It’s Time for Cell Phones to Get Really Smart

The competition in smart phones has become frenetic. Samsung has gesture control, but it doesn’t work very well. The IPhone has Siri, but that feature has turned out to be just a toy. Now HTC has a new phone that is “gorgeous.” Still struggling to stay in the game, Motorola RAZR Max has the longest battery life. The science behind all of these phones is magnificent, but do they represent good technology? I don’t think so!

Technology is the application of science to create goods and services that make people’s lives better. The best technology is invisible; you don’t even know it’s there but it improves your life in some meaningful way. Almost as good is transparent technology; you engage it when you need it but don’t really have to think about it. Acceptable technology is intuitive; the things you do to engage it are natural and unintrusive and you don’t need an instruction manual to make it work. Smart cell phones have turned those of us who really use them into engineers. We are diverted from the useful things that we’re trying to do into the distraction of understanding the cell phone.

I don’t fault the manufacturers for creating this wonderful hardware, but now that we have it, it’s time for them to focus on making our lives better. There is already some interesting progress and we are going to see an explosion of usefulness in the next few years. I count as “progress” elimination of the charging plug (Nokia), simplified voice control of navigation (Google), simple rules-based triggers (Smart Actions by Motorola), and smart cameras (Blink by Microsoft), but these are only the start.

I’m hoping and counting on Motorola to shake things up this Summer by offering features on a smart phone that improve our lives without intruding.