User Interface (GUI) to the computing world: Keyboard, a rich graphic screen, and a mouse.  The virtual world is designed with that in mind; you “click” hyperlinks, “type” blogs’ content, and look at lots of rich media all the time.  But when we communicate with people we hardly do any of these things.  Even when we write, we have to learn the odd QWERTY or AZERTY (or any other) keyboard layout that slow us down and require two hands to do it efficiently especially when mouse gestures are involved.

That brings me to the clever-phone concept.  Trying to cram the internet designed for a computer that was designed for a GUI is clever, but not smart.  There have even been attempts to compress the internet to WAP when bandwidth was a premium but not the GUI.  Let’s face it, our hands are not getting smaller and our eyes are not getting better, so for a true mobile internet, an effort to create new user interfaces has to be achieved.  We need development of a true mobile internet, mobile browsers, and server side languages that do not rely on the IE triumvirate (keyboard, display, and mouse) but that are designed for mobility.  One hand operation (or hands free) audio, quick visual feedback, few key presses, speech recognition that actually works, knows when you’re walking driving, riding, or whatever it is you do to move from one place to another.

When we have solved the user interface problem for the mobile internet, then we can start designing smartphones that take advantage of it. Or maybe we will just go back to a regular phone that sounds like a phone and call it … well … a phone.




4 Comments on What's next after the iPhone?

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