Mobility

2012: The year that mobile tech stood still

Find out why Donovan Colbert isn't holding his breath for major smartphone innovations in 2012.

I'm coming up on my "New Every Two" renewal, although that program has actually gone away as it used to exist for Verizon, and here's the interesting thing -- while I have a vague gnawing in the back of my mind about what new gadget I should pick up, and after having reviewed a half-dozen Android devices and a Windows 7 phone this year -- I'm just not that excited about the new options in mobile phones that are currently available. Let's discuss some of the concerns I have about smartphones in 2012.

First, I really like my Droid 2, and it does most of what I need pretty well. It's a solid device with great durability and a very good slide-out keyboard. It has quirks, but it's the devil I know -- any future device is the devil I don't know. I've been buying mobile phones since 1987, so I've had more than a few cases where my replacement phone left me longing for my previous device.

I'm afraid this speaks to a problem that smartphone manufacturers may run into. While Apple fans are happy to have a two year or even shorter recycle on their expensive mobile gadgets and have an almost irrational need to be on the latest and greatest version of iOS device, I don't think the rest of the world is ready for such an aggressive upgrade cycle.

To me, it seems like devices are in a kind of purgatory where the release cycle doesn't offer enough compelling reason to upgrade -- and why it might be a better choice to wait another 18 months or so. A handful of devices on the market indicate some cool directions where mobile phones may be headed, but they're not quite delivering on their promises yet.

Eventually, we need seamless integration of components with industry standards across manufacturers. For example, it would be wonderful if a keyboard dock from ASUS was port-functionally compatible with a device from Motorola. A modular, mix-and-match world of device compatibility -- that is my dream. But there's no way we're going to see that in 2012. Still, some fledgling steps by Motorola are encouraging and make me wonder what kind of devices might hit the market by June or July 2012.

Recent news that the NTBS plans on recommending a comprehensive ban on talking while driving on mobile devices alone is troubling for the future of smartphones, as well. As proposed, this ban exempts in-car devices but not Bluetooth or other hands-free devices on regular mobile phones. Depending on how that shakes down, this could be a hot potato in 2012 for smartphones and wireless carriers.

Personally, I have an in-car phone that I rarely use. The voice recognition is fine for hands-free dialing, but there's no real integration with my digital devices. I buy about 100 minutes a year and generally race to use them up at the end of my OnStar subscription period. This legislation could change all of that, because it makes a specific exemption for using devices installed by the car manufacturer.

If this legislation passes, we may see a move to Android head-units that replace factory stereos with in-car hands-free devices, as well as an increasing focus by auto manufacturers to build smart-device functionality into their cars at the factory. This is another place where there's an outrageous opportunity for convergence.

Imagine an in-car device that hooks up to your factory speakers and offers hands-free, voice-activated, Siri-like functions -- and the "detachable faceplate" becomes your mobile smartphone when you exit the car. I should really patent this design immediately, and then sue Apple, Samsung, and Motorola when they inevitably release this device. If this NTBS proposal is adopted as a federal mandate, I'd expect to see devices like this fast-tracked for consumer markets.

For the moment, there really isn't a revolutionary or magical smartphone device shaking things up in the industry. Everything going on is a non-quantum evolution of current trends. When you show me a phone with 24-hours talk time and a 2 week standby time that delivers quad-core processing and is as thin as a RAZR, one that seamlessly docks into a number of accessories (including my in-car stereo head unit) and is built on an open standard, then you'll have my attention.

How many of you think 2012 is the year when we'll see such a device released to market? As for me, I'm not holding my breath for much more than the same old, same old in 2012.

About

Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his profession...

42 comments
Slayer_
Slayer_

I still don't understand this need for smart phones, why do you need to surf the web on such a crappy little screen, I am not going to pay the 100 to 150 dollar a month to a telco just so I can browse the internet on a shitty little screen. I try to think, when would I want to do this... probably when I dont have access to a computer with internet... but where is that... small towns usually, because they don't have anything better than dialup... but wait... then no 3G access either, just basic cell phone internet which would take an age to even load google (assuming I get signal at all). So what is the point again?

Al_nyc
Al_nyc

I wouldn't pay $60, let alone $100, to surf on my phone. BUT, there are times when you are not at home and you want to look something up and having the ability to do it on your phone is handy. Not to mention that using the phone navigation is also a nice feature if you don't want to carry a separate NAV device or pay ridiculous prices for unit built in to your car. If you don't use your phone a lot and don't require a lot of data, you can get a plan for $30 a month. I use page plus and get 1200 mins of talk time, 3000 text messages and 100mb of data a month for $30, fees and taxes are already included in that price.

Slayer_
Slayer_

For 60 dollars a month, I get 140 minutes, call display, and 10 voice mail, and that's it. Long distance is 80 cents a minute unless you pay an extra 10 dollars a month so that the 140 minutes count as long distance minutes. With two phones under the same plan, plus various extra charges from long distance and going over the 140 minutes, I average 130 dollars a month. I am not even able to buy more minutes if I wanted to, there is no option for it. This was actually a cheap plan to, others were far more expensive. To add 4 gb of Data is an extra 45-60 dollars.

RenGirl61
RenGirl61

Yes, Slayer, I have to agree. My basic phone does just what I need. But now with all the iPads on the market, if you have one of them, do you need a smartphone too? I don't think so. Why pay for the service twice? If you're going to pay for 3G, pay for it on the iPad--atleast you have a bigger screen.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Though in such a case, I would probably reach for my laptop first.

dcolbert
dcolbert

If my organization did not pay for my smart-phone, I'd probably reconsider having one unless I was bringing in a pretty hefty income independently. But carrier gouging doesn't mean the devices themselves are useless - it means the carriers need to be reality checked by consumers. The prices you're quoting are outrageously expensive, though. Are you not in the domestic US? I thought carrier plans were less expensive in most of the rest of the world. I've seen quotes and the total cost, with a phone, of a Droid or iPhone were within $80 of each other over a 2 year contract, at about $2200 USD. Still not cheap, but not the price of a decent economy car after 9 years of contract service. Ouch!

Slayer_
Slayer_

at an average $125 a month, a typical 3 year contract will cost 4500 dollars + the cost of the phone itself. And that's a cheap plan around here. And after 3 years, it will probably need to be replaced, so an average of 5000 dollars every 3 years. I just can't justify that, I can basically save 1700 dollars a year just by picking my lazy butt up off the couch and walking to my desktop computer.

dcolbert
dcolbert

To validate the opinions AGAINST from perspectives that admit they've never actually used the devices they're speaking out against... Can't argue that logic, either. There are a lot of great use models for portable media-devices with phone convergence. It is still evolving, and still in its infancy... But a lot of people dismissed 8 bit home PCs using similar logic to yours back in the late 70s and early 80s. Part of why you would use these devices is that you can see the *potential* - where these currently crude devices will TAKE us in the long run. But part of it is that you're able to leverage a good part of the potential, even today. One of the most frequent uses I see is children playing a game in a situation where they would have to wait and be bored. Doctor Offices and Dentists and waiting in line for dinner out. Adults, too. I can get an urgent e-mail when I'm away from my desk in the data center and respond to it. I can text my boss that I'm running late - my employees text me that they're running late - and unlike a voice call or voice mail - there is a tracked record of this communication on both sides, sent and received. Last night we were watching "Selling LA" on HGTV and they told us who the buyers were by name. I quickly jumped onto my tablet and did a quick Google search and found out what these million dollar house buyers were doing for a living (both in the entertainment industry). Just a funky little enhancement of my life - but something I probably would have never done before the mobile digital device revolution. And THAT is the key - we still don't KNOW all the little ways we'll leverage these devices to enrich our world. Just like everyone thought that home PCs were only useful as glorified video-game consoles in the 80s - it is too early to dismiss smart-phones and tablets as "useless". I have the same passion for this technology as for any other - which is why I'm in this business. I can't imagine being in this line of work and NOT being excited about every little bit of new technology that comes out - or at least INTERESTED.

Al_nyc
Al_nyc

Does the NTSB realize how stupid they look when they say devices built in by car companies are safer than those made available by aftermarket companies? I already see car company lobbyists knocking all the doors of every politician to get this legislation passed. This is example of another unnecessary piece of legislation. There are already distracted driving laws on the books, just enforce them. It's not that hard to do. We all easily spot the idiots behind the wheel weaving all over the place who are obviously doing something they should not be doing behind the wheel. When we stop at the light we can see them on the phone or texting. It doesn't take a new law for the cops to spot that. All the new law will do is encourage more invasion of what little privacy we have left. Cops will inevitably use the "he wasn't weaving around but I thought he was texting" excuse to stop and question who ever their biases lead them to stop. On the new features front, I don't see a need for many new features beyond better speed from existing phones. I don't need more features than my Droid 2 already provides. Making it faster and being able to put in a larger micro SD card for storage would be plenty for me. As far as being able to dock my phone to peripheral devices goes, I thought that's what the USB port already allowed me to do? I know the port location is not standardized, but havinga small cable coming out of the phone is not a big deal to me. I can see companies coming out with inexpensive plugs that can hug the phone contours to make them less obtrusive. One more thing, that "new every two" is just one giant scam. It's the phone companies way to justify charging ridiculous rates. They never let you know your two years are up and hope you don't realize that is the case. That way they can charge you the same rate that they use to subsidize new phones while you keep your old phone. What I would like to see is cheaper rates after two years if you keep your phone. That would make me much happier than any new phone with useless new features.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I don't necessarily disagree with you - but I see the legislation as a potential lemonade from lemons kind of situation if it spurs innovation. Listen - as written, the legislation says only MANUFACTURER INSTALLED hands-free devices will be legal. There is a great example of how poorly thought out the law is. How is an officer going to be able to tell the difference between an AFTERMARKET installed hands-free device and a manufacturer installed device? The only solution for enforcement would be, Don't pull over any late model luxury car like a Cadillac, BMW, Lexus where the driver appears engaged in a hands-free conversation - as they probably have an integrated system. Don't pull over any mid-range or low-end car of these PARTICULAR models that come with factory installed SYNC or other hands-free solutions. That isn't going to work - so to enforce this - basically it means that any hands-free device, aftermarket or not - that doesn't include something obvious (like a bluetooth headset) is going to get left alone. And that'll create innovation - rapid innovation - in what aftermarket device manufacturers come up with for in-car integration. Manufacturers will rapidly adopt solutions too - and we'll move quickly to standards that will remain viable for longer times, and across a wider range of devices. From that perspective - I see this legislation as positive for consumers in creating progress in these technologies. You're right - the technology is already there - and Motorola is moving to standardize it to a certain degree with a line of Droid phones that will all use the same accessory plug to interface with peripherals. They're not putting them in a uniform place - but a case with an adapter *will* solve that problem, just as you point out. Getting the stimulus out to drive this innovation is the important part of this NTSB legislation, from my view. You're right about New Every Two. At the end, there should be a rate reduction *or* you can upgrade to a new subsidized device. But - that is up to consumers to drive. If the companies can gouge and the consumers will put up with it, why wouldn't they gouge away? Look no further than Apple for your answer to that question.

greg_worth
greg_worth like.author.displayName 1 Like

I have an Atrix 2 with the car dock and plug it into the Aux in on my Mazda 3 and now I have a fully integrated Music, Navigation and phone system with voice control and volume in the steering wheel. I can also use the HD Dock and add a HDMI screen, keyboard and mouse and really have an awsome mobile interface. Motorola has said all of their phones will use the same connections (and changed the placement of HDMI & USB from the original Atrix to make it the same as their other phones), now that they are Google we'll see...

dcolbert
dcolbert

You've got that kind of integration through Aux-in *alone*? Impossible. There has to be something else... something USB... interfacing with your factory head-unit. Or Bluetooth... Aux-in alone will not integrate between a factory head unit and steering wheel mounted volume control. Can you skip forward and back and pause from the steering wheel? Does the info from your phone (track, band, song, duration, place in the song) display on your head unit display? There must be something I'm misunderstanding in what you've said above. But I agree, Motoogle's direction with creating a singular USB/HDMI port configuration *and* a line of accessories that leverage that port configuration is absolutely *the right direction*. Now they just need to release that configuration into the wild and let ANYONE make devices... like my head-unit suggestion or competitive keyboard docks or whatever else, or use that port configuration on their own brand of phones. Make that a standard and let everyone else struggle with proprietary interfaces. That may be the most interesting development we'll see this year - but I don't think we'll see it catch fire in 2012.

cykes
cykes

This is old news and is what has been happening to RIM worldwide with its Blackberry (bb) smartphones. I've had my latest bb for over 2 years and see no reason to upgrade short of the device failing all together. It has everything I need and it does it well. Assuming investors don't run the company into the ground I plan on getting a new bb in12 to 18 months. I really believe I've received value for money after paying over US $600 for this phone (unlocked international version).

adimauro
adimauro like.author.displayName 1 Like

By the way...it's the NT(SB), not the NT(BS)...then again, your typo(?) may be more appropriate! Lol! Anyway, to be honest, I think the biggest problem in general is this idea of having to do 'everything' with your smartphone. My phone does a few things I need it to really well, and I still don't even use half the features of the phone. I'm still one of those people who use it mainly as a (gasp!) phone. But, on that note, I love the idea of the integrated car-phone. I can kind of do that right now with the integrated bluetooth in my car. Although honestly, it feels kind of weird having a phone conversation that everyone else in the car can hear, too. One thing to think of though, is, what about upgrades? How expensive would it be to upgrade your in-car phone? Would you have to get a 'new-car-every-two'? Now that's a strange concept, could cellphone companies actually subsidize part of the cost of your car? I suppose you could just get a new 'faceplate'. It's a great idea, but probably won't happen anytime soon...I think it's even many years off. Especially the idea of a phone with 24-hour talk time and 2 week standby! If you remove everything that makes a smartphone a smartphone, maybe. But I think you've stumbled on they key...smartphone technology is also tied into battery technology. One can't really improve too far without the other. A perfect example was the HTC Thunderbird, which I got from work. Despite all the features, that thing died in 8 hours or less if you actually used it. If it didn't have at least an almost full battery charge, It couldn't even make it through the night sometimes, and would die before my alarm went off in the morning. If you turn off features, it saves battery life, but, what's the point of all those features if you can't actually use them? The bottom line: (lack of) battery technology actually holds back smartphone technology.

lists
lists

I have a Pioneer attachment for connecting my Ipod to my car radio which was fitted many years ago. It is rubbish, sounds as though it is still rubbish!

TheNerdyNurse
TheNerdyNurse like.author.displayName 1 Like

I've been thinking up this sort of car receiver for years! I would love to have my smartphone integrate completely into my car stereo.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Then wait for a major corporation to come up with the same basic design... and then SUE.... You know, how all the major technology manufacturers are generating revenue these days!

jamie
jamie

Well here's the thing. We've been bombarded for the last year with promotion for 4G. Maybe the public has caught on to the fact that none of the phone companies (or their ad firms) are able to say how it's useful for anything. Yes it's faster, but maybe the market is burned out on new entertainment platforms and there isn't enough actual utility to justify any of it. A margin of 12 seconds on a text message doesn't move me.

dcolbert
dcolbert

There is no doubt that 4G is nice - where and when it works. I was on a demo RAZR last night and ran market updates - I was trying to do something else - and the update did not get in the way of my productivity the way it is wont to do on a 3G connection. You've got to kind of plan your app upgrades on a 3G connection - with 4G, it *flies*. Speed is always *better* in a certain regard. There is no doubt that faster transfer speeds have been driving technology for the last 25 years. I started out with a 300 baud modem on a C-64. My first download was a 42k BASIC helicopter program from Q-Link (which became AOL). It took two hours to complete. We're here, doing this on the web now today - because of broadband speeds. Faster speed opens up new possibilities. The problem with 4G isn't that the speed isn't welcome - it is that the bandwidth caps limit the usefulness of how I can leverage that increased speed. 4G speeds crippled by bandwidth caps make the 4G push about as exciting as 3D TV technology. You've given me something that sounds neat - but it is hard to find a real useful way to apply it. Faster market app updates is a trivial evolution of my mobile experience. I like it - but it isn't a *driver* for upgrade cycles. Without bandwidth caps - it *could* be, though. Ultimately, though - I agree with you. There has been a huge FOCUS on 4G as being a driver for mobile upgrade cycles - while the phones themselves haven't brought a lot of MEANINGFUL revolution in what they deliver. Together, the changes have been incremental, not innovative - even from Apple. Siri is a cool trick, when it works - but it isn't a break-the-bank must-have-it feature or product enhancement, and OTHERWISE, it rides on a platform that is largely indistinguishable from the previous generation of iPhone. The Android market moves quicker in handset innovation (your latest and greatest Android device does have a very short life-span before the NEXT bestest handset is out there). But even there... drawing a distinction between the Droid 2, Droid X, Droid Bionic and Droid Razr (and Galaxy S) is relatively difficult. They're mostly a lot alike. Heck, even the budget Pantech Breakout has most of the BASIC features of the RAZR, Bionic and Galaxy. The differences are by very small degrees. After Apple's run with the iPhone over the last 4 years or so - trivial enhancement by degree doesn't inspire a strong desire to upgrade. In fact, as I head into an upgrade cycle - I'm torn about leaving the Droid 2 for the alternatives - mostly because of a "Devil I know" vs. "Devil I don't know" paradox. In testing the Droid Razr, there is a lot about it that makes me drool - but, there are things that I wonder, "How will I feel about THIS part in 5 months". If the camera is a step back from my Droid 2 (which, despite higher megapixels, it might be) - then I might not want to upgrade in that direction. Those kind of concerns indicate a certain platform plateau and stability to me. I might be wrong - but I think right now we're in a stage of kind of relatively flat upward growth.

dcolbert
dcolbert

http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/geekend/an-isp-tortoise-and-hare-story/7595?tag=content;siu-container ^^^ This is: There are some other problems too (it doesn't hop very well from tower to tower making it most useful when you're stationary and has some other problems with general stability and reliability) - but the biggest issue is that at 4G speeds, it is simply easier to consume all of your limited bandwidth for a month in a quicker period of time. You're better off slow-and-steady at 3G speeds the entire month than racing toward the limit of your bandwidth cap at 4G speeds. If it wasn't for bandwidth caps - it would certainly be useful.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I'm going to start off with: "While Apple fans are happy to have a two year or even shorter recycle on their expensive mobile gadgets and have an almost irrational need to be on the latest and greatest version of iOS device, I don???t think the rest of the world is ready for such an aggressive upgrade cycle." Now, if you really look at the smart phone/mobile phone market right now, nearly every brand except Apple is pushing one-year or even six-month upgrade cycles; coming out with supposedly newer and better models at a ridiculous rate and almost always dropping the previous model to bargain-basement prices. To me, Apple's phones at least manage to survive their two-year cycle and are still useable even after three years while their Android equivalents have already been replaced at least once if not more often. No, the OEMs have gone out of their way to push shorter cycle times than Apple, so if you're going to complain about Apple's two-year product upgrades, you seriously need to discuss the others as well. But that isn't the only argument that's a problem. I'm not going to argue that the proposed regulation could cause some interesting results, but quite honestly you can NOT stop somebody from talking in their own car. Long before even the old AM radio was installed, drivers talked to passengers and even stagecoach drivers talked to their "shotgun". The difference today is the amount of distraction factor devices cause and much of the worst distractions are being installed by the automakers. Adding or removing bluetooth capability is not going to improve it or negate it. At least with hands-free technology you do reduce the distraction factor of having a handset while you're driving. Some of the responses touch on one of the most important factors of having a hands-free system in the car; it needs to properly integrate with the devices and nearly none of them do that well. Not only that, but the average life span of a car exceeds ten years and in ten years time digital technology advances so far that any resale value for including it is wiped out--it lowers that value by its uselessness and requirement for expensive replacements. Whether you look at the aftermarket devices like Pioneer's "AppRadio" or factory-installed systems like Ford's "Sync", the integration is valid for an obscenely short time. Better if the phone itself could serve as the synchronizing device rather than the car. You're simply approaching the issue from the wrong direction. So, the question comes up about Donovan's last statement: "For the moment, there really isn???t a revolutionary or magical smartphone device shaking things up in the industry. Everything going on is a non-quantum evolution of current trends. When you show me a phone with 24-hours talk time and a 2 week standby time that delivers quad-core processing and is as thin as a RAZR, one that seamlessly docks into a number of accessories (including my in-car stereo head unit) and is built on an open standard, then you???ll have my attention." Should we truly envision a phone system that is part of the car, locked-in to the vehicle's hardware or a phone system that can upgrade the car when you upgrade the phone? Even modern combat jets can be upgraded relatively simply by changing the software in their computers, why can't the auto companies see the benefit of this and adapt to the new mobile technologies? They're already allowing phones to serve as remote key fobs and even remote diagnostic/maintenance monitors, why not let them take that extra step?

spaul940
spaul940

Vulpine, I don't know what vendors you are talking about when you say they have a 12 month or even 6 month cycle to upgrade ones smart phone. Sure, new android phones come out almost monthly; however, unless one wants to buy them out at full price (around $800), you have to wait for a 2 year cycle to happen - just like Apple (except I thought Apple allowed an earlier upgrade path then 2 years - help me out on this Apple people).

beaverusiv
beaverusiv

Here in NZ where we all have prepaid phones there is no cycle. People get new phones when you break your old one. I couldn't imagine throwing away a perfectly good phone when a new one costs $1000+ A few weeks ago I was in a situation where my mum's phone broke. I thought about giving her mine (Galaxy S) and I would get a new one (SGSII or Nexus) but there wasn't any reason. To me my phone is fast enough, it has a big enough screen and a big enough internal memory so it wasn't worth it and she bought a $100 phone instead. There should not be a cycle at all! I wouldn't buy a new car just because a new one is self-cleaning or has built-in voice-nav or whatever they're going for nowadays... The only reason to upgrade is because you have to or there is a significant change, enough to justify the price.

dcolbert
dcolbert

What is NZ $1000 in USD? More or less? We used to be able to count on USD being more - but not any longer - but I bet YOU know if it is less or more. A *real* expensive cell phone here is $500-800 USD. They don't (and can't) go much higher than that. How can you say there shouldn't be a new cycle? I'm an IT engineer - although right now I "manage". When a device runs out of warranty, that is end of life-cycle for me. I can renew the support contract, but it is generally a losing proposition to do so. The processor cores, the memory, the disk subsystem, they are hopeless outdated by the time the support contract runs out. The renewal is outrageously expensive compared to what I can end-of-life the server for, replacing it with cutting edge technology with a CPU with more cores, more memory and a better I/O subsystem and a new 3 year gold-level service contract. I *know* it is planned obsolescence - but it is logical obsolescence, all the same. If this applies to my enterprise class mission critical servers - why shouldn't it apply to my consumer grade business mobile devices as well? I'm just curious.

dcolbert
dcolbert like.author.displayName 1 Like

"but quite honestly you can NOT stop somebody from talking in their own car." Wrong. Ask anyone from California - or anyone from out of state who has visited California and been ticketed since they implemented their ban on cell-phones without hands-free devices. The Director of Marketing at my organization got a ticket for this while out in California on business. They can't STOP you from talking in your car - just like they can't force you to wear seat-belts - but they can make it darned painful when they catch you. If you haven't noticed, with laws and regulations, as California goes, well - it used to be "so does the rest of the United States" - but now it is more like so goes Western European culture. You may have strong opinions about that - but the fact is that a lot of times the Federal lawmakers field-test laws and regulations in California before expanding them nationally. I can assure you - they've been effective at making sure Californians do not operate their cell-phones while driving - so there is no doubt they can expand that to the rest of the country. "Adding or removing bluetooth capability is not going to improve it or negate it. At least with hands-free technology you do reduce the distraction factor of having a handset while you're driving." Wrong. Part of the NTSB study results leading them to recommend a comprehensive ban, including of hands-free devices - is based on the fact that California's ban illustrates that hands-free devices do not significantly reduce distraction. As for your point about Android phones... Meh... I can kind of see your point. You're right - the latest greatest Android phone not only comes out quicker, but jumps from carrier to carrier and manufacturer and manufacturer. But there is a different vibe among Android device owners. Lots of Droid 2 and Droid X owners are still happy. Heck - a lot of Droid 1 users aren't jumping to upgrade. My wife only *recently* started thinking about upgrading her Droid 1 - and not because the device itself isn't satisfying her or is breaking down, but because she is thinking of switching to a company supported device with tethering. The lifespan of the iOS devices is more artificial, and more driven by gimmicks like Siri or Facetime. I mean... remember what a big deal Facetime was? Who has actually USED it? Other than you... Exactly. For the most part, the leading edge Android devices are all very similar with small distinctions (hardware keyboards, bigger or smaller screens, better cameras or higher resolution displays or HDMI out or...). It isn't unlike the Android tablet scene. You'll get arguments about which Android devices really ARE best among Android users - and frequently the LATEST isn't considered the GREATEST. It is more like a traditional, normal, free market model of widget distribution. It is more like the traditional PC channel. Which makes upgrading a lot more PERSONAL of a decision and a lot less ARTIFICIAL of a decision than on iOS devices - where there is a linear upgrade path and you know that the latest is allegedly the greatest (although probably still holding back features they plan on upgrading you with the NEXT revision that comes along). I'm not really knocking that channel strategy for Apple. It is very successful for them in what is becoming their niche segment of the phone market - and Apple does well in the niches. But I think my assessment of how those two markets work is more historically accurate than yours.

MikeChablis
MikeChablis

On the main points, I have to say I agree with Donovan in that we will likely see only baby steps of "perceived" progress this year. Battery issues are an inhibitor to more speed and power and there is nothing new on the horizon there for some time to come. Open standards are the key to obtaining those gains in interoperability. I tag Apple for actively getting in the way there. The thing one can't overcome easily with upgrades is hardware, so, for instance, going to a proprietary interface rather than usb is a major blocker for allowing me to plug my Google Nexus android phone into my volkswagen and getting full functionality. The interoperability and ubiquitous deployment of applications is reliant on common OS and/or widespread standards. Apple's blocking of Flash in their mobile devices has meant a setback in ubiquity in web application and even rich web site support. It is the largest factor that led me to choose an android device over an iOS device but I still feel the damage done to my android choices as app developers scramble to develop multiple versions of apps or limited Html5 versions of rich apps and stop developing flash versions. Android will win out. That is becoming obvious now as the app market has gained momentum but the damage has been done...the setback from one of the major players taking the (non open) low ground will rear it's head this year for sure. I really don't get the argument that having a 6 or 12 month release cycle implies that the expectation is that my device lifecycle is 12 months. I have an android device that can upgrade its OS easily, can add apps easily from an increasingly large marketplace. My supplier(s) (Samsung and Google) are not bent on blocking new apps that compete with my existing apps, blocking me from interoperating with all devices using USB, stopping me from easily upgrading my battery if new technology comes out. Yes, I will pine over the next model that has slightly more power or a better camera or ....whatever that next sexy thing is to stick on a personal communication device.....just not seeing anything big coming soon.

dcolbert
dcolbert

It is more than just pining for that little bump in performance or slightly better camera or battery life or other feature that has been enhanced. It is akin to the early days of PCs, again - where the jump from 8 bit technology with 64k of RAM to 16 bit technology with 4 megabytes of RAM was a HUGE deal in your end user experience. Anyone who was there to make the jump from a Commodore 64 or 128 to an Amiga 1000, 500 or 2000 can put themselves back in touch with what a huge reset on expectations that was. Likewise the jump from the 8088/80286 EGA era to the 32bit 386 era meant a whole new experience. And these changes came relatively rapidly once the flood gates opened. You didn't get too much life out of your current PC before there was another one that was *significantly* better. Would anyone here who has a modern smart-phone volunteer to go back to a 1G Apple iPhone... or worse - an old HTC Win 6.1 phone? My dual core Tegra Android tablet is already feeling long in the tooth compared to the quad-core tablets coming down the pike. You know what I'm interested in there? A *useful* browser based experience on interactive pages like this. It would enhance the usability of my TF101 incredibly if I could browse, read, and comment on web-based forums. Right now, the Transformer can't handle text input in web-based forums. It is too laggy. But I've got a suspicion a quad-core processor might fix that issue. That is what drives very small upgrade cycles... significantly enhanced performance from one generation to another. For most users, traditional PCs may be having an 18 month life-cycle at the cutting edge, but they don't see it browsing the web and sending e-mail... I don't know if PC gamers even notice it anymore. But on these smaller devices.... those little bumps in hardware power are going to translate into a better user experience for the time being. As long as that is the case, you'll see people who desire to be on the cutting edge and the rest of us will WANT to be, even if we can't afford it and have to make due with a less satisfying experience. Just like in the old days. :)

delvideo
delvideo like.author.displayName 1 Like

This is a fantastic idea which is why it will probably never be implemented. On the other hand there was a time when connecting to a network or plugging in devices to the PC involved installing cards and drivers and setting dip switches. It doesn't really feel all that long ago when I got excited about a meg of RAM and a 10 meg hard drive. But the reality is that it has been decades. I think that if your idea is going to come to fruition you are going to have to do it or else it will be decades before it happens and by then we could all be using satellite linked, voice activated ear buds with a semi conscious AI that pretty much works however you want it to.

don.chambers
don.chambers like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 8 Like

Having an Acura RL with built-in by the manufacturer connectivity to my cell phone via Blue tooth for 5 years, I have to say I love the voice dial and the totally hands free use. Nice to use the built in radio and speakers. However, I think you have missed the biggest reason 2012 looks to be a bad year for innovation - lawsuits! While we still allow companies to patent/trademark something as trivial as a color change, we stifle innovation and make patent trolls rich. The original intent was good but the whole concept has been corrupted.

Nahres
Nahres

And open platforms are turned into cash cows!

dcolbert
dcolbert

But there are a billion tech bloggers covering the patent trolls. We've gotten every perspective from every angle from writers a lot smarter than I am when it comes to the ins and outs of patent law. I just don't have enough to add to that conversation. I think it sucks - and I agree with your assessment. It is clear from my perspective that these patent wars are not going to ultimately benefit the consumer. But beyond that... what else is there left to say about that? So I decided to focus on this.

tedcjohnston
tedcjohnston like.author.displayName 1 Like

I look forward to the day I can purchase a data device with the radio I want. I will then purchase data access from carriers who compete on service, coverage, and speed. I can then install whatever voice (VoIP) app I want. If it is a company phone, the app will tie the device into the corporate phone system as an extension. If it is my personal phone, it may be Skype, Google Voice, or Facebook(?). Each piece would stand alone and compete alone. We could mix and match based upon the strengths of each piece.

nwallette
nwallette like.author.displayName 1 Like

As an iPhone user, one reason to look forward to upgrades is that the phone only improves every time. I don't think there's anything about the iPhone 4s that iPhone 4 users don't like, for example. So, you don't end up giving up something from the old one when you upgrade to the new one. (Although, some 3Gs users I know like the curved shape a little better.) As to why the constant longing for the new model, I was perfectly happy with my 3Gs. I upgraded to the 4 because I was eligible for upgrade, and knew someone that would benefit from getting my hand-me-down. If not for that, I might still be using it. (The recipient is.) Although, now that I've been issued a 4s for work, the speed of the dual-core processor is awfully nice. That is one responsive phone.

spork66
spork66 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

it is about time someone actually spoke out and said precisely this. PC manufacturers had to come to the realization that they could not keep all making vendor-specific equipment, so they went to open-computing and PC's took the world by storm - the same could be with mobile devices - phones or whatever, but open is the only way to go!

MikeChablis
MikeChablis like.author.displayName 1 Like

You are so right. It is like trying to stop water from finding the low spot. Eventually, open will win out. However, if you look at history, every market leader tries to protect their base by leveraging their advantage. A common strategy is having featues that won't interoperate with competitor products. Apple is currently making this huge mistake and their empire in the tablet space will fall as will their iPhone market.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Add Sony and IBM to that list - and all 3 did relatively poorly through the 90s as far as PC designs are concerned. Instead, Dell and HP excelled during this era - and they did so on fairly generic PC designs that were inexpensive to manufacture, support, repair and purchase. And I'm sure there are people who are going to argue this point with me - but the fact is that Apple, Sony and IBM largely failed in the desktop PC market (In fact, if it were just Apple desktop and laptop PCs driving Apple, they wouldn't be that remarkable of a company right now). All 3 of these brands carved out niches *mostly* among high-end laptop markets - but beyond that their PC sales were relatively unimpressive. I'm just not *positive* that the old paradigm applies - or applies the *same* to mobile devices like tablets and a phones. Phones in particular, have all adopted a billion different proprietary interfaces from the very start, all had locked down OS platforms that *could* be hacked, but were difficult to do so (I've used BitPim to hack Verizon dumb-phones into smart-phone like performance), and they have been considered throw-away-every-two-year devices. As smart-phones drive that price up to a couple-of-hundred bucks every couple of years for a subsidized phone, we'll see if people get more picky, I think there is already indication that this is taking place (Motorola can't support a half dozen different Webdock keyboards - so they're going to have to develop a single unified i/o port and maintain it from generation to generation... which is a SMART move).

ktuulancehankins
ktuulancehankins

I thought I was getting this type of device (almost) when I bought a Pioneer App-Radio for my iPhone about 3 months ago. What I actually have feels more like a prototype. I can't even begin to list all the things I think are wrong, stupid, or just plain don't work. At first I thought a couple of firmware updates might take care of most of the issues. Then I found out I was already using v2.x. Ouch! Your idea is great. I'd like to see it properly implemented. (I'm THAT CLOSE to yanking the Pioneer and going back to my original radio.)

C Ragsdale
C Ragsdale

You know, what you mentioned about the in-car device feeling somewhat like a prototype device is pretty spot-on if you ask me. I have the same trouble with most non-apple hardware that I buy that is supposed to be compatible with my iPhones. I've had a 3gs and a 4 now. I've got 2 different FM modulators and a desk-phone dock from Altigen called an iFusion. All of these feel like prototypes, and furthermore so do the apps that are work with them. They just don't seem polished. Additionally, one major reason that I feel compelled to move to a 4s is exactly for the reason nwallette mentioned: the processor and overall speed. I've found that my 4 seems slow and apps tend to crash significantly more frequently than they did prior to the 4s and iOS5 release. I realize that this is part of owning technology such as this, and I wouldn't trade my iPhone for a Droid, WinMo, or a CrapBerry, but none-the-less, it does leave me with the want for an upgrade. I reckon it's similar to the gaming hardware deal; every time a newer, more intense game comes out it's time to upgrade the PS, ram, and Video card. I'd love to see some real compatibility and refinement in the coming year. As far as an upgrade goes, we'll see how long I can deal with the crashes!

spaul940
spaul940

In reading about the perfection of the iphone, I never knew that they could crash. What will happen next? P.S. My Samsung Galaxy S running Android 2.3.5 has NEVER crashed.

dcolbert
dcolbert

If Android devices were cars, Ralph Nadar would be writing an expose book about them titled, "Android, unsafe at any clock-speed". Don't get me wrong - I dig my Android devices - but my Droid, Droid 2, Coby Kyros and Android ASUS TF101 are all CONSTANTLY suffering apps hanging, Force Closes, and the occasional unplanned hard-reboot. Android is about as stable as Windows NT 4... the only difference is that there is no BSOD before a memory dump (but I can show you a screen-shot of my root folder that is constantly filled with mem-dump logs). Almost every day when I go to turn on my Transformer at SOME point, it is completely powered down and I have to go through a complete cold boot process to get back into it. It happened to me just last night when I went to use it after work. To be fair, this happens on my iPad, but not frequently. Devices crashing are a trivial thing, though. I can't remember a time when my TF101 crashed and hard-cycled *while* I was in the middle of doing something and I *lost* work because of it. That is when a crash becomes irritating. The Transformer usually crashes when it is in standby in my backpack waiting for me to open up and use it. Being that it isn't a server - there is no REAL problem with that other than the annoyance of *wanting* to have it instant-on and having to wait a minute or so for it to boot up. I use an iPod for my mobile music device because the integration and execution is still simply superior to Android devices for this aspect. Android devices do not deliver as rich of a mobile media experience when we're talking about accessory integration across a wide variety of environments (your bedside, your car, your office). It isn't that it can't be done - it just isn't as clean and consistent. Part of that, ironically, is the standardized Apple proprietary USB interface. That would be better for consumers if that interface was an open industry standard and I could buy a single iSimple device that would integrate ANY device that was plug-compatible with my in-car stereo. Instead - for Android head-unit integration - we're still mostly limited to a regular aux-in mini-din plug that only sends audio as a pass-thru. Things could be better.

dcolbert
dcolbert

The integration isn't *perfect*, but it is pretty good. I get the readout on the LCD display of the band, track name, and album - I can skip ahead, back in the track or an entire song, it integrates with the steering wheel controls. I'm pretty happy with it. But it isn't perfect, and it certainly isn't as elegant as the design I suggest in the blog above. It works with all iPod devices from the iPhone 4 down to the original - which is a nice bonus. My wife's iSimple won't charge and iPhone 3G or later (or Touch or iPad) without an adapter.

tnteveret1
tnteveret1

I don't understand, I have many ideas for smart phone innovations for 2012. How do I share them and hopefully profit from them myself?