Oftentimes, I am asked to explain the food chain of the cellular-phone market. Let me make this simple. Consumers are attracted by cellular-phone service. The varieties of available services are made possible by cell-phone functionality. Functionality, in turn, stems from the use of the most appropriate silicon chips. Like death and taxes, it's a cycle that won't change anytime soon!
Chip performance will continue to improve while power management will remain a source of constant frustration. Battery life and functionality will increase. Each of these factors is a given. Probably the most interesting aspects, though, are the unknowns. Will the future of cell phones be shaped by the drive toward a single, personal, unified-communications device? Will that evolution, in turn, mean that future cell phones are destined to take on a whole new look and feel?
These questions are tough to answer. Luckily, we can rely on research to hint at future directions. According to recent research from In-Stat/MDR (www.instat.com), the look of future cell phones may not change radically in the coming years. What will change is what those phones enable users to do. Some of the cool functionality on the horizon for cell phones includes high-speed data access, Wi-Fi functionality, high-quality video cameras, and the viewing of broadcast TV. Some of the technology that's needed to bring these functions to market already exists. It just hasn't been widely deployed or accepted. In-Stat/MDR points out that other technologies, such as fuel cells, are a year or so away from commercial viability. Many other developments won't arrive in serious volumes until the latter part of this decade.
What about that single, unified personal-communications-device idea? Will it have a place amidst all this change? The answer may be yes. Just check out the recent accolades that were showered upon the new HipHop Communicator from Danger, Inc. (www.danger.com). This all-in-one device is marketed by T-Mobile as the Sidekick. It boasts the following features: Internet access, e-mail with attachment capabilities, instant messaging, complete organizer functions, gaming and shopping capabilities, a digital camera, a QWERTY keypad, and much more. In essence, it offers all of the features and services that traditionally required multiple devices.
I don't know about you, but for now I'm content to use my cell phone and my Blackberry to deliver all of the functionality and service that I need. It will take something a little more compelling than a consolidation of features to make me want to switch. Send me your thoughts at [email protected].