This is a late post because I ran out of time yesterday. It's also not on any of the subjects that I usually cover. Instead my current iPhone troubles led me to thinking about the state of smartphones and some of the general trends that the industry seems to be leaning towards.
My iPhone randomly turned off last night and hasn't turned back on yet. I've tried charging it, letting it drain, all to no effect. It's still under warranty so I'll go and have it checked out at the Apple store tonight. However, being without the handy little device does make me appreciate it more. I also realize just how far these pieces of technology have changed my behaviors in the last few years.
The iPhone was the second cell phone I've ever had. My first was a Motorola Razr, which had an extremely slow data connection with a very poor web browser. It could make calls and text just fine, and for a while I figured that was the main purpose of a cell phone so it suited me well enough. I had an iPod for music playing (just a color photo one) and a PSP for playing videos on the go. The number of devices has never really been a problem since I always carried my bag around with me.
The iPhone came out and I jumped on a few months after it was released. There was no app store or any apps other than what came with the phone and web apps, however just having the ability to utilize a real web browser in a phone was pretty useful. Maps also came in handy a number of times when trying to find the nearest store or atm when I was out wandering. After native apps came around and the 3GS was released the phone became even more useful. I can use it to play music, watch video (both on youtube and just copied over), play games, run utilities, and yes, even make phone calls and text messages (now with MMS!). Often when I'm home I will not even bother to take out the laptop and turn it on because I can just as easily reach for my phone and use my home wireless to quickly view web pages or check my email.
I did not miss not having an iPhone before I had one, but now that I have one and it's broken it drives me crazy. I have to modify my behaviors to get information from other sources instead of that small, easy to use device. I feel the same way about my Kindle. The ability to carry around new books, sync bookmarks with my handy little phone, and read any of my library anywhere is something that makes regular books seem just bland in comparison. I still love regular books, but I'm nearing the point now where if I had the option between reading a physical paper copy or the same book on the Kindle, I'd prefer the Kindle. Having dictionary and wikipedia lookup is just too useful, and so is automatic bookmarks so that I don't have to keep scraps of paper or worry about losing my place if I need to drop the book quickly.
It is rumored that Apple will be announcing a tablet sometime later this month for availability in March or so. I can't help but ponder and speculate what they might come up with. I've always known that modifications of the computer (which in all honesty is what both the iPhone and Kindle are) would be able to replace many aspects of our current lives as far as information consumption. I have to wonder if there will be a device that will replace my Kindle, Laptop, and perhaps my iPhone just like the iPhone replaced my razr, iPod, and PSP. Granted the form factor will be the most difficult aspect of replacing something like the phone, since if it's too large to fit in your pocket you won't want to carry it everywhere like you do with the iPhone. If the screen is too small you won't want to read on it like you do the kindle, or do any serious writing or more involved apps like you can on a laptop.
Still, many companies have tried pushing the tablet idea and customers haven't been biting. Apple seems to be good at customer fishing however with the most tasty of bait around. Maybe it's the fruit origins.
The cell phone industry, especially in the area of touch smart phones, is in an incredible boom right now. Everyone is trying to outdo each other with the newest and greatest little gadget that is faster and with better battery life than their competition. Granted in the US we still have the problem of carrier lock-in and lock-downs (I'm looking at you Verizon). However even some of that is shifting as the carriers lose power to the manufacturers like Apple or Google who are beginning to dictate more and more how their phone can be used rather than the other way around. I imagine someday it will be more common to see less contract-tied plans and slightly more expensive phones that have the flexibility to move between networks. It's already started a little bit, but the carriers are still too interested in 2-year contracts and don't seem to be ready to give that up just yet.
So even though my iPhone is currently acting as a very expensive, and lightweight, brick, it does make me reflect that the lose of such an interesting piece of technology and the effect it can have on ones day to day life speaks volumes of where we are today and where we are going in the future of technology.