mercoledì 10 marzo 2010

What do you want from a smartphone?

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Smartphones are already in danger of becoming commoditised. At this year's MWC a bunch more were launched, each claiming to allow us to do more stuff, more easily, on the move. But how many of us use a fraction of the features available to us on our phones?

You can now do most of the things restricted, until recently, to the PC on your phone. You can publish online, shoot, watch and even project video with them. The only hindrance is the UI, and that has now become the focus of phone-maker.

Earlier this week, a senior Google exec ventured that, such is the power of the smartphone as a conduit to the cloud, soon they will render PCs obsolete. Gartner reckons sales of touchscreen mobile devices will double this year, while next gen chips and wireless technology will soon make even current high-end devices seem pathetically obsolete.

But amid all this hyperbole, are we falling into the convergence trap as we have so many times before? Do we really want these devices to to everything, or are we expecting too much of a pocket-sized gadget. Have we just got into yet another technology arms race in which we deride a new device for not having a feature, merely because there's another one that does?

Take front-facing cameras, for example. It's already pretty amazing that we can take decent-quality photos with our phones, let alone that we can immediately upload them to the web and make them available to the whole world within seconds of taking them. But that's no longer enough, now we get howls of derision if the phone doesn't have another camera so that we can make video calls.

We recently saw the video below in which some clever chap has developed a game using the face-tracking capability of the Nokia N900. We've got an N900 and that's the first we've heard about this feature. We probably still won't use it now that we do know about it.

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