DV Digital

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Your Smartphone Is a Mobile Computer in Your Pocket...

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Every time the New Year rolls around, the tech blogs wax eloquent about the trends for the upcoming year. And, for the past few years, the big subject and trend, other than “More people are using social media…” (duh), is usually how the upcoming year will be “the” year for mobile devices and technology.

And, in most cases, it usually is, the year of mobile. However, this year is shaping up to be “the year of mobile” in a different way than most people think…

Most bloggers and tech columnists go over the obvious trends in mobility, which usually revolve around social media and sharing, and as of late, advertising to mobile device users.

However, the bulk of these tech bloggers and columnists ignore the biggest fact, that a modern smartphone is essentially a portable computer that can fit in your pocket. And, I think that this year, especially with the rollout of LTE networks by the major US carriers, where the theoretical transfer speeds are equal to, or in some cases, exceed the speeds delivered by most home and business internet connections.

Regardless of connectivity though, a current-generation smartphone is truly a powerful device indeed.

My primary smartphone is an iPhone 4S. While not the “current” iPhone, it is still being sold and produced by Apple, and has plenty of horsepower and utility that most people leave untapped. For reference, the specs are:

  • 1 GHz dual-core A5 processor
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • 16 GB of flash storage
  • 960 x 640 display at 326 ppi
  • 8 MP still camera with 1080p HD video capability
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Various modes of 3G/3.5G connectivity

All of this is contained in a device about the size of a Hershey bar that fits comfortably in my pocket, and has an unsubsidized cost of about $400. And through this little device I can communicate with the world, compose documents, generate images and video, connect to remote computers, write and execute applications, and in general access the sum of human knowledge, from almost anywhere in the world. In other words, most of my computing needs and communication requirements can be fit in my pocket. I can use this device for business or pleasure. The real amazing thing is that this little device is far more powerful and useful (even unjailbroken!) than the first computer I ever really worked with, a venerable IBM PS/2 secondhand from my dad’s job.

The PS/2’s specs were:

  • 10 MHz single-core 808286 processor
  • 640 KB of RAM
  • 20 MB of storage on a traditional hard drive
  • 640 x 480 12-inch CRT display
  • No camera
  • Connectivity was an optional external dialup modem, up to 14.4 kBPS depending on model and year

The system itself was about the size of two or three pizza boxes stacked, not including the monitor, mouse, modem, and keyboard. Of course, the comparison isn’t necessarily fair. An iPhone operates on a different “model” than a traditional computer, in that in it’s stock configuration, I do not have easy access to the local storage, and there’s no removable media. I have to jailbreak it to do that. But even stock, the iPhone I have has roughly 200 times more processing power than the old PS/2 and has 80 times the storage, and costs maybe a quarter of what the PS/2 would have if we bought it outright. And I can do far more with my iPhone than I could with my PS/2, even in it’s stock configuration.

Now, I’m only speaking from my iPhone/iOS experience, but I could easily accomplish the same with a modern Android device.

The mobile device operating paradigm is far different than the traditional desktop or laptop computer, sure, but what few people realize, is with this powerful device in their pocket, they can be truly mobile, especially in terms of their work. And, if one includes tablets into this model, the utility steps up even further. Most people’s business affairs involve nothing more than messages, scheduling, and some light word processing and spreadsheet work. Today’s mobile devices can handle this and more. And even more advanced tasks are easily accomplished from a mobile device with the proper applications.

The key though has always been connectivity though. One of the main reasons, other than institutionalized paranoia and archaic management techniques dating back to the days of sharecropping and slaveholding, for people to be bound to an office environment, is connectivity. Business connections once ran circles around most home and mobile connection speeds. Now, and especially as we move forward into the new year, mobile speeds are more than sufficient for 90 percent of the modern workforce to be untethered from the shackles of the traditional office environment.

All the traditional desktop computing apps now have mobile equivalents on both the major smartphone operating systems. There are mobile versions of word processors, spreadsheet applications, financial management software, web browsers, messaging clients, text editors, photo editors, video editors, application development environments, and every other traditional desktop application. This year, the modern worker can truly be mobile. Forget the trends of social media, check-ins, sharing, and so forth, the true revolution of mobility will be in progress this year and going into next.

And traditional desktop computing is definitely mobilized now. My primary work device is my MacBook Air, which packs thousands of times the processing and storage power of the PS/2 into a package that weighs around 1 kilo and can easily fit into a small satchel.

Regardless, with increasingly speedy and pervasive connectivity, this year’s revolution will be more in a general direction of mobility as a whole, regardless of the application. Social media, remote work, telecommuting, and more will combine to induce a social change in the way people communicate and work. The seeds are already planted, and the forward move to a truly mobile society is inevitable.

It’s up to us to harness this change for positive purposes, and not merely as an electronic ball and chain courtesy of our paymasters. We need to induce this change in society as a whole, and not merely shift the control structures from a physical mode to an electronic mode. Sure, there’s a need for human interaction, but once people realize most day-to-day business functions are repetitive-procedural and not really requiring endless hours of meetings, debates, and quirky cultish gatherings, the mobile work revolution can truly take off.

Properly harnessed, this can lead to a healthier and happier society in general. Some of the most miserable people I know are the ones penned up in cube farms under the harsh glare of decaying fluorescent lights for eight hours a day. Mobilizing is only one factor of a needed sea change in the way we work and live.

If any of my small audience needs help mobilizing, drop me a line. I can definitely point you in the right direction.

Oh and Happy New Year. I’ll post some photos soon.