Someday, we’ll all have microchips implanted in our brains

Posted: November 29, 2012 in Technology

This one is a bit off the beaten path of my normal range of topics. Remember Zack Morris’s brick from Saved By the Bell? That’s my only memory of those giant freaking mobile phones that were the first big hit in the cellular industry. New developments in technology is one of the things that I’m really passionate about, and I’ve been thinking lately about where we’ve come from and where we might be headed when it comes to cell phones.

Bricks used to be popular, and car phones became a big deal after that. Then the first “real” cell phone, which was a bar-style phone, then flip became popular, then bar phones came back along with slider phones. And right after slider phones, smart phones (first the full physical keyboard phones, around the time of bars and sliders, then the craze that really got momentum with the introduction of the iPhone. It’s been a ridiculous journey…and a lot of cool things have happened with the technology in cell phones, some of which we’ve seen leak into computers and larger displays.

But here’s something interesting to ponder: Cell phones used to be huge. They had to be. Then they got small, then a little bigger again, then shrunk back down, and now we have phones like the Dell Streak (a pretty much failed venture) and the Galaxy Note, which have mammoth screens when compared to the first smart phones. So if you were to make a guess as to what direction the industry was headed, what would you guess?

Well, I’m certainly no expert–and I have no insider information of any sort, nor have I read anything that supposes along the same lines that I do. That’s not to say there aren’t other sources that are making the same prediction, I just haven’t read anything of the sorts. So, this is my very amateur opinion of the landscape over the next several years:

In recent years, as the smart phone has gotten bigger, the tablet has become smaller. Sure, 10″ iPads will always be a big hit, I’ve owned two of them (so far). When the iPad first came out, Steve Jobs made it very clear that the device was not a phone, and not a computer–it was a completely new device that served a completely different market. And at the time he was right–but Apple seemed to unlock something magical in the device, because every other major technological break in mobile computing–laptops and phones–has happened in a way that moves devices closer to the “tablet” format. Think about it: the “phablet,” what some folks are calling the Galaxy Note and comparable phones–a phone/tablet hybrid; sure, it’s a phone primarily, that hasn’t been lost…but it’s also a tablet. Now take the standard laptop; first we moved toward the netbook, which most people didn’t like because it wasn’t powerful enough, then the ultrabook was born. Apple fanboys and fangirls will say that the Macbook Air was the first ultrabook and paved the way for the industry, but I don’t agree. It was certainly the mold to break, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s been broken; the failure of the netbook (at large) is what caused ultrabooks to happen. So phones getting bigger, computers getting smaller, you get the idea.

Now enter Amazon, who became a very popular and surprising player (or owner, if you prefer it that way) in the 7″ tablet market. I had a first-gen Kindle Fire as well, and it was a great device. Not great enough, though, hence the newer, stronger, better versions. Point is, even tablets are getting smaller.

So where is the break point? I think the 7″ tablet is the break point–that’s the place where all of these technologies will eventually live. It might be the iPad mini, which may or may not be a part of the 7″ market (I guess it depends on whom you ask). Remember bluetooth headsets? I still have mine, and still use it. They need to get smaller, but once they do, pair that with a 7″ tablet that has full-on cellular capability, with dial-by-voice functionality that doesn’t require you look at your tablet, and you have everything you need…well, for the most part. You’ll always have large powerhouse workstations doing the heavy lifting, but a large majority of people can eat, sleep and breathe via a 7″ tablet.

Phones will continue to get bigger while cellular minute usage continues to get smaller. There was a recent statistic that one in seven people in the world have a smartphone. That is mind-boggling. And, that number could double in three years. Smart phones, while initially about features added to a phone, are becoming less about the phone part, and more about the data part. It’s the direction we’re moving, apparently. “Old people” (and I use quotations because it’s more of a mindset and less of an age thing) will always think that a phone call is better, and seeing someone in person is best…well, why do you think that Skype and Facetime are so popular? And guess what? They use data, not plan minutes.
I will warmly welcome the day when my bluetooth earpiece comes out once daily to recharge, if that. With a small enough device, you could sleep with it in, making alarm clocks much less annoying if your spouse wants to sleep in. It probably wouldn’t be too hard to waterproof it either, so you could talk and shower at the same time. There are a lot of possibilities, and they’re not out of reach. Kind of scary.

What do you think? Are you opposed to being constantly connected, or do you like to always be accessible, wherever, whenever?

Thanks for reading. Be well and stay tuned.

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Comments
  1. Megan says:

    I agree with the trend toward smaller. The technology in itself at least in part was made to replace mounds of paper and save space in that way. So to continue that trend in general makes sense to me.
    My other thought was since our population is increasing, space-saving features might too, (look at Japan) but I don’t know because going from 10″ to 7″ isn’t a huge difference in that way.
    But anyhow, I don’t want to be connected all the time. I love technology too, but I don’t want to become the technology. We already resemble our technology. Check this out- Virtually Yours by Elias Aboujaude. He has to deal with the negative side-effects of our current technology, specifically the easily accessible Internet. It’s pretty extreme, and I think some people are more vulnerable
    than others to the side-effects (Obsessive-compulsive checking of email, narcissism, insensitivity to violence)
    I am all for new technology. I think we need to be aware of the speed at which new gadgets are made available to us, and how the way we use the technology can affect our minds.

    • Insensitivity to violence has more to do with the media than the internet I think. Sure, the internet is a major outlet for the media, but it’s only a channel, not the source.

      We cannot avoid it, whether fortunately or unfortunately. Society is dictating the direction of the thing–the one-in-seven statistic is evidence of that. Do you have anything to gain by resisting the tendency to trend toward total immersion in technology? I’m not convinced you do, or that anyone does. This isn’t iRobot or Terminator–this discussion isn’t about computers becoming self-aware. This is about the very real benefit that technology can provide to virtually anyone. Cell phones are a way of life–as is Facebook and email. These things are non-negotiables, and if you compare to where we were a decade ago, the single, unchanging direction is crystal clear. So my viewpoint on that is to embrace it, because resisting it will change nothing. Even if I’m one of the several stubborn people who refuse total immersion–I stand to lose more than I gain there. I’m a pretty practical guy, and it just makes sense to me.

      I appreciate your comment! Nice to see a new participant.

  2. […] time to time (most recently, November 2012) I find myself pondering or discussing what I sometimes refer to as “the next big thing,” or to […]

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