Info & Answers
The Future of Cell Phones?
Apple has bucked the idea that great handsets must be made by telco veterans.
April 17, 2008 by Arlen Schweiger

Good or bad, the 1980s are making a comeback with pop icons like the Rubik’s Cube and Transformers. We can’t say the same, thankfully, about boxy TVs, enormous “hi-fi” consoles and brick-size mobile telephones. This decade is all about sleek.

The latest trendsetter is Apple’s push buttonless iPhone, which hit store shelves in June of 2007. Reviews have been positive, with the chief complaint being slow Internet service.

Internet on a phone is still a marvel. Especially on a device that also lets you store a thousand songs or your favorite episodes of “The Office.” Five years ago, we couldn’t have predicted a phone with so many services and no number pads for dialing.

So what impact will the iPhone have? A ton, says David Chamberlain, principal wireless analyst for research firm In-Stat. “The first thing is the touchscreen. That’s just not done [on phones], and the iPhone’s is terrific and easy to use,” he says. “Then you think of the combination of Wi-Fi and cellular, and that’s pretty well outside mainstream phones.”

Chamberlain, who last year authored the research report Big Trends in Future Cellphones 2007–2012, says those are just the obvious successes that will be mimicked. Apple has people paying bigger bucks for mobile, and it bucked the idea that great handsets must be made by telco veterans, notes Chamberlain. These effects will inspire more money for R&D by more companies.

What else will be on the phones of 2012? “When we asked people what they would be willing to pay for to have added to their phones, the number one thing was a GPS system,” Chamberlain says. Other desired features included larger displays, better ease of use and online help instruction for the phone.

What about HD video? Chamberlain says that’s not too high on people’s wish lists, but things could change based on the proliferation and capabilities of mobile broadcast networks. We might need pocket flat-panel TVs, though. “A friend of mine is a Navy pilot, and [when] he talks about the F-14 Tomcat that protects aircraft carriers, [he says,] ‘It takes a big plane to do a big job.’ I think video’s a big job,” says Chamberlain, “and it will take a big cell phone.” Let’s just hope it’s not ’80s big.

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Arlen Schweiger - Contributor, Electronic House Magazine
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for and Electronic House magazine.

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