“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all…” JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien may be onto something … – and the cell phone industry certainly seems ready to embrace the concept of “One Device to do it all.” Smart phones have become the multi-tool of the 21st century, although I’m personally still eagerly awaiting the first models to feature a folding knife and a pair of pliers in the accessories list. Preferably, this phone would be rubberized, water and dirt proof too.
Meanwhile, I am excited to see that it’s getting easier to use smart phones to find these dirty, wet places. Last week, Google announced it will offer free GPS service for smart phones using its open-source Android operating system. Google’s announcement instantly led to a decrease in the stock values of traditional GPS for-pay services and device providers Garmin and TomTom by 16 and 21 percent, respectively, according to the New York Times. Google’s free navigation system comes with all you expect from a GPS device: 3D views, turn-by-turn voice guidance and automatic route recalculation. All you need is a smart phone.
And today, Motorola is releasing its newest smart phone, the Droid, which instantly starts Google’s GPS navigation app once placed in the car bracket (sold separately). Now we’re talking one smart phone. Unlike Apple’s iPhone, the Droid can multi-task apps – it can be used as a navigation tool while you’re talking on the phone and listening to MP3s. Oh, yes, and unlike the iPhone, the Droid – and certainly any new smart phone to follow – is totally customizable; you can consolidate all your e-mail accounts, the OS supports Microsoft’s Exchange e-mail, and you can add your Facebook and Twitter widgets to the home screen. You want a knife and an LED flashlight with that? Sure.
But Google’s free GPS app is just the beginning. Within the next two years, smart phones will be outperforming the laptop, says Bob Tedeschi, New York Times technology columnist. He adds that today’s new smart phones can do almost anything a PC could do in 2007.
For instance, Nokia’s senior vice president Henry Tirri says cell phone camera lenses will double as binoculars, and even augment reality by fetching close-up images of what’s up there in the distance from the internet. Software that knows what you want, makes reservations for you based on general requests for “something casual, Italian and fairly close to work” is also on the horizon, according to reports coming from cell phone manufacturer SRI International’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. SRI also hints that within a couple of years, typing on a touch screen will feel like hitting individual keys.
Now, if only someone would recognize the need to harness all of these capabilities in a more rugged device… and I’d like that folding knife and pliers with my next cell.