I’ve always been interested in the mobility of communications because it is such an essential part of life that it just cannot be manifested into a physically heavy product. So now that we have the mobility down pat with the mobile phone, now comes the challenge of making mobile communications easier. Interactivity has been labeled as the next big step towards advancing the mobile phone, which is now why we have the smartphone. In most ways, the attractiveness of the mobile phone lies solely in its portability. Thus, it’s unsurprising that many other aspects of life started to find ways of integrating itself with the phone and we have the tech giants to thank for recognising that the phone was more than just a way of communication: it was a way of life. I have come full circle (which was the main point of this paragraph).
So how do we push interactivity to the next level? I read this riveting article on Computer World which talks about the future of smartphone technology and some of the things your phone can be capable of in the future. It’s important to note that in treating the phone as a way of life, the real estate of the feature phone was largely transformed to a touchscreen in that of the smartphone. Main point: the real estate could change functions depending on what program was activated. This required a change in thinking: needs had to be built into software and hardware had to facilitate many needs, as opposed to one hardware per need.
This is set to grow, thus I’m very happy to hear about NFC (near field technology) being installed in the phone very soon. If you’re unfamiliar with NFC, it basically functions like the ez-link card: tappable to a recording device that can retrieved stored information necessary for an action to proceed. Nanotechnology has made chipsets smaller and more powerful, thus, multitasking does seem like the endless good on these chipsets. Google Wallet, for me, is really groundbreaking because by using your phone as a credit & loyalty card holder (digitally, of course), I can rid my stuffy wallet of almost everything. If we can store business cards in it as well, I think my networking sessions will be much easier to manage. Plus, NFC will make Bluetooth seem like yesterday’s news when direct and stream sharing comes in the picture. The real spark in NFC could come once cloud computing merges with the technology, enabling cloud and offline activities to integrate and flow seamlessly.
After a while innovating the mobile phone, I think some tech geeks out there forgot that the mobile phone is an accessory, thus, wearability is a big factor for the next-gen smartphone. Technologies are coming out with dual-screen phones openable like a book but these seem to be options that don’t make much sense, given how we like our phones simple. However, there is one more item that is wearable and hasn’t been fully experimented yet: the watch. Wrist phones could be a lifestyle product that may emerge for those who consider the watch to be more portable than the mobile phone. The handsfree option may appeal to gym rats and drivers more. Even though the iPod Nano’s latest generation can be worn as a watch, I think we’ll see more options leaning to more flexibility. The Nokia Morph is a phone that can bend to a cuff that you can wear snugly on your wrist. Many developing technologies are focusing on software as a lifestyle without rethinking hardware as a lifestyle. If Apple could transform the way we use technology in our lives, surely there must be someone out there who can rethink the phone as a rectangular object.
A few concepts I’m not looking as forward to: augmented reality and artificial intelligence. They are already here, but they face a big challenge that could make its final developments more of a hindrance than help. Augmented reality is really useful in testbed products that flash information about items when you point the phone’s camera towards it. It also helps to flesh out the news and makes ads more interactive, participatory and experiential. I’m just worried if it develops into an opt-in technology: imagine walking down the street and seeing everything pop out towards you with installed AR. I think AR interactivity must be controllable and useful in important tasks because, right now, it just looks like a cool thing to have. I like how artificial intelligence has strayed away from algorithms and has managed to tune in to people’s wants and needs. However, AI still comes from an inanimate object that doesn’t have two hands and two feet. To think your device will be “smarter” than you are does sound a bit scary. Outsmarting is okay, but outdoing may take it a bit too far. AI must be seen as a supplement to human activity. It must be subtle yet helpful in aiding the owner. Most importantly, the final say must be left to the user, not the AI.
With all said, it remains to be seen if any of this will come true, but I’m hopeful for the future. If smartphones continue to innovate themselves and seek to combine technology, communications and lifestyle with a social bearing for the physical environment around us, we may see an evolution in the way we communicate now. I’m just worried about battery life.