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Speculating On the Far Future of Cellphones 220

Posted by timothy
from the how-about-just-better-coverage? dept.
Trio writes "What will cellphones look like in in future? silicon.com explores five future characteristics that could shape tomorrow's phones — from a wearable prototype such as MIT's SixthSense device which projects mobile data into the user's world, to a mobile that mixes the real and the virtual by using holographic telepresence. So far, so futuristic, but one question remains: will there be enough spectrum to support all this wireless communication?"
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Speculating On the Far Future of Cellphones

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  • a REAL cellphone (Score:5, Insightful)

    by frecky (1095067) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @05:48PM (#29139795)
    Yeah, a real cellphone that let you dial a number and speak with someone. Not those with tons of addons that you forget you can dial number with !
  • SixthSense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday August 20, 2009 @05:48PM (#29139805) Homepage Journal

    Never mind that it isn't practical to walk around with a huge projector on your chest, it isn't fashionable. There is certainly utility to a good web-enabled phone with plenty of apps, but I think people get sold initially on the style of an iPhone specifically. If people adopt new technology and new features in their next phone, style has to help sell it.

    Otherwise, I think we're hitting a breaking point. What more functionality do we really want from our phone? How much more can you accomplish on a small screen? How much more money are you willing to pay for the device and the data plan? If anything, the pendulum might swing backwards as competitors try to ape 80% of the iPhone's functionality at half the price.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kratisto (1080113)
      Well, projectors are shrinking [optomausa.com] and making their way into devices like digital cameras [nikon.com]. When someone figures out how to make green laser diodes consistently and with efficiency to match blue and red diodes, I expect projectors may replace LCD screens entirely in devices for which size is such a big factor.

      As for functionality, there's no reason why your cell phone shouldn't be able to do everything your computer can (in the future), and costs of old technology will continue to fall as new technology beco
      • Projectors need a good surface, need controlled light around them, and need to be free of dust in the air, etc. Projectors are rarely a solution for most scenarios, but great for very specific scenarios.

        • by JuzzFunky (796384)
          You don't need a surface if you project directly on your retina. Stereoscopic 3D augmented reality.
        • by Marcika (1003625)

          Projectors need a good surface, need controlled light around them, and need to be free of dust in the air, etc.

          You are thinking about 20th projectors. Try thinking about 22nd century technology...

          Projectors that are hidden in your glasses (or even implanted into your cornea) which project onto your retina. Same with supersmall hidden in-ear headphones. Both receiving data wirelessly from the device in your pocket or on your wrist (or even interfacing seamlessly with the "cloud"). The only problem that is moderately hard and keeps this sort of technology from happening at the moment is that we don't have a really sm

    • Yeah but one could argue that years ago a walkman on your belt with wired headphones wasn't fashionable. Now if you've got an Ipod there with the characteristic white headphones you're considered Trendy and hip.

      In the same manner the sixth sense isn't attractive now, especially in its Beta phase, that piece of technology was under a 200 dollars (I believe? I haven't seen the vid in a while) - when an Iphone today goes for more than that.

      There are alot of things a phone could do that the sixth sense even doe

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Enderandrew (866215)

        I was very young at the time, but from what I recall, Walkmans (or should it be Walkmen?) were all the rage at the time. They were the stylish, popular accessory. A walkman with bright 80's colors and design probably would stick out a bit today.

        The "stereobelt" was invented seven years before the Walkman, but the well-styled Sony product vastly outsold it even coming out seven years later.

        Geeks always underestimate style in marketing and mass adoption.

      • by dangitman (862676)

        Now if you've got an Ipod there with the characteristic white headphones you're considered Trendy and hip.

        What? That hasn't been true for a few years now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Itninja (937614)

      Never mind that it isn't practical to walk around with a huge projector on your chest, it isn't fashionable.

      Well I imagine there was a time when this argument was made about the pocket watch. I mean who wants to walk around to clock in their pocket. And what's this? You want to put in on my wrist?! That will never be fashionable!

      • No, it is practical to put a time piece in your pocket. It weighs next to nothing, didn't need a huge battery pack, they look nice, and they provided a clear function. They didn't get in the way when they weren't needed.

        The SixthSense kit gets my geek sensibility excited, but you'd be laughed at for wearing anything resembling it. Right now there is already backlash against Bluetooth ear pieces (note the latest cover from Wired magazine).

        • by vux984 (928602)

          The SixthSense kit gets my geek sensibility excited, but you'd be laughed at for wearing anything resembling it. Right now there is already backlash against Bluetooth ear pieces (note the latest cover from Wired magazine).

          In a world where women walk around with a dressed up living, breathing, pooping animals under their arm, you are going to try and convince me that there exists a thing or will ever exist a thing which the fashion industry can't arbitrarily decide is fasionable to have?

          • +1 insightful (manual mod). A sad reality is a reality nonetheless. At the same time, I think that having a pet as a fashion accessory is still generally considered to be something reserved for the rich-and-famous (and still somewhat controversial); you don't see half of the shoppers in Wal-Mart with a canine hanging out of their purse.
    • Otherwise, I think we're hitting a breaking point. What more functionality do we really want from our phone? How much more can you accomplish on a small screen?

      Breaking point is right. We need to break the concept of online mobile presence being tied only to the phone (personal device) completely. When I get into my car -- hell make that any car -- which has a nice 10" touch display backed by a computer currently used for navigation etc., why not transfer my online presence to that screen? Let me use the

      • Google makes Android. Google is making Chrome OS. Google could make it extremely easy for your "desktop", email, voicemail, Waves, IM, etc. is all easily accessed from basically the same interface from multiple devices.

        Microsoft is terrified for a reason.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by tomax7 (1261742)
      Then again, due to radiation from nuclear fallout, cell phones and other electrical devices will be useless. We'll return to carrier pigeons. No wait, they would have died off too. Maybe we will have to actually see the person we're talking to then. What a concept!
      • You hollow out rad-scorpion carapaces to house a fire, which you then use to send smoke signals. No, wait, the sky will be filled with black ash. Dammit!

    • by mdwh2 (535323)

      (typing again because /. ate my post)

      If anything, the pendulum might swing backwards as competitors try to ape 80% of the iPhone's functionality at half the price.

      Swing back? It never swung that way. Firstly, I'll assume you meant smart phone in general - there are others beside the Iphone, you know.

      Despite what some might think from reading all the Iphone coverage that Slashdot gives, by far most phones sold are still the cheaper ones (e.g., see http://blogs.zdnet.com/gadgetreviews/?p=6836 [zdnet.com] ).

      It's also long

      • iPhones are a different beast than smartphones. We use Motorolla Q phones here at work, and they're terrible.

        Smartphones are a niche market, and while iPhone adoption still isn't huge, I think it represents the future of mass adoption.


    • Maybe someone else has mentioned the idea here, but I think the next huge leap for mobile phones would be language translation ability at some basic level. You let another person speak a foreign language into it, it digitizes the signal, sends it back the a host, then the translated answer comes back to you.

      Even at a simple language level, this would be huge. It would also have interesting effects on all spoken languages, since the commonly translated words would eventually migrate into all languages.

      • It isn't a cell phone, but Google Wave has an instate translate as you type feature that is pretty spiffy. Two people can have a conversation while speaking in two different languages.

        It is probably possible to include a speech-to-text robot in Wave, so that you could speak into a phone/device for this.

    • Re:SixthSense (Score:4, Interesting)

      by thesandtiger (819476) on Friday August 21, 2009 @12:31AM (#29143135)

      What do I want from a phone from the far future?

      Well, what I really want is a "phone" that's also a computer and links seamlessly with whatever networks I want to use. So keep that in mind while I describe my perfect "phone":

      1) I don't have to think about charging it. This can mean that it is charged wirelessly/beamed power, or it can mean that it runs on something that is essentially endless/minimal maintenance.

      2) I don't want to be able to lose it or misplace it. This probably means it would need to be implanted or somehow integrated into clothing.

      3) It must give me "augmented reality" overlays - hook into my glasses or smart contact lenses (or into a chip implanted in my eyes) and give me data that way. I *really* want something that can display various information on demand (time, temp, whatever), but also that will enhance my extant senses - maybe a chemical detector built in so I can analyze the air around me, or maybe enhanced audio reception that might recognize certain sounds around me and alert me to them/give me a visual reading of where they're coming from, or maybe facial recognition software that'll tell me who I'm looking at and whatever info they share with me etc. Maps and the like would be nice, too. While we're at it, improve my vision to the infrared and ultra violet as well.

      4) Subvocalization capability. I don't want to have to speak aloud to use it - just subvocalize and it'll pick up what I'm saying. Essentially telepathy.

      5) Connectivity roughly similar to what I can get with a regular connection to the internet now - none of this edge shit. Even if it was only as good as my current wifi connection at home, that would be a LOT better than my current phone's capability.

      6) Agent software that would be capable of handling trivial incoming calls automatically and summarizing them for me via text ("Your mom called, she wants to know your flight details, so I gave her the info; she'll pick you up at the airport." "Your boss had the following notes on your project..." "A telemarketer called, so I played them the 'brown note' and had you placed on the Do Not Call list..."). It should be context aware - it should know that I'm in a movie theater (why should I have to turn it off manually? Just have the theater beam a signal letting smart phones know that they need to not make any noise at all...) and if it's an absolute emergency, I should get a flashing red light in my eye or something like that rather than a ring or vibrate. It should have different screening functions for different levels of people - if I'm working on something important and a guy I went out with once or twice but don't particularly like calls, it should say "She's working, leave a message" and *absolutely* not bother me with it until I want to deal with that. If it's an emergency, again, it should know that I'll want to take the call.

      7) It should be capable of - if I want - recording absolutely everything around me, in multiple spectra.

      Actually, I don't even want to have to think about it, really - it should just be something that's more or less omnipresent but in the background, unobtrusive unless I want to notice it. Just like my voice, I don't really think about my capability to speak unless I'm actively speaking to someone - the phone is just a way of projecting speech, right? With the augmented reality stuff, it should be entirely customizable - on, off, anything in between, set it up how I want it. With connectivity I should be able to turn it on, turn it off (even force it to stay off for awhile so I can enjoy being "natural").

      I don't think any of this is too much to ask for - certainly we'll have the capability to do all that (at least) in the next 50 years or so.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Cell phones will have a subvocal mode so that people won't broadcast their moronic chatterings into others' ears like I'm broadcasting my moronic chatterings into your faces.

    -- Ethanol-fueled

  • meh... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Em Emalb (452530)

    What I want is a phone that works telepathically. In fact, screw the phone, I'll take the telepathy. :P

    • Re:meh... (Score:4, Funny)

      by kramulous (977841) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @06:10PM (#29140101)

      tits yeah this'd boobs be great ass cause then nipple there'd be no sex need for twitter pussy. Overall quality would flange increase.

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      You don't want to give telepathy to tech companies... That idea about buying that product was yours or implanted?

      For now, "tech" telepathy, or at least reading/writing mind (the "tele" part could be cell phone technology by now) is outside our current knowledge afaik, and could raise enough privacy/human rights/freedom/etc concerns to not have a bright future in the somewhat short term.

      But humans can "learn" new senses (as the one that used a belt to sense direction) so maybe cellphones could eventually use
    • Re:meh... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by timeOday (582209) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @07:28PM (#29141003)
      Really, it is hard for me to imagine that we won't eventually have direct neural interfaces. Why limit ourselves to the sensors and actuators evolution gave us?
  • [O]ne question remains: will there be enough spectrum to support all this wireless communication?

    Duh. All nerds know that holographic telepresence will utilize a rapidly fluctuating portion of the subspace band!

    (Not to mention, they're pretty good at hiding the fact they didn't RTFA!)

  • by noidentity (188756) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @05:51PM (#29139867)
    Given that the most-used features of cellphones [orbitcast.com] are things other than talking on the phone (presumably included in the "Other 9%"), I predict that they will become like this Nintendo controller of the future [gizmodo.com].
    • by Mishotaki (957104)
      you're missing a home key!
    • by timeOday (582209) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @07:08PM (#29140809)

      Given that the most-used features of cellphones are things other than talking on the phone (presumably included in the "Other 9%")

      Even if this were serious, it only seems odd because we use the misnomer "cellphone" instead of something more accurate like, I dunno, personal digital assistant. Imagine if people insisted on thinking of PCs as typewriters (since word processing was an early killer app) and they were still called typewriters, and people started whinging that PCs shouldn't be able to run web browsers because "that's not typing," and "when will we all return to typewriters that just type!" It's nonsense.

  • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Thursday August 20, 2009 @05:55PM (#29139913) Homepage Journal

    In the U.S., we have the slow, bureaucratic and oligarchic FCC that limits technology from acquiring near limitless spectrum/bandwidth.

    We're moving to a truly digital age, but still we have the FCC regulating that we should keep analog/digital spectrum separate for various "needs" such as TV, radio, ham, cordless phones, FRS, etc. It's ridiculous.

    We have technology TODAY that allows for frequency hopping, for signal strength negotiation, for handling multiple devices on the same frequencies/channels, etc. Private industries can blossom to utilize the right frequency, the right transceiving power, the right tower hopping mechanisms, etc. But they can't get there because the FCC overregulates and strangulates the future.

    On my 3G phone (I'm on AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, shared via my lovely Cradlepoint router on-the-go even), I can watch TV on-demand. I can listen to music, on-demand. I can read my websites, send my emails, talk via Google voice/Gizmo5 VoIP, send SMS via Google Voice, etc. But there's a limited run of bandwidth.

    I don't have a TV at home, so the TV spectrum is useless. I don't listen to radio in the car, so radio spectrum is useless. So much that we do today would be better suited to a HUGE amount of spectrum divvied up and utilized by every device that could hop frequencies as needed to find a clean channel, that could raise power needs when a tower is far but drop them significantly when towers are near.

    The future is nearly endless bandwidth for endless users, but we're throttled because our lovely State decides it wants only the powerful to play ball, with the weak kept out of the game.

    But what would happen if the FCC went away, and all of a sudden the power players who control TV, radio and other spectra would need to compete with the YouTube amateurs of the world? The powerful would fall. And the State can't let that happen.

    • by CannonballHead (842625) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @06:06PM (#29140059)

      I listen to the radio.

      Why is it that because you don't listen to the radio, it is useless?

      Radio is cool. It's completely free and I can find really good music on it. For free. No payments necessary to Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chuck Chunder (21021)

      I don't have a TV at home, so the TV spectrum is useless. I don't listen to radio in the car, so radio spectrum is useless.

      Not to your neighbours, or people in cars around you. I think you'd be hard pressed to show that broadcasting isn't a reasonably efficient use of the spectra in terms of the amount of content delivered to individuals.

      But what would happen if the FCC went away, and all of a sudden the power players who control TV, radio and other spectra would need to compete with the YouTube amateurs o

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The technology for making effective use of spectrum is certainly far better now than it has been; but the notion that we've solved the finitude of spectrum seems fanciful at best(especially if some or all of the devices in question are not attempting to cooperate, either because they aren't sophisticated enough[spark gaps of various flavors] or because they are actively maximizing their throughput at the expense of yours, or just because they are hostile[jammers]).

      What I would like to see is more spectru
    • On my 3G phone (I'm on AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, shared via my lovely Cradlepoint router on-the-go even), I can watch TV on-demand. I can listen to music, on-demand. I can read my websites, send my emails, talk via Google voice/Gizmo5 VoIP, send SMS via Google Voice, etc

      To me this reads like BnL Hell without the hoverchairs.

    • by dangitman (862676)

      We have technology TODAY that allows for frequency hopping, for signal strength negotiation, for handling multiple devices on the same frequencies/channels, etc.

      None of which will be likely to work in the event of a catastrophe that knocks out power and communications infrastructure. But a simple analog radio transmitter will run on a backup generator, and the signal is easily deciphered by the most simple and common technology, using a wide range of power sources, from a dry cell to a car battery, a hand crank, a potato with a couple of electrodes stuck in it, or even a crystal set with no power source other than the radio transmission itself.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      In the U.S., we have the slow, bureaucratic and oligarchic FCC that limits technology from acquiring near limitless spectrum/bandwidth.

      I don't listen to radio in the car, so radio spectrum is useless. So much that we do today would be better suited to a HUGE amount of spectrum divvied up and utilized by every device that could hop frequencies as needed to find a clean channel, that could raise power needs when a tower is far but drop them significantly when towers are near.

      Yes, if we had a small, agile, mor

  • by tsa (15680) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @05:57PM (#29139929) Homepage

    IMO speculation about the future of technology is a waste of time. It always turns out very different from what was predicted, because some technologies that seem easy turn out to be (extreme) difficult, like flat TVs and nuclear fusion, and others turn out to much easier than expected. Besides the technical issues there are often changes in society that make the predictions about the future futile. Look at all the past predictions about the future back then, and what do you see? An extrapolation of the technology and mindset that was available at the time. So, predictions are fun, but please don't put any sort of value in them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jarik C-Bol (894741)
      well, in the name of fun speculation, i'm going to take what you said about things that seem easy and turn out hard, flip it on its head, and predict that we're going to nail down quantum entanglement in the next 10-20 years, and the use of the radio spectrum to transmit information from point a to point b will go the way of the telegraph and horse and buggy.
      If we can pull it off, it means crystal clear voice connections, and freakishly fast network connections, anywhere, anytime.
      I'm basing all this on
      • by tsa (15680)

        I also talked about things turning out to be much easier than expected. But what is a prediction for the future worth if you can't predict even that? It's just speculation for fun, and dreaming about what a beautiful world this will be, and what a glorious time to be free. ;)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I know that the physics don't actually allow faster-than-light communication through entangled particle pairs; but I've often thought that that possibility would be a fun concept for a sci-fi setting.

        Assuming that you can't pair devices at a distance after the fact, and assuming that travel is only possible at sublight speeds, the value of an entangled communicator could be anywhere between virtually nothing(your basic cheap cellphone, paired to a nearby base station) and well more than the entire planet
    • IMO speculation about the future of technology is a waste of time

      So we've in the right place then?

    • Do you honestly believe that forecasting technology is useless? How about weather forecasts?
      • by tsa (15680)

        I meant forecasting the development of technology itself. For instance speculating on the far future of cellphones.

  • Fun, but pointless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by podom (139468) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @05:58PM (#29139951) Homepage

    I can imagine a similar discussion in 1875: "What will telegraphs look like in the future?"
     

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by geekoid (135745)

      Well sir, clearly we will communicate with little boxes that ahve miniature telegraphs inside. Why I heard of a gentleman on the East that did wireless telegraph! amazing indeed!

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @06:38PM (#29140441) Journal
      They'll be small enough for even a Lady to carry unaided and you'll be able to pay the nearest urchin 'tuppence to scramble up the telegraph pole and connect the wires for you nearly anywhere in the city!
    • I can imagine a similar discussion in 1875: "What will telegraphs look like in the future?"

      1876 will see the introduction of the telephone and the modern typewriter. I believe also the modern stock ticker.

      The stock ticker requires synchronization across a network. There were a lot of folks - like the railroads - interested in "precision" time and other services.

      The basic tech is then in place for a telex service:
      Keyboard entry Mechanical printers. Punch tape or ribbon for data storage and transmission.

      That

    • by Animats (122034) on Friday August 21, 2009 @12:55AM (#29143281) Homepage

      I can imagine a similar discussion in 1875: "What will telegraphs look like in the future?"

      Actually, the view from 1875 was surprisingly clear. Because, by 1875, telegraphy was a mature technology.

      It was generally recognized that a "printing telegraph" was desirable. But it was hard to do. The House Printing Telegraph [google.com] dated from 1852. Early machines had trouble staying in sync. By 1875, though, there were reasonably good printing telegraphs and stock tickers, using a design by Phelps.

      The sending and receiving gear then stagnated for decades. Progress was made in transmission, but the end node technology was relatively static for years. It wasn't until 1921, with the first Teletype machines that worked, that a new technology replaced the old one. The reason was manufacturing technology. The Phelps machines had a relatively low parts count. Teletypes had perhaps 5x as many parts. Until manufacturing techniques improved, page printers were just too much machinery to build and deploy in quantity.

      Once Baudot-code teletypes, with associated paper tape punches and readers, were developed, the technology started to move forward again. Messages could at last be forwarded without manual retyping. Forwarding still required people tearing off sections of paper tape from punches and moving them to readers. It wasn't until 1948 that Western Union Plan 55-A [wikipedia.org] produced a fully automatic message switch. (It was entirely electromechanical, with many paper tape readers and punches, and switchgear to interconnect them. Think Sendmail built from moving parts.)

      Not until 1977 did Western Union finally get rid of the last of the paper-tape switching centers. By then, telegrams were in decline anyway.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @05:59PM (#29139959)
    Computing capacity is not the issue. With Moore's Law continuing you'll have a tera-op in that form factor by the 2020s. Engineering cleverness is still factor. The video screen cannot get too much larger if its built-in. People have been experimenting with projection TVs in small form factors at SIGGRAPH and the like.

    Maybe this will be the impetus to get voice recognition and generation software working well. Typing is always going to be a pain on micro-keyboard or touchscreen, compared to the alternatives.
  • by FudRucker (866063) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @06:00PM (#29139971)
    no bigger than the bluetooth you have stuck in your year, or the thing stuck in your ear is not a bluetooth device but a voice controlled cellphone :D
    • Amy: "I swallowed my phone again!"

      But in reality, it seems to be going the other way, towards larger (but thinner) phones. If this trend continues; by 2050 cellphones will twice as powerful, be as big as football fields, but only a few nanometers thick. And only Europe's three richest kings will be able to afford them.

  • What's to speculate about. At some point in time cell phones became good at everything except be good cellphones. My speculation is that some day we will.

  • Mini-computers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alaska Jack (679307) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @06:03PM (#29140017) Journal

    I always figured that the future was in phone/PC convergence. Which is to say, rather than syncing your smartphone with your computer, your smartphone would BE your computer.

    Coming in to your office, You'd pull your PC out of your pocket, sit it on your desk and plug in a monitor. It would connect to a wireless keyboard and mouse, and away you'd go.

    WHen you left to go home or to a meeting, you'd unplug the monitor, stick it in your pocket and off you'd go. The only other thing is you'd pay a cloud service to do incremental backups over wireless or cell service.

    Seems pretty straightforward to me.

        - AJ

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by maxume (22995)

      I like this, but I really don't want to have to plug it in. And I'm not sure I want to have to carry around the intelligence and the storage, it would be nice to be able to pick up (or sit down at) a random device and have it configured the way I want it, with easy access to my data (this process does not have to be mindlessly automatic, just straightforward, so let's not talk about what a security nightmare it could be).

    • by rho (6063)

      Yes, somebody wake me when this occurs.

      You can almost do this with the iPhone through syncing and with apps like Bento. Still not docking the phone, exactly, but it's close. But not quite there yet.

      I'd also like to not have to carry money around. Remember those IBM commercials where the girl bought a soda with her phone? When is this gonna get here? Granted I don't want the moneyless future to be where any dipshit with a laptop and a soldering iron can wireless suck my doubloons into their accounts. Tha

      • by mdwh2 (535323)

        You can almost do this with the iPhone through syncing and with apps like Bento. Still not docking the phone, exactly, but it's close. But not quite there yet.

        Practically every phone on the market offers syncing and so on. I don't see how this is "almost" the completely different theoretical feature of plugging your phone into a monitor, keyboard and mouse. No phone that I know has this feature - there's no "almost" or "but it's close" about it.

        • by dangitman (862676)

          No phone that I know has this feature - there's no "almost" or "but it's close" about it.

          Just because no phone currently does this, doesn't mean it isn't close.

          Current smartphones have processing power that is approaching that of the "netbook" computer. I'd expect that convergence to continue. These phones have video outputs, USB ports and Bluetooth. The "phone as computer" is not very far away at all.

        • by rho (6063)

          "Syncing" isn't a feature checkbox. I've done it on a lot of handheld devices over the years, going back to those Casio organizers. Anything can sync, but syncing well is a hard problem. The iPhone (or in my case, the iPod touch), syncs well, and reliably, even when I'm dicking around with the dock.

          The difference between the iPhone and a desktop is still pretty far, granted, but it's almost to the point where you could use an iPhone in place of a basic computer, so long as you don't need to do too much ty

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209)
      If you read "The Road Ahead" from Bill Gates in 1995, that's what he thinks too - except he understated the importance of telephony, and the fact that they'd be referred to and often though of primarily as telephones. Which I guess proves that infrastructure is everything.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ZeroExistenZ (721849)

      Coming in to your office, You'd pull your PC out of your pocket, sit it on your desk and plug in a monitor.

      That's a bit what I try to do with PortableApps. Too bad not all applications run well on it, as development environments wont support being run as a standalone application, but the basic usage tools (VLC, Firefox, Gimp, OpenOffice, ...) can be run.

      The scenario is about the same: I come in at a PC, plug in my micro-thumbdrive from my keychain and have my common applications in the same spot.

    • by DavidD_CA (750156)

      Yup. Basically you're carrying around your "identity" with you, which has limited off-net data and a net connection, plus a display. It's today's smartphone but better.

      And then you dock that thing into nearly ubiquiteous stations (work, home, school, hotel, coffee shop, strip club, etc) and use the connected monitor and other peripherals.

      The real boon is if you didn't even have to dock your smartphone, but its proximity was good enough (security, oy!) to do it wirelessly.

      And if you don't have your smartph

  • Here's what Will Self has to say on the topic of cellphones and the future:

    "What they promote is a meaningless level of anonymous chit-chat with people, where you don't have to get down-and-dirty and smell somebody, or see their body-language. They are actually the very very key representation of the anomie and alienation of our culture.
    And the idea that there was a cash bonanza from mobile phone licensing, that the (UK) government predicated its entire second term spending plans on, is one o

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That would have been labeled as pretentious bullshit, if it didn't come from a relatively trendy British novelist. In which case it is better labeled as pretentious rubbish...

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by maxume (22995)

        I initially read it as "Will Smith" and was expecting something like
        "Now, this is a story all about how
        My life got flipped-turned upside down
        And I liked to take a minute
        Just sit right there"

    • "elsewhere-ness" (Score:5, Insightful)

      by peter303 (12292) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @06:20PM (#29140235)
      Where you are with a small group of humans with no electronics you are talking directly to each other, looking them in the eye, or at their body language. Sometimes you touch too.

      Now when you are in a public space like a coffee-house, walking the street, sitting on the train, etc. many people are communicating with those out of sight and completely ignoring those in sight. To me it feels like a zombie movie.
      • by JonBuck (112195) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @07:17PM (#29140893)

        There was an old stand up routine by Dana Gould that had a man walking down the street, talking to himself. Ten years ago this would be a crazy person. "You can't tell a Navy man when he's had enough to drink! Only a Navy man knows when he's had enough to drink!"

        Now, you have to check his other ear to see if he has a Bluetooth earset.

        I feel like we're in the "Slow Take Off" first chapter of Stross's _Accelerando._

      • by Twinbee (767046)

        With or without technology, people often ignore each other in many social situations (e.g. train platform or on a bus), and that could be said to be feel like a zombie movie I guess. See what you mean though.

  • I think the real question is not whether there will be spectrum enough for our bandwidth needs, but whether we will be able to afford it! Given that AT&T charges an arm and a leg for data rates/roaming, I can imagine what the charges will be in the future!
  • by gmuslera (3436)
    Some smart glasses could give all the niceties of a big screen, augmented reality and so on to cellphones or portable devices in a discrete way. But the main problem is how they get input from us. In air keyboards, speaking, hand gesturing, whatever, would be something very funny and/or ridiculous to see in the streets. What kind of "future inputs" will have those devices?
  • I see this: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @06:29PM (#29140327) Journal
    and in the near future:

    a device similar to the iPhone, but with 2 USB ports and a miniHDMI port. In essence: the smallest computer. keyboard/mouse go in one USB, a hard drive in the other. Hook up your monitor to it, and you will have a computer that will surf the web, do basic word processing and Office-type stuff. It will cost USD$299.

    I don't see Apple doing it as it would evacuate the need for MacBooks, but I could see Panasonic or Nokia or Palm pulling it off.

    And of course: it would run Linux...

  • Stubby human fingers.
  • Why does bandwidth seem to be sich a problem. Much of the data can be stored directly in the "phone" and predictive services can off load much of the dynamic data. Example: your phone grabs your calendar and knows that at 10 you have a meeting across town. If you do have a car it snags the GPS nav data for the immediate area as well as predicted traffic patterns, if you do not have a car then it contacts the taxi company and arranges transport. Your meeting is with new clients (ones not in its database) so

  • by darpo (5213) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @06:59PM (#29140681) Homepage
    I'd like future phones to do two things: 1) Not let people mess with their phone at a movie theater. 2) Not let people use the phone while driving.
  • Or telekick, with auto nut aiming.
  • If I'm going to have to listen to you yammer how the doctor had to poke and prod and insert a tube in your grandpa's rear end to no avail, I might as well get close captioning to the conversation as well. Why miss the other half of the dialogue?

  • Borg borg borg borg borg .....

  • Unless you're a younger Arthur C. Clarke, your predictions about the future will be mostly wrong.

    How about a couple of possible scenarios:

    1. Sex-bots and direct stimulation of the brain will become feasible. So people will spend their lives in virtual environments, and human-to-human interaction will become obsolete, so people won't need cellphones. But poorer countries won't be able to afford the technology. So, we'll establish perimeters of military robots around wealthy nations. The people living in thes

  • by saikou (211301) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @08:43PM (#29141647) Homepage

    I think the best outcome would be to have just augmented reality glasses (like in DennÅ Coil (éèãããf) [wikipedia.org]) that can show you content, let you make a phone call with gesture, and keeps all the data in the cloud.
    Convenient, easy to use, fun :)
    Though I have to admit, some gestures for placing calls could look somewhat dorky. But then, so can be the sight of someone pecking at the virtual keyboard to type a long message...

  • Cellphone in headset (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @09:22PM (#29141953) Homepage

    One of the obvious extensions is a cell phone that's entirely in a headset. No display at all; everything is voice-operated. Preferably with an interface that's at least as smart as Wildfire [crtechnologyinc.com], not the voice input crap shipping with current headsets. (Wildfire is ten year old technology. It was in use for a while, but took too much CPU power. Microsoft bought it, did little with it, and sold it off. It needs a redo with current voice recognition technology and lower cost.)

    Ideally, this should be shrunk down to earring size and not require recharging.

    It should also include audio player capabilities, again with no button-pushing, like an iPod Shuffle, only better.

  • I'm still waiting for my flying car. This other futuristic stuff can wait until then.

  • by CodeBuster (516420) on Friday August 21, 2009 @01:22PM (#29148375)
    IMHO, among the best post-cyberpunk style science fiction series to explore this, among other concepts, in recent years has been the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex [wikipedia.org] series. The "cyber brain" conversations combined with "external memory" (think of it like an off site storage, backup and messaging server for your mind) really takes man machine integration to its final logical conclusion: making or receiving voice and video communications remotely is as easy as initiating thoughts to do so. Although, I do think that the series is a bit too optimistic on how soon all of this will actually come about (i.e. by 2030).

"Consequences, Schmonsequences, as long as I'm rich." -- "Ali Baba Bunny" [1957, Chuck Jones]

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