I still use an iPhone 4s and third generation iPad. I'm about a year out of date. Don't feel bad for me as the latest generation of smart phones are all like Toy Story sequels: Same cast of great characters with minor upgrades to the 3D models and textures. Looking over the comparison chart in Jason Gilbert's BlackBerry vs. iPhone vs. Galaxy article it's clear that these smart phones all have the same features and same prices with irrelevant differences. Their so-called killer features are so last year.
When the first BlackBerry smartphone debuted in 2003 it was a monster of innovation. A great phone and a great email application. We called it a "convergent device" and the "crackberry" and we waxed poetically about how RIM's BlackBerry gave us the power of around-the-clock multitasking and a new addiction to worry about.
Owning a BlackBerry became a mandate and a right of passage. My daughter, in college at the time, proclaimed that she "didn't feel like a 'real adult' until she got a BlackBerry." Business types and college kids were united in their love of BBMing each other.
When the first iPhone arrived in 2007 it packed an even bigger punch than the BlackBerry did four years earlier. Steve Job's Project Purple blew us away with it's radical simplification of the smartphone experience while amping up its utility. Within four years BlackBerry was knocked off its pedestal. Even my BB-empowered daughter eventually joined the legion of people who use the world's most innovative pocket computer "to take pictures of their food."
Fast forward to 2013, 10 years since the BlackBerry and six years since the iPhone first launched. The smartphones from Apple, RIM, Google, and Microsoft are all clones of each other. So much so that the only people really happy with today's smartphone market are the patent attorneys. It's time for a some real innovation, a "big bang" and not this incremental tweaking of last year's winning formula. It's time for someone to take some risk.
Naturally I have suggestions. I don't expect Apple or RIM to listen to me but hopefully there are a few disgruntled engineers in the basement of the Googleplex or Infinite Loop who are just unhappy enough to buck their marching orders from upper management and do a Soul of a New Machine.
Remember the BlackBerry's radical idea was that of combining powerful communication functions and the iPhone was all about striping away the unnecessary bits.
Here are some other radical big bang ideas for the smartphone of the (hopefully) near future:
- A smartphone that never needs charging. I should not have worry about hunting for a power outlet at an airport or coffee shop. It's just embarrassing. Photovoltaic solar cells, super smart automated battery management, and really low power chips and displays would be an excellent start.
- A smartphone that reads my mind. I do the same things everyday. My phone's calendar is my true master. I have to get out of bed in the morning, go to meetings, take lunch at some point, and go back into bed eventually. It should be very clear to my phone's "assisted GPS" when I'm at work, when I'm traveling, and when I'm home. It should be relatively easy for my phone to "learn" my habits and offer help before I ask for it. I want Siri to tell me that the trains are running late before I ask her to check NJ Transit's status.
- A smartphone that creates applications just for me. There are thousands of iPhone and Android apps out there. Most of these apps "kind of do" what I need but not exactly. I'm a coder so I could write my own apps but I'm too busy (or lazy). Using artificial intelligence to dynamically customize smartphone apps to address my productivity needs is just around the corner. Someone at Apple or RIM should call Charles Simonyi.
- A smartphone that is invisible. Why do we have to carry these fragile little glass and silicon bricks around in our pockets? Can't we build the electronics in our belts, shoes, jackets, and bags? Google's Project Glass is a big step in the right direction. We can go farther. We can make the tech wearable and ubiquitous by building the inputs into our clothing, the outputs into our objects, and the processing power into our environment.
I'm ready for something big, something really new, something to get excited about. I'm just as hungry for the next big revolution in mobile tech as you are. The big bang, where access to news and entertianment is effortless, where meaningful events are discovered without searching, where all the worlds conversations are sorted, prioritized, and filtered by my likes, pluses, pins, reblogs, faves, retweets, and shares.