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Are Mobile Devices Getting Too Complex?


Last year, Martin Cooper, the man credited with inventing the cell phone at Motorola in 1973, made headlines when he complained at a Boston conference that the iPhone was too complex. Further cementing his reputation as a curmudgeon, Cooper told a gathering in Madrid this week pretty much the same thing -- that modern cell phones are too feature-packed to be useful. "Whenever you create a universal device that does all things for all people, it does not do any things well," he told the crowd.

Now, our knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss Cooper as a crotchety, out-of-touch coot when he said, "[Our] future... is a number of specialist devices that focus on one thing." Clearly, the trend in technology has been convergence -- cramming more and more capabilities into fewer, smaller gadgets. Many of us at the Switched offices lug around smartphones that can snap photos, record video, play games, browse the Internet, get directions via GPS, play music and video, and make calls. Yet a quick survey revealed that most of us own, and still use, dedicated iPods and GPS devices, as well. And no one would even contemplate ditching a computer to rely purely on a smartphone for Web access.

So what gives? We decided to ask a friend who is still clinging to the RAZR he's been using since 2005, figuring that he may be able to provide insight into the appeal of simplicity. We asked him if he was ever frustrated by the lack of features on his aging handset, and his response was a firm "no." Although he had considered upgrading to a smartphone, he explained, "There's a few things stopping me." What are those things? He'd heard about various "faults," yet to be ironed out, in both the iPhone and BlackBerry -- perhaps the byproduct of one device trying to be too many things at once.

We asked if those "faults" were fixed, if he could see himself replacing his iPod and GPS device with an iPhone. He shot back, "There isn't nearly enough space on an iPhone for all my music." And as for his GPS? "Generally I'd still use it." He even used the word "novelty" when describing the navigational features of the iPhone.

Maybe Cooper is slightly off-base by saying our future is in "highly specialized" devices; the trend towards convergence will march on. But these added features are clearly meant as a convenience, not as a replacement for a specialized device. It's clear that our reliance on single-function devices will not be coming to an end anytime soon. After all, how many of you are out there that are buying combo washer-driers or TVs with Blu-ray players built in? [From: Engadget]

Tags: cellphone, history, Martin Cooper, MartinCooper, smartphone, top

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