How smart do we want smartphones? Do we really need them?
In basic terms, a smartphone can be defined as a cellular telephone with advanced features and capabilities. In addition to being enabled to access the internet, a smartphone sports numerous built-in applications. Some of the features of modern smartphones include, but they are not limited to, video and still cameras, e-mail messaging, MP4 and MP4 players, Web browsing, etc. In essence, a tool that was once used for basic calling and texting capabilities has been transformed into a mobile personal computer.
Smartphones have come a long way. According to Krajci and Cummings (2013, p. 12), "many credit IBM and BellSouth's Simon Personal Communicator (1994) with being the first smartphone." As the authors further point out, Simon sought to merge the diverse features of cellular devices with those of personal digital assistants (PDAs), thus setting the stage for the further development of basic communication devices to the modern day smartphones. One sure factor regarding today's (and future) smartphones is the further enhancement of their capabilities. The all important questions that ought to be answered on this front are; how smart do we want smartphones? Do we really need smartphones?
There is no doubt whatsoever that smartphones have made our lives easier. In addition to enabling us to perform functions that we could have only imagined two decades ago (from placing into our palms important utilities such as flashlights to tracking the miles we have run using special apps), smartphones have redefined the art of communication by making it possible for us to interact with others in multiple and convenient ways. Today's smartphones have capabilities that some of us would have neatly dismissed as unachievable a couple of decades ago. Their portability as well as programmability means that numerous applications can be squeezed into this small device to make our lives even easier, or more complicated -- depending on the perspective one adopts. To make the smart phone even smarter, apps of all kinds are being developed each passing day. These include apps that tap into the creativity of individuals (such as photo modification and music creation apps), apps that provide palm-held utilities (such as flashlight and leveling apps), entertainment apps (such as podcasting apps and internet radio), health and fitness apps (such as calorie consumption and heart rate apps), productivity apps (such as scheduling and task management apps), fund management and personals finance apps (such as spending, bill tracking, and cash flow apps), etc. These and many other functionalities make smartphones, well, really smart. Going forward, more apps are being developed to make smartphones even smarter. New functionalities are also being added, advancements that are likely to further transform the lives of everyone in the society.
In seeking to determine just how smart we want smartphones, it would be prudent to take a sneak preview into the future of smartphones. It is important to note that there are those who are convinced that smartphones cannot get any better -- that they have reached a point where real improvement is no longer possible. La (2014) disputes this view. In her opinion, smartphones of the future will be even smarter -- they will reach even greater heights. One development that may not be too far away has got to do with the integration of augmented reality into smartphones. In basic terms, an augmented reality system, as Furht (2011, p. 311) points out "supplements the real world with virtual (computer-generated) objects that appear to coexist in the same space as the real world." The said virtual or computer generated sensory input/objects could include GPS data, graphics, video, and sound. In essence, augmented reality avails more information to users by incorporating computer data into what individuals encounter/see in real life. For instance, thanks to augmented reality, pointing the phone camera to some building or place would generate an information overlay regarding the boutiques, cafes, or similar services available. It is not difficult to see just how this smart function would benefit travelers and about everyone else who is not familiar with a given locality. The future will provide even more possibilities, thanks to augmented reality. In addition to facilitating location searches, the further enhancement of recognition accuracy will make it easier for people to recognize things, places, and even people. Being portable devices, smartphones provide a sound platform for the practical utilization of augmented reality.
In the opinion of David Ginsberg, the vice president for market research at Intel, the computing power of smartphones is likely to increase (Harjani, 2014). In his own words, "mobile devices will have the ability to understand who and where their user is and what they are trying to get done: identity, location and context" (Harjani, 2014). Take the example of an individual who has been conducting an online search for a pair of shoes. Should the said individual venture out, smartphones of the future could just be able to alert such an individual of a nearby store with similar shoes on sale (Harjani, 2014). This will end up making the lives of smartphone users simpler and even more exiting.
As smartphones get smarter, the user experience is also likely to be enhanced even further. Currently, users have to interact with most smartphones through touch screens, miniature keyboards and more recently, eye movement. Things are likely to get more interesting going forward; with new technology permitting an even higher level of interaction -- via mere gestures, facial expressions, brain waves, etc. In the words of Simonite (2014), "future smartphones could have specialized hardware that uses simulated neurons to do things like recognize & #8230;.faces." The possibilities are limitless. The voice recognition systems currently being utilized in smartphone devices are also likely to be developed and fine tuned even further. This will also make smartphones truly personal items, able to not only interact but also 'recognize' their owners. In addition to making the lives of users easier -- there will be no need to keep taping away -- such advancements are also likely to further enhance the security features of future devices.
According to La (2014), smartphones are not about to hit an evolutionary wall any time soon. Applications and new features will continue to be developed -- making our devices even smarter and in the process, making our lives easier. In the final analysis, therefore, any individual making the claim that today's smartphones "are good as they will ever be simply lacks the imagination and vision" (La, 2014). The answer to the earlier question -- just how smart do we want smartphones -- is, very smart.
Do we really Need Smartphones?
There is no question at all that smartphones have changed us: from the way we interact to the way we conduct business to the way we execute tasks day in day out. The real quick and simple answer to the question of whether or not we really need smartphones would be -- yes we do! Here is why:
To begin with, we all need to communicate with others, be they friends, members of the family, workmates, business associates, or seniors in the workplace. Phones not enabled with smartphone capabilities mostly permit communication by way of text messages or phone calls. However, in the modern day, communication has assumed a new dimension. Today, communication entails the sending of complex multimedia files to peers, video calling, and interaction through a variety of social media sites. One could be able to do all these with a smartphone.
Next, the smartphone has merged a wide range of devices that would have been cumbersome to carry around. In the past, when traditional phones were 'king', an individual, say a business person, would often need a PDA to keep his/her life organized, a phone to keep in touch with the outside world, an e-book reader to read his favorite bestseller, etc. This is not to mention that when travelling, such an individual would also be required to perhaps carry along a camera to capture memorable moments, a spotlight (just incase), and an MP3 player to keep him/herself entertained. Thanks to miniaturized hardware and the development of thousands of apps, all these can be packed into one portable device, the smartphone.
Third, it is important to note that in the past half decade, we have witnessed thousands of useful and creative applications being developed for smartphone devices -- applications meant to make the life of the device owner more productive, organized, and interesting. Thanks to these apps, the functionality of smartphones seems almost limitless. Some of the most popular productivity apps include, but they are not limited to, Todoist, Anti-social, and Quip. Smartphones can also be equipped with health and fitness apps like Runtastic PRO, Workout Trainer, and My Tracks; and personal finance apps like My Budget Book, Debt Payoff Plan, and Money Manager. While productivity apps come in handy in helping an individual stay focused, better manage tasks, and meet deadlines; health and fitness apps come in…