Mobile technology moves at a dizzying pace, and it’s a wonderful time to work in this field. Mobile devices are more powerful than ever, and have shrunk to miniscule sizes. It is worth looking at the major categories for mobile devices and the technologies that drive them to appreciate the state of the mobile space.
After a lot of thought, I have settled on five devices and technologies that I feel are the best or that have the biggest impact on mobile at this particular point in time. Given how fast the mobile space is evolving, these are fleeting choices at best. They are purely objective, based on my being platform agnostic, and determined after using many devices and technologies over an extended period.
Mobile tech is a very personal thing, and your choices may differ. If so, share in the comments below what you think is the best in these categories, and why.
MacBook Air (either size) — There are laptops of all shapes and sizes, some that bend and twist and others with a more conventional form. There are good ones, bad ones, and others in between.
Having used dozens of laptops from every major OEM, after a year of ownership I still find the MacBook Air to be the best laptop at the time of this writing. Mine is the smaller 11.6-inch model, but the 13.3-inch Air is just as good for those wanting a slightly bigger display.
The design of the MacBook Air is the standard laptops are judged against, and with good reason. It is as thin and light as any laptop. As a result the Air is one of the most portable and powerful laptops on the market. That’s the very definition of mobile when you throw in outstanding battery life.
You may not be a fan of Apple’s OS X, but it is a great platform. This combined with the MacBook Air’s hardware and reasonable pricing (starting at $899) make it the best laptop currently available.
Kindle Fire HDX (either size) — This probably won’t be a popular choice, but the newest tablets from Amazon are as good as anything out there. The good hardware and outstanding displays make either the 7- or 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX the best tablets in this writer’s view.
It doesn’t run pure Android, but then few tablets on the market do. Amazon’s Fire OS is optimized to give a good user experience on the Fire hardware, and it certainly does.
The iPads are great tablets, I’ve owned several, but the Kindle Fire HDX is the one I usually reach for to do typical tablet functions such as surfing the web, hitting up the social networks, and consuming content in general.
I listen to a lot of music on tablets, and the audio integrated into the Kindle Fire HDX (both sizes) leaves other tablets far behind. Listening to music, it is amazing how good the audio is from such tiny speakers integrated into these small tablets.
When it comes to using a keyboard with a tablet then the nod goes to the iPad. It works with wireless keyboards fluidly, and there is a good selection of third-party keyboards to choose from. But when it comes to pure tablet use, the Kindle Fire HDX can't be beat.
There are good Android tablets out there, I’ve used dozens of them and owned several, but the Kindle Fire HDX replaced the one I owned most recently. I haven’t regretted that decision, even though the Android tablet was a top-rated tablet from Samsung.
There are lots of good tablets on the market, but none as good as the Kindle Fire HDX for the price.
Nokia Lumia 1520 — Phones strike a personal chord with each individual. They are used up close and always close at hand. Each phone appeals to folks in different ways, and if you showed 10 phones to 10 different people you’d likely get totally different opinions from them all.
After playing with the Lumia 1520 a few times, I am impressed with this big phone. The display is gorgeous, and the casing feels good while being used.
Nokia has a reputation for putting good cameras on its phones, and the 1520 has one of the best. The 20MP camera with Nokia PureView technology rivals dedicated cameras. This makes the Lumia 1520 a very important phone to have in the pocket.
Windows Phone doesn't have much of the market, but it's evolving into a nice smartphone OS. It is well integrated into the operation of the Nokia hardware, yielding a nice device.
There are lots of good smartphones available on all of the major mobile platforms. The time I’ve spent with the Nokia Lumia 1520 convinces me it’s currently the one to beat.
Most important mobile technology
mHealth — Mobile technology has no greater potential to improve life than in the area of mobile healthcare, commonly called mHealth. There are many facets of mHealth, and one of the most significant is the segment of remote patient monitoring (RPM).
RPM is the use of mobile tech, of which smartphones play a big role, to regularly monitor patients with chronic conditions. There are many companies actively researching unique applications for RPM that have the potential to revolutionize healthcare in the near future.
In these early days of RPM, healthcare providers are already able to regularly monitor and treat patients with mobility issues. They can treat patients remotely, eliminating the often difficult trips to the clinic. They can change medications and treatments on the fly, based on changing conditions of the patient who is comfortably sitting at home.
RPM has even greater implications for those who otherwise have no access to healthcare providers. Patients in remote villages can be treated by providers hundreds of miles away. For many of these patients this is the first access to healthcare they’ve ever had.
In Africa, there are some areas where counterfeit pharmaceuticals are a major problem, jeopardizing the already spotty healthcare available to those in remote areas. There is technology already being used that allows those buying prescribed drugs in such areas to find out if they are counterfeit or not, right at the point of sale. This is a huge step forward for those in great need of proper treatment to ensure they are getting the drugs, and thus the healthcare they so desperately need.
iOS — All of the mobile platforms are pretty good, and most people have their favorite. There are good things and not so good things about each of the major OSes in mobile. Particular favorite features aside, iOS is the most important platform in mobile in this writer’s view for several reasons.
Apple’s mobile OS is powering hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads, making it one of the major platforms. Customer satisfaction with these devices is consistently high, so even though some feel that iOS is getting long in the tooth, paying customers are happy.
Having such a large installed user base is important, but even more so is the ecosystem that iOS fuels. There are lots of apps for iOS, and a big pile of money being made by developers.
The same is true for the accessory market. The number of iPhone and iPad cases for sale is staggering, and no doubt millions are being made by the many companies selling them.
The amount of money generated by iOS makes it the top mobile platform at the time of this publication.
Future disruptor in mobile
Chrome OS — This will no doubt be controversial, but I firmly believe that the lightweight OS from Google will end up setting the mobile space on its ear. The Chromebook is just starting to take off in the market, and the way things are going it may soon offer serious competition to both OS X and Windows.
This disruption will come from the next generation of computer users. Chromebooks are hitting the education sector hard, and this will have the result of an entire generation that not only doesn’t feel a need for OS X or Windows, they won’t know anything about them.
These kids will grow up familiar with Chromebooks and the OS that runs them. They will continue to use them when they reach adulthood because we all prefer using the technology with which we are most familiar. This will disrupt computing as we know it today, and that includes mobile tech, a major segment of computing.