Okay, give me a few minutes before you grab your torches and pitchforks. The iPhone is a fine smartphone. It has a nice web browser, allows you to play Angry Birds and even allows you to download a slew of apps that let you pretend it’s used for serious work. I even heard that some Verizon customers actually use it successfully for phone calls.
This year’s model will probably be lighter, thinner, have a bigger screen, run a little faster and maybe even have a better camera. Nice features, but hardly a reason to camp out at your local mall. What makes an iPhone special is the operating system (iOS). Apple is set to release the latest iteration of iOS sometime in mid-October. Because of the developer beta releases we all know most of the new features. That operating system will run on an iPhone 4 and even the two-year-old iPhone 3GS.
Over on the Android side of things it’s even worse. About twice a week, Samsung, HTC, or Motorola announces another phone that looks pretty much like the last phone. It’s then given about 12 different names by the various carriers. Sure, there are differences. Some have bigger screens, some have keyboards that slide out, some are a bit faster, they all play Angry Birds, and some even make phone calls.
Google also has a new operating system coming out; they’re calling it “Ice Cream Sandwich”. If nothing else, this is proof that we have run out of good names for our technology projects. Unlike Apple though, Google and its phone manufacturing partners and carriers like to make the upgrade process much more of a mystery.
We seem to be stuck in the same place that the PC industry has lingered for about a decade. The phones all pretty much lookalike, and even with the various operating systems they all basically work alike. After waiting months, standing in line for hours and spending hundreds of dollars you end up realizing you’re still playing Angry Birds and hoping your phone call goes through.
While the operating systems are incrementally getting better there’s little to get excited about. C’mon while iOS 5’s new notification system is certainly welcome…it’s hardly a game changer.
So, I’ve decided to make a short list of what I’d like to see in the next generation of mobile phones and phone services:
- Screens – I’m tiring of peering at tiny screens, zooming in, zooming out and sliding back and forth. Let’s start projecting that display out to nearby TVs, computer monitors, car navigations screens…or my windshield for that matter. Sure, there are times when you want to use the smaller, more private screens, but most of the time we find ourselves near a bigger display unit. I know someone may suggest holographic imaging, but I’m going to save that for my list in 2016.
- Battery Life – Yes, I know it’s getting better, but I still have to carry a charger around…and for every improvement in battery size there’s a new feature to drain it even faster. In the old days our home phones didn’t require a “wall wart” or battery and were able to live off the power that came over the phone line. I’m thinking it’s time for the carriers to come up with a way to send a few amps along with those text messages.
- Too many radios – My current phone has a GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, 2G, 3G and 4G radios inside. They’re now starting to include NFC (near field communications) in the devices. Multiple radios means added complexity and added battery drain. Let’s cut this down and speed the whole lot of it up.
- Text input – Fix it. I’m tired of typing on glass, or tiny keyboards. All of the auto-correction systems should be renamed “auto-aggravation” . Voice input works sometimes, but generally leads to frustration and the utterance of a few words that seem not to be in the device’s dictionary. There’s got to be a better way.
- Phone Size – Remember when the hottest phone on the market was the Motorola StarTac and even better the Razr. I know that some consider their phone a fashion accessory…to me it’s just pocket ballast. The smaller and lighter the better. I guess I’m one of the few that liked flip phones. Perhaps something similar in style to the old Treo 300 would be possible.
- Phone Call Quality – For many decades after Alexander Graham Bell (or Antonio Meucci if you prefer) the quality of phone calls improved. By the 1970s you could actually hold a comfortable conversation over the device and there was really no such thing as a dropped call. When cell phones were introduced things were a bit dicey at first, but we’re now almost 40 years out from the first mobile phone and things aren’t getting much better. It’s time garbled voices and dropped calls become history.
Motorola gave us mobile phones, Handspring, Palm, RIM and a few others bumped us to the next level and then Apple and Google made smartphones more than email or texting devices. Who’s next? Can Microsoft re-enter the contest after years of sub-par products?
Better yet, maybe a couple of people will meet in line at the Apple Store, grab a napkin and start to design a revolutionary mobile communications and computing device. Just make sure it plays Angry Birds too.