Science and Technology: The evolution of the pocket computer

Yeah, I know… I’m a broken record…

But we can see the future of the pocket computer in a variety of new devices starting to come onto the market that transcend the phone moniker in favor of becoming pocket computing devices. Of all the ones announced so far, I’m most interested in the potential of the recently announced Microsoft Duo, a dual-screen, folding device running Android and designed to be carried in your pocket.

If the Duo lives up to its promise, it will be the first true “phablet”, a pocket device with the power of a table but that can be carried everywhere. Further, because it’s plugged into an existing ecosystem of apps, it could be able to do all of the things you can already do with your so-called phone, but with the focus on computing rather than talking.

I am convinced devices like the Duo are the future of pocket computers. This future means unleashing these devices from the legacy of the phone-based past and focusing on them as productivity tools and information devices.

Granted, this is early technology in this transition, so it may take a few generations before it reaches its prime, but the fact is the Duo and devices like it represent how many of us are already using our current phones. With these devices unleased, we could see more progress in our relationship with the information revolution.

DLH

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Science and Technology: Pocket computers and the scourge of e-waste

In my last post, I talked about my complaint that the computers we carry in our pockets are still being designed as if their primary purpose was to be a phone. To me, one of the main reasons this is a complaint at all is that they are designed to go obsolete after a time.

The fact is that most smartphones are still very capable computing devices when they get replaced. Yet, because they are designed imagining their primary purpose is to be a phone, they are also designed to be locked to a manufacturer, locked to a carrier, and locked to an operating system. As a result, when they cease to fulfill the requirements of any one of those considerations, they’re unable to do much more.

Yes, it is possible to “upgrade” some modern smartphones with newer versions of the operating system they’re locked to, and some few can be upgraded beyond that, but almost always only if you’re a technical expert willing to mess with some very technical stuff and possibly destroy the device.

The first and best thing smartphone manufacturers, carriers, and OS makers could do is end their tyranny over deprecated devices. Providing a way to repurpose these devices after they no longer able to meet other requirements would extend their lives and allow them to perform untold numbers of other tasks.

The best driving purpose behind such a repurposing would be to end the scourge of e-waste that otherwise still useful but deprecated devices represent. We could keep millions of smartphones from becoming waste simply by giving them a way to do something else.

Yes, that means that some may take new smartphones and do exactly that. So what? We don’t do this to any other computing device, so why do we do it with smartphones?

It’s a simple solution that could unlock all sorts of potential we haven’t even imagined yet. The question is not whether we should, but when we will.

DLH

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Science and Technology: Can we talk about pocket computers for a bit?

So, here’s the thing… I know most of us think of that digital leash we carry as being a “phone”, and I guess, in some way, because of how it was manufactured, it is in some way a phone. Except, really, it’s not.

I know some people still talk on it, but if you look at the vast majority of what most people do with that thing we call a phone, the fact is it’s really a pocket computer hamstrung by the fact we keep thinking of it as a phone.

We need to stop that.

I know it’s a radical transformation in thinking, but we have these incredibly capable devices, connected to the entire world in multiple ways, yet we insist on continuing to think of it mostly as a more sophisticated version of the thing we had hanging on the wall in the 80s.

It’s not.

In fact, it is so much more than just a phone that calling it that refers to the function that is almost an afterthought compared to all the things it can do. It’s a camera. It’s a GPS. It’s a wireless messaging device. It’s a word processor, game console. video conferencing device, shopping portal…

In fact, it’s a computer. One you carry in your pocket.

If we stopped thinking of this device as a phone and started thinking of it as a computer, I suspect the way the technology would develop would be freed from the fetters of when it was only a phone and become a companion, or maybe even a replacement, for the thing sitting on our desktop or in our backpack; a device geared toward connecting us to the world and allowing us to create in ways we can only imagine right now.

Can we do that? Because I’m ready for it? Are you?

DLH

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Worldview: Science and Technology: Galaxy Fold: Samsung’s $2000 missed chance

I’ve been watching the coming of the now revealed Galaxy Fold for some time now, and while I am cautiously impressed with the technology the are releasing, I also think Samsung–and really almost all device manufacturers–have missed the point.

Samsung had an opportunity with the Galaxy Fold to change the rules about mobile devices by no longer catering to the luxury flagship notion of innovation. I get Samsung had costs associate with its product, but the fact is that, at $2000 or more a device, it’s already a loss leader in almost every sort of way, so why not take a risk and get the device into the hands of the kinds of people most likely to use and prove the technology and least likely to be able to afford $2000 to pay for it.

What kind of people am I taking about? Well, mostly the creative kind: writers, artists, photographers, and producers of various types who can honestly use a tablet in their pockets and would help Samsung realize the investment they’ve made in the long run. Instead, the device will get consigned to the dustbin of interesting but unrealized gadgets in the same way as Microsoft’s early slate PCs and Googles Glass.

I think the company that will prove this technology will be the one that takes more than just a risk on the tech. They need to take a risk on users too, and there’s yet to be one willing to do so.

DLH

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Worldview: Science and Technology: Galaxy Fold: Samsung’s $2000 missed chance

I’ve been watching the coming of the now revealed Galaxy Fold for some time now, and while I am cautiously impressed with the technology the are releasing, I also think Samsung–and really almost all device manufacturers–have missed the point.

Samsung had an opportunity with the Galaxy Fold to change the rules about mobile devices by no longer catering to the luxury flagship notion of innovation. I get Samsung had costs associate with its product, but the fact is that, at $2000 or more a device, it’s already a loss leader in almost every sort of way, so why not take a risk and get the device into the hands of the kinds of people most likely to use and prove the technology and least likely to be able to afford $2000 to pay for it.

What kind of people am I taking about? Well, mostly the creative kind: writers, artists, photographers, and producers of various types who can honestly use a tablet in their pockets and would help Samsung realize the investment they’ve made in the long run. Instead, the device will get consigned to the dustbin of interesting but unrealized gadgets in the same way as Microsoft’s early slate PCs and Googles Glass.

I think the company that will prove this technology will be the one that takes more than just a risk on the tech. They need to take a risk on users too, and there’s yet to be one willing to do so.

DLH

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Worldview: Science and Technology: It’s impossible, eh?

So, Amazon engaged in an amazing bit of free advertising Sunday night when it announced its research initiative, Prime Air, on 60 Minutes. From the moment the piece aired, sectors of the internet have been abuzz with the news.

But what has amused me the most has been the response of the technology media, led by the likes of Wired. If these writers are to be believed, if man was meant to receive packages by air, God would have given bicycle messengers wings.

Certainly, I’m being sarcastic, but I wonder if these writers really look around themselves at the age we actually live in very often . There is a very good chance you are reading this post on a device you pulled from your pocket that contains more processing power than the entire Apollo 13 mission–spacecraft and ground stations combined–that functions as a phone, network access device, and computer and was produced just 137 years after the phone was invented, 40 years after the cell phone was invented, and 21 years after the smartphone was invented.

That’s a course of development 40 times faster than it took to get from the wheel to the car.

My point here is that history is replete with examples of  people, especially the so-called well informed, declaring that something is impossible because it is different or outside the mold of what we consider normal or beyond our current technological means. It’s actually quite amusing how often the march of progress has proven such Luddites wrong.

Now, I am not saying that Amazon will succeed, or that drone delivery is the thing of the future, but I am saying that the idea is now there and that someone is going to figure out how to make some version of it–maybe even a version we haven’t imagined yet–work. And when they do, we can look back at these prognostications and laugh like we do at the early 19th century writers who said people would not be able to breath if they went faster than twenty miles per hour.

DLH

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Science and Technology: Samsung Galaxy Note II, First Impression

It’s huge.

No really. In most ways, it’s just another current generation Android device.  Other than the interesting addition of a stylus and some apps that use it, nothing else really stands out other than the battery life and the fact that it has a nearly tablet-sized screen.

In other words, it’s huge.

Now, for someone like me who has big hands and has had problems with the small form factor of previous phones, the size is not a problem, but I hardly represent the average in that regard. Even though I do have big hands, I still find myself using the phone more often like a tablet than I do like a phone.

I have no problem with that kind of usage because I kind of bought the phone for that purpose, but I can see how it could become off-putting for quite a few people. It turns out that there really is a maximum size to a smartphone, and the Note II is pretty much it.

As for the function of the phone itself, it does what I want it to do. The stylus and bundled apps seem a little gimmicky, but I suspect that’s mostly because there are virtually no non-Samsung apps out there that utilize the capability. If such apps materialize, the stylus could become very useful indeed.

The screen real estate means that a lot of apps just work better on the Note II. They’re easier to see, read, and interact with simply because they’re bigger. I especially enjoy interacting with apps like Evernote more on the Note II than I did on previous phones.

The other advantage of the Note II is battery life. Given that the phone is so physically large, it has a lot of room for a big battery, and the one Samsung included is easily up to a day’s worth of tasks without needing to be recharged. This is a big change from previous Android phones I have owned where battery life was an issue.

Overall, I would recommend the Note II to anyone who has needs similar to my own based on this first impression. For everyone else, I’d suggest looking at other phones first.

DLH

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Science and Technology: Why I am buying a Samsung Galaxy Note II

It turns out that I have always been a PDA (as in personal data assistant) sort of guy. I loved my Jornadas and was suitably happy with my iPaqs. They did the things I needed them to do as a technology guy, writer, and geek.

As a result, I was sad when the advent of the smartphone killed the PDA off. Now, some people would argue that the smartphone was merely the melding of the cell phone and the PDA, but I would argue they are wrong. Smartphones have never really been very good phones and they have certainly been, at best, adequate PDAs for the kinds of things I tend to use them for.

What kind of things, you might ask? For example, I wrote all 70,000 words of the draft of my first novel on one of my iPaqs. I used my first Jornada as a mobile data collection tool way before apps like Evernote. The point is that I don’t just need a mobile address book and calendar. I need a mini computer that I can almost always be sure to have with me.

Which brings me back to the Frankenstein’s monster that is the modern smartphone. I’ve had several over the years, including HPs early Windows phones, a couple of Motorola entries, and HTC Fuze, and now a Droid 2 Global. They’ve all sucked at what I want them to be best at doing.

What I’ve discovered that I miss most about my PDAs that my smartphones have been terrible at is acting as a kind of personal tricorder. It’s not enough to have a camera and a note taking app. Everything on the device has to integrate and work the way I want when I want it to. My PDAs did that. My smartphones don’t.

Which then brings me to the Samsung Galaxy Note II. The reviews all agree that it is, at best, a mediocre phone. I don’t care because I’ve made about one voice call in the past six months. I have enough roll over minutes to never pay for them again.

No, what the Note II brings to me is the first smartphone designed to collect data. As a writer and a technologist, collecting data is the heart of what I do. The Note II promises to do it well, and that’s the best selling point any company could have for me.

I will grant that the Note II isn’t for everyone. If you use your smartphone as a phone, don’t buy it. If you prefer the tablet form factor over the smartphone form factor, don’t buy it. But, if you need a tablet-like device that you can carry with you everywhere you go, I think the Note II is the right choice.

I will find out soon enough if I’m right. And I will be sure to let you know what I find out.

DLH

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