Wednesday, 19 June 2013

How mobile technology is taking over

The iPhone started the rise of modern mobile computing.
Image: BuzzFeed
Mobile technology has made so much progress this past decade or so. Things that we never thought would be possible to do on a mobile phone are now common features on all smartphones. Some of which we might even take for granted from time to time. Being able to do more things on our phones and tablets makes life easier. More convenient. Want to know tomorrow's weather? Check your phone. Want to know the score to last night's game? Check your phone. Need to convert ounces to grams for that recipe? Use your phone. Need to send an important letter to someone but don't have a scanner? Take a picture using your phone, make some adjustments and e-mail it from your phone. Need directions to some place? Use your phone. The possibilities are practically endless for what we can do using our mobile devices. What ever you think of, there's probably an app for that. But there have been some casualties along the way. For everything our phones "learn" to do, the old ways of doing that task die a little more day by day. Sure those technologies and methods are still present today, but they aren't as widely used as they once were. How many of the old ways of the past have fallen to the rise of smartphones and tablets? Quite a few I'm sure.

Watches
Will the smartwatch be a common sight in a few years?
Image: Kickstarter
I know, many people still wear watches. Even I do. Occasionally. But since we have been able to do more and more with our smartphones, we are almost always holding on to them throughout the day. That also means we are always aware of the time as it's displayed on our smartphone screen almost everytime. I highly doubt that watches will go extinct anytime soon, but traditional watches might. Smart watches have started picking up pace in the mobile industry. Pebble have made the idea of a smartwatch popular again. Sony has been in the smartwatch market for quite some time now, and recently decided to give their product a little extra push by making it open-source, indicating that they aren't abandoning the market anytime soon. We've heard countless rumours that even Samsung and Apple might be interested in following Sony in the smartwatch market too. If anything, watches won't die out, but will be given an extra burst of life if the mobile empire absorbs it so to speak. Being able to run apps and connect to our phones would make smartwatches slightly more desirable than a traditional watch that only tells the time.

Calculators
A simple technology that most of us overlook on a daily basis. Every smartphone comes with a built-in calculator app now. For most people, a simple calculator app is enough. Some people in certain fields like engineering or mathematics might need a more comprehensive tool, but like I said earlier, there's probably an app for that too. If your phone can act as a calculator too, there's one less thing you need to carry around in your bag.

TV
Are connected TVs the future industry standard?
Just like watches, TV won't be going away anytime soon. But again, the traditional idea of a TV might be extinct soon. In the past, we used to rely on TV to watch out favourite shows, to watch the news, watch sports and even movies once they were released for TV. But if you ask me, nowadays TVs are nothing more than a large external display for us to stream media to from our mobile devices. Almost all the content we would normally get from "TV" is now available online. Netflix is a major source for online media. A lot of people subscribe, download the app and just watch movies and TV shows on their tablets. Even Apple and Google are in on the streaming media service with iTunes and the Apple TV and the Play Store and Google TV respectively. With everything available online, I feel like TVs, like smartwatches, will be given a second chance at life thanks to mobile technology.

Radio
How many people have a radio in their homes? Anybody? A physical radio probably isn't an essential piece of equipment for every household anymore. In fact, radio in itself may not be, as in radio stations and the content. With apps like Spotify, we can stream as much music as we want, and Pandora is used to discover new music we haven't heard of. Most cars now come with bluetooth support, so we can stream audio from our phones to our car's audio system, making radios non-essential in the car as well. Yes people still listen to radio stations, but unlike TVs, there's no market online for traditional radio stations. Movie and TV studios can sell their products to online markets like Netflix instead of TV stations, but where will radio stations turn to? If my car had bluetooth support, I would probably listen to radio far less frequently.

Dedicated music players, CDs and cassettes
Sticking to music, remember the old portable cassette players? CD players? MP3 players? Yup, all of those went out the window when smartphones became popular. Apart from iPod's, I doubt there are many mp3 players our there. As for CD's I'm sure many dedicated and loyal fans of music wouldn't mind, in fact they would probably prefer to buy CDs and keep a collection at home, but for the average consumer who just wants to listen to some music while in the train to work, they'll probably never buy a CD.
Remember this?

Digital cameras
Probably one of the most important features of a smartphone is its camera. Its the feature that receives the most analysis from reviewers other than the performance of the phone. The reason why smartphone cameras are so vital is because they give us an opportunity to take a quick photo or video in situations where we otherwise wouldn't have a proper camera with us. The true photography enthusiast will of course, prefer a proper camera like a DSLR, but for the average consumer in average everyday situations, a smartphone camera is good enough. Most consumers probably wouldn't buy a digital camera or a DSLR just to take photos of their lunch or their feet on a beach. For those instances a smartphone camera is all you need, and that's why I feel like digital cameras are not as important today as they once were.

Newspapers
I've never bought a newspaper in my life. True story. I've read newspapers sure, but I've never actually gone out to buy one for myself. In fact, my family stopped receiving newspapers at home all together. Most (if not all) newspaper publishers now have online versions of their newspaper, some even have apps. There are countless news sites online as well, which makes newspapers just really unnecessary for me. Plus, I like to tell myself that by not buying newspapers I'm saving the environment :) 
That's a lot of paper.

Notepads and associated stationary
Now hear me out. Nothing will ever beat a pen and paper when it comes to note taking. It just seems much simpler, and less of a hassle to take notes the good ol' fashion way. But, whenever possible I do try to go paperless when it comes to note-taking. If I'm going into a meeting, I use Google Drive on my tablet to take notes. I used to use Evernote too. When I need to take a quick note like a reminder, I use Google Keep. Digital notes are much cleaner, less costly, easier to organise, easier to share with others, last longer, and obviously take up less space than physical notes. If you prefer handwritten notes over typed-out notes but hate keeping physical notes around your house or the office, Samsung's Galaxy Note brand is perfect for you. And with other manufacturers producing products to directly take on the Note series, it looks like digital note-taking is here to stay.

Snail mail
Well technically, e-mail made snail mail pretty much obsolete. But during the early days of e-mail it was still only accessible from a computer. Enter BlackBerry. Being able to compose, read and reply e-mails directly from your phone was basically the selling point of BlackBerry phones. Now that every smartphone and tablet has e-mail access (thanks again to apps), the need for snail mail just seems, non-existent for the most part. Billing can be done online. Magazine subscriptions are also available online. Catalogues can be sent digitally as well. When it comes to mail, I definitely prefer the paperless solution.

Greeting cards
Speaking of mail, when was the last time you received a greeting card? Or even sent one out? I don't know about other cultures around the world, but as far as Malaysia goes, greeting cards are very rare indeed. In the past during Eid celebrations, our houses would be decorated with all the greeting cards we received from friends, family and work colleagues. Now? All we get is an SMS, maybe a Facebook message, and on the rare occasion an e-card. Some companies still send out cards to their employees, but don't expect any from your friends. Or even family for that matter. It's much simpler to send an SMS to a group of close friends. Or upload an image of a greeting card on Facebook and tag your friends (this us huge in Malaysia BTW). But the human element is missing from those ways. You know what I mean right? A card just seems more personal. Even so, I doubt we'll see a resurgence of greeting cards anytime soon.

Now, don't get me wrong. I appreciate the old ways. And I don't think any of the ones I mentioned will be going away any time soon. But you can't deny that since the age of the internet, aided by the recent adoption of smartphones and tablets by society that the old ways have taken a pretty significant hit. Even so, while it is nice that we can do all these things with our mobile device, we should also be allowed to utilise the old ways if we choose to do so. Some people may prefer receiving bills in the mail, and going to the bank to pay them. Some may enjoy filing documents and sorting them on a shelf. Others may enjoy going through a physical newspaper. That's why choice is so important. While I am a more digital kind of guy, I expect that I am only a minority. As mobile technology expands and incorporates more and more functionality into a pocket-sized device, it's important that one fundamental aspect of humanity not be taken away from us; choice.