While everyone goes on about apps and software let’s not forget that the mobile industry faces one of its most formidable challenges to date – where does it take mobile hardware next? At the moment the mobile hardware landscape is split into several camps: there are traditional handsets, large touchscreen devices such as the HTC HD2, phones with touchscreens and Qwerty keypads, and stretching the term ‘mobile’ to its limits, you could also add netbooks and tablets to the mix.
Consumers want more features and larger screens but those are complex demands to satisfy. More features and larger displays mean less battery power and then there’s the obvious issue of size. E-readers, netbooks and tablets are great but they don’t fit in standard pockets, which means that manufacturers face a technological checkmate. Go big and you lose the ‘mobile’ part and battery power, go small and e-reading, web browsing or YouTube watching is less enjoyable.
In an attempt to please everyone mobile manufacturers are cramming as much as possible into their phones. The Motorola Milestone (aka Droid) boasts a large touchscreen and Qwerty keypad, for example, but you still wouldn’t want to write a university essay on it. Mobile phone hardware might have to stop here. In the future we may just need to carry more than one device or have clown-sized pockets. Alternatively mobile manufacturers will find a way to make it all work.
Flexible screens, tiny projection systems or a completely new style of hardware could save the day, and we hope they do. It’s not about convergence for the sake of it, there are clear benefits to being able to do more on a phone, especially for people that can’t afford to invest in several devices. Apps and software are important but it’s hardware that will hold them back or make them flourish. A mobile app or service is only great if the phone it’s on lets you use it quickly and properly without killing the battery before you get home.