The mobile phone is rapidly becoming the uber-device – the one device that seems to have it all and becomes even more indispensable than it is now. The mobile phones have already started functioning as more than just communications devices. Already, mobiles serve as watches and alarm clocks. Even with the limited free games that come with basic phones, they are already good for “time-pass.” They can also function as calculators. In unfamiliar neighbourhoods, they tell us where we are. The address book and contacts list on phones is our social interface. Without the phone, many of us would be quite lost in connecting with other people! The calendar function on the mobile phones can help us track our lives. Phones can also function as radios. For some, the mobile phone also becomes a notepad – send an SMS to oneself and make it a reminder service. Owners also have tended to customise phones – with their own ringtones, themes and wallpapers.
This is just for starters. Take a look at what some of the more advanced mobile phones are also doing:
Digital Camera: Point-and-click! Phones capture pictures and let us save them for posterity or transfer them to others and computers.
Audio Recorder: Mobile phones can be used to record conversations, or even small notes to oneself.
Video Recorder: Phones are becoming video cameras also – some of the newest cellphones can record an hour or more of video.
Multimedia Messaging: Everything recorded can be shared with others by using MMS.
Email Client: The phone can be used to connect to any POP or IMAP server and allow receiving and sending email. While most phones may not have the ease-of-use that a Blackberry has with email, contacts and calendar, the fact that it is on the phone itself and there is no need for a separate device can be a big help (along with the lower total cost of ownership).
Web Client: Phones can also browse websites – via a WAP and/or HTML browser. Most websites may not look great on the small screen, but it is still possible to connect to any website.
Gaming Platform: Mobile games have become big business in the past couple years, as people seek entertainment in the free time that they have on the device that they always carry with them.
Documents Viewer: It is increasingly possible to view documents on the cellphone – in the popular MS-Office file formats.
Computer Adjunct: For many, the cellphone has replaced the PDA as the complement to the computer. With a remote desktop application, it also becomes possible to make the mobile phone a window on to one’s computer.
Music Player: The next big thing in 2005 is reckoned to be the combining of music capabilities on the mobile phone. While phones can play MP3s, it will soon also be possible to have music streamed from the Internet. Motorola is expected to introduce a phone this year that marries the mobile with Apple’s iPod.
Credit Cards: The phone can also be used to pay for purchases like a credit card. There is already a billing relationship that exists between the subscriber and the operator, and that can be used to make payments to merchants.
Bar-code readers: Phones will also be able to read barcodes and that can have very interesting applications in commerce.
So, the phones of tomorrow will be remote controls for our life. They will come with bigger, better keyboards and displays – even though there are practical limitations on both in terms of how big a device we will carry. Networks are becoming faster, too. And the device that was once a replacement for the fixed-line phone will occupy an even greater role in our lives. Countries like Japan and South Korea already lead the way in having multi-purpose mobile phones. China is following and India is not far behind.