Time for the next big jump in mobile tech

Time for the next big jump in mobile tech

Summary: While there is lots of activity in both the smartphone and tablet spaces, nothing really new has come along in a while. It's time for the next big thing.

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The smartphone and tablet spaces are suffering from the doldrums. It seems that everything being done has been done before, and done repeatedly. It's as if the entire mobile tech world had to slow down and catch its breath given the rapid advancement of the past few years.

It's time for something to happen to shake things up again to the manic levels of the recent past. Maybe the iPhone 5 will help start that, but realistically nothing in the numerous leaked rumors would indicate that's the case. Unless Apple has "one more thing" up its sleeve.

LTE in smartphones is now commonplace in the US and the new iPhone better have that inside. Nothing else jumps out at me that might shake things up to the next level for phones.

The Android train keeps steamrolling along, but with nothing obvious on the horizon to push the platform up to the next level. It seems Android is in a holding pattern like iOS with modest improvements over time but nothing major. Or exciting for that matter.

The tablet space is not much better, although Google did shake things up with the Nexus 7. That was due to the low price of $199 frankly, as hardware-wise the Nexus 7 didn't push the envelope. It even stepped back from existing standards by foregoing a back camera due to price constraints, but that's not a big deal.

Jelly Bean improved the tablet user experience nicely for Android, but rather than a big jump in the status quo it only brings the platform up to existing standards. There's just nothing totally new and innovative in Android on the tablet front.

To be fair the same is true with the iPad. While a smaller iPad may shake up sales, it's not likely to bring something wildly innovative to the table. Apple may surprise us but that doesn't seem likely given the price constraints the market is going to put on a small iPad.

The Surface tablets from Microsoft will start appearing late this year, and while innovative there is nothing earthshakingly new there. Windows on tablets is nothing new and while WIndows 8 has that touch optimization working for it there's nothing radically new over the competition. Different platform, similar function.

We'll see Windows Phone 8 hit the smartphone later this year, and while it looks to be the best Microsoft phone OS yet there's nothing that sends the platform into new territory. The same applies to BlackBerry 10, it's new but only brings the platform up to the level of the competition.

The Next Big Thing in smartphones and tablets is surely being polished in some secret workshop somewhere. What it might be is not clear, and certainly not when it might arrive. No doubt it's coming as a lot of good folks are working in this area. We'll recognize the next big thing when it comes, and I am ready and (not so patiently) waiting.

Topics: Mobility, Android, iPad, Smartphones, Tablets

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32 comments
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  • Better, cheaper infrastructure

    One big innovation could be outside of the devices themselves: infrastructure. Down here in Podunkville, Florida, I can barely get any cell service at all, and there's no LTE within 30 miles or more. Plus, with LTE usage pricing still quite considerable, it's hard to consider replacing terrestrial broadband with wireless.

    But if either of those were to innovate so that America had ubiquitous, cheap, all-you-can-eat wireless broadband, we'd probably see a lot more interesting things happening.
    David Gewirtz
  • IT/Tech is oversaturated...

    I'm sure they'll come out with 'smart' appliances en masse soon (which really isn't that interesting anyways). I'm still waiting for affordable/portable holographic projection capable devices :)
    dtdono0
  • BATTERIES!

    Ok, so we pretty much have already had every kind of innovation in cellphones. I mean, with pureview technologies, even in the imaging front (traditionally said to be impossible to make small, since lenses take space) cellphones are catching up.

    However, we really need bigger batteries, seriously. Phones like the Razr MAXX do it by taking an extremely thin phone (the Razr) and stick on a bigger battery, but what we need is new battery tech to power our phones.
    the_tyrant
    • Nokia's PureView

      Is a bit of a mix. It did up the ante for what a camera in a phone can do (excess megapixels essentially allow a dudital zoom to look good, a short zoom anyway). But it's still just skirting diffraction limits, not good in low light, and it maintains the question about better cameras... the N808 is about twice the thickness of the various A-List smartphones.
      Hazydave
  • No display is a good display

    I think 'the next big thing' will be some kind of new display technology that either paints a raster directly on the retina, or embeds it in contact lenses or eyeglasses. The object is to get a 'big screen' experience without a physically big screen.
    Robert Hahn
  • Photo/Video Revolution

    Meld the Nokia 808 Pureview 41mp camera to Windows 8, and you will see a quantum leap in photography and video quality from your smartphone. I've looked at numerous photographs and videos shot with the Pureview system, and the quality is as good as DSLR. In fact, with Nokia's oversampling technique (using 41mp to generate a 5mp picture), even 20x plus cropping brings in stunning details not visible in the original image (e.g. - like seeing someone looking out of a window hidden by trees in the original).
    dksmidtx
  • We are still waiting for the "smart" phone

    What we have today are phones (and tablets) that are nothing more than traditional Windows like computers in a 10 year old Windows tablet like frame. There actually has been very little innovation in this market since Bill Gates envisioned all of this and started us down the path.

    The next revolution will come in the form of the first "smart" computers. We are currently confusing "ability to install more dumb applications" with "smart". The truth is that smartphones are no smarter than dumbphones, they simply have more apps. Apple gets none of the credit here since the ability to install more apps is thanks to battery, CPU, GPU, and wireless technologies, none of which Apple had anything to do with.

    Siri (and I'm talking about Siri pre-Apple) was a step towards "smart". The problem with Siri (haha, THE problem, as if there is only one) is that it is all voice based and it is still very restricted in what it can figure out. I want to be able to describe a goal and have my smart computer take everything it knows about me to propose one or more ways of accomplishing that goal. Apple is actually moving us in the WRONG direction with millions of silo'd apps. Much older systems like Windows Mobile were actually far superior in this aspect because apps could share information, leading to a system that was smarter than any 1 app could ever be. Apple is trying to keep us stuck with dumb iPhones and is actively holding back innovation in this area.

    At least companies like Microsoft and Google are still investing in real innovation while Apple worries more about how to ban rectangular devices with rounded corners.
    toddbottom3
    • So, are we going for a walk, or what.

      "I want to be able to describe a goal and have my smart computer take everything it knows about me to propose one or more ways of accomplishing that goal."

      You SAY you want that, but you don't. Actually having that happen would be worse than finding out that your dog can talk.
      Robert Hahn
      • I know that your boss had his feelings on the matter

        I know you and your boss think we are all too stupid to know what we want but I'll respectfully disagree.

        Think about trying to setup a time to get tother with a friend or a family member. Don't know about you and yours but for me, that is a time consuming and annoying process. It would be great if I could tell my smart device that I wanted to have dinner with my good friend Robert Hahn and then my smart device and your smart device would get together to work out the details and present us with a proposal that, 95% of the time, will be right the first time. If the family member were out of town, it would look up flight schedules, figure out if I needed to rent a car, etc.

        The Personal Digital Assistant is a lie. It hasn't been invented yet. All we've invented is the Personal Digital Database. A real Personal Digital Assistant would replace the need (or want) for a Personal Human Assistant.

        Think about what was so "revolutionary" about Siri. You didn't need to tell Siri to go to open the weather app and show you the forecast for Denver, Colorado so you could figure out if it was going to rain today and therefore whether you needed to bring an umbrella. Instead, you asked Siri if you needed an umbrella today and Siri would figure it out for you and answer "Yes" or "No". Even better would be if Siri could just tell you at 6:30AM whether or not you needed to be concerned about any meteorological event.

        There is NOTHING smart about the smartphone. Our devices still sit there, for the most part, like dumb servants, waiting not only for us to tell them what we want but also how to get it done. I want a Pepper Potts (in more ways than one). I can't afford a Pepper Potts and besides, my wife would never allow it.

        I sincerely understand the desire of people like you who want to be restricted by their tech. I sincerely hope for your sake that Apple keeps on putting out stuff that restricts you and is therefore perfect for you. I personally can't wait though for someone, anyone, to finally innovate in this market because I've been completely unimpressed with the progress we've made since the original Pocket PC.
        toddbottom3
        • Yeah

          Good idea. Have your machine call my machine.

          In the meantime I shall continue to be terrified by the prospect that someone, somewhere, will develop a machine that can take independent action. I know you think you want this, but that way lies The Borg, the Matrix, and Terminators. And yeah, it's probably inevitable. I just hope to be on the other side of the grass before it happens.
          Robert Hahn
    • the fire is about to go out

      As Abraham Lincoln once put it "The Patent System added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius." but not any more
      sarai1313
    • “traditional Windows like computers”

      Funny, the ones actually running Windows haven’t done so well.
      ldo17
      • get real

        and go back to your apple toys
        sarai1313
  • Transformer hybrid tablet design from ASUS

    James, you keep saying you're a user of a bunch of different gadgets and yet you completely failed to mention the most innovative tablet in the last year starting with the original Transformer tablet.

    The hybrid tablet design from ASUS has been transformative and will expand that into the Windows realm once ASUS releases both their 800 and 600 Windows tablets.

    The dockable keyboard with extra battery and ports will do away with traditional laptops and tablets. It will combine both of these separate markets into one. Will set a new paradigm for user interface that includes both touch screen and keyboard. And will also be augmented by voice assistance.
    laequis
    • The Transformer is certainly an innovative product . . .

      . . . and yet it is a long way from being a high selling tablet. The same with the ASUS pad-phone; another very innovative product, yet it too has quite low sales. Those are just two examples of innovation that have not captured sales that one might have expected. I don't pretend to know why, but I would have expected better sales for both. What it does suggest is that innovation, but itself, is not enough.
      Wakemewhentrollsgone
  • kinect

    MS has been working on getting kinect worked into computers and tablets so we can control our devices with... some kind of sign language. that might do it, and we will probably start seeing this really come out to the public next year.

    you could also mention Google Glass, the effort to push wearable mobile devices. personally I think it looks really stupid. maybe in another 20 years when you can fit the whole device inside a regular sized pair of aviators and control over the OS is really worked out it will be up to par.
    theoilman
  • Maybe if Apple...

    and other companies would quit with the frivolous lawsuits, they can actually focus their energies on innovation. Would hate to guess at the millions of dollars and engineering man-hours spent on supporting these lawsuits when they could have been building better gadgets and innovating.
    jkohut
    • Quit With The Bloody Lawsuits!

      Absolutely! They’re a needless distraction, not to mention a huge money sink, which is achieving nothing at all but bringing the whole business to a standstill.
      ldo17
  • There have been a few things....

    The idea of touch screen glass that can transform into a physical keyboard is one that I find the most intriguing so far though.
    cmwade1977
  • Yeah ...

    .. 'cos technology is moving sooo slooowly.

    Seriously, what drugs are you on?
    Scarface Claw