The smartphone is a complex beast. Once upon a time we used to have pagers, mobile phones, digital cameras, mp3 players, gameboys, PDA’s, calculators and GPS navigators. All these separate gadgets have now been successfully incorporated into the modern (top-end) smartphone. Some people still use individual devices – but the trend is clear: smartphones are gobbling up anything and everything around them.
So what’s next on the smartphone’s menu? Which other items or gadgets will soon be swallowed up by the increasingly omnipotent uber-gadget?
1. Credit and Debit cards. Mobile payments is currently one of the major developments in the smartphone sector with contactless payments in shops using a smartphone equipped with a chip expected to be an imminent norm. So, that’s one less thing to carry on a day out.
2. Remote controls. Remember the ‘Megatron’ from Peep Show? Well those days will soon be over with more and more household appliances equipped with wi-fi meaning that dedicated apps can turn our our smartphones into universal remotes.
3. Offline media libraries. OK, so this has been under way for some time with e-readers able to store the equivalent of a library’s worth of books and iPods easily accommodating your entire music collection. But with the imminent advent of 4G networks the streaming capabilities of smartphones will be greatly increased – meaning that services like Netflix, Spotify, etc will see even greater demand.
4. Oyster Cards. Just as smartphones are incorporating mobile payments, is it possible that they might offer a similar option for the London transport Oyster card?
5. Cycling Computers. While most smartphones can now adequately substitute for a TomTom or similar GPS system, they have not yet successfully incorporated the cycling computer for the simple reason that the latter is not as widely used a piece of kit. However, as the onboard hardware on a smartphone improves, pretty much all cycling computer functions will be integrable into an app (especially following the launch of Google route planning for bikes earlier this year – the absence of which was previously a major motive for buying a dedicated cycling device). Accessories would of course be required to make sure the phone stays dry and protected.
However, despite the continuing potential offered by smartphones there is currently one major hindrance which works in favour of dedicated single-purpose devices: battery life.
Six or seven years ago our phones could happily last the better part of a week without needing a charge – while these days we need to plug our smartphones in every other day if we’re lucky, twice daily if not. The trend is very emphatic – with ever increasing capability comes rapidly decreasing battery life for the simple reason that battery life innovation cannot keep up with the rapid development in other areas of smartphone technology. If this drastic trade-off can be removed from the equation, then I think we can safely say the potential of smartphones to take over from even more single-use gadgets and items will be huge.