The Mobile World Congress (http://www.mobileworldcongress.com/index.html) in Barcelona was always one of the busiest work weeks of the year — perhaps the busiest — for me, as my fellow writers and I struggled to cope with the overwhelming stream of new smartphones (and latterly, tablets). It seems strange to me to be sitting on the sidelines this time out.
However, I must confess I have trouble getting excited about new phones, despite the fact that some of them now have quad cores and screens with a resolution of up to 1280 x 720 pixels. (Yes, that means they can have as much power as a one- or two-year old PC, and display resolution better than most netbooks.)
I suppose my ennui is partly due to the fact that I’ve always found phones to be an annoyance. That goes way back to the years when I was a pudgy nerdy fat kid sitting at home, answering all the phone calls for my popular sister (naturally I was usually admonished to say “she’s not here” even when she was), or to the occasions when, before my voice had changed, the person on the other end would say “how are you, Mrs. Angel?”
I took my journalistic career in the direction of testing and reading spec sheets, then reaching my own conclusions, partly to get away from having to make phone calls and ask other people what they think.
Today, of course, voice mail allows the naturally shy to avoid telephonic communications, and we’re told that most people use smartphones more for texting, e-mail, and web browsing (or at least running connected apps) than they do for voice. And it’s not lost on me that smartphones basically are PCs, and becoming more so.
The Asus Padphone (http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/28/tcmwc-hands-on-with-the-surprisingly-solid-asus-padfone/) for instance, comes with accessories that can transform it into a tablet, and, via a keyboard dock, into a notebook computer. That convergence will be a boon for anyone who has to travel often.
My reservations remain, though, and have nothing to do with not actually wanting to talk on the phone.
First, I’m concerned that the smartphone revolution is being driven by companies who want to own you and your data. Where and when I buy a new device shouldn’t be tied to a specific carrier nor to a service contract. Whether my data should be synchronized to the cloud, and to what cloud, ought to be up to me. And if I want to move my phone number/wireless connectivity from one device to another, I should be able to do that via a SIM, as most U.S. customers cannot.
Second — well, it’s really a way of re-stating the above — for a smartphone to be able to replace my PC, it needs to have an operating system that is just as sophisticated. I’d like to be able to choose a phone and then be able to select what OS it runs, just as I can with a PC; but if that isn’t technically possible, then I’d like the phone to come with a “desktop-caliber” OS in the first place. (See my related post on Ubuntu for Mobile.)