When It Comes to Smartphones, Thin Being “In” Seems Not So “Smart”

People have said it many times. When you had a cellphone about 10 to 15 years ago, the battery lasted for days. Now, you can barely go a few hours before you find yourself needing to juice up your smartphone.

Granted that technology has progressed from just making phone calls and sending text messages, it’s that small supercomputer in your pocket that kills that juice.

But I was looking at my phone the other day and had the realization that there is this undying need to make a device thinner almost feels like an obsession.

What would happen if you added 5 to 10 millimeters of thickness to the latest iPhone? What else could you fit in there? What could you enhance?

A slightly larger battery would certainly be a bonus. Right now, I can usually get through one whole day on a single charge, depending on how heavy I’m using my iPhone at work. But if I don’t charge it when I go to bed at night, it’s game over by the morning.

And that’s just the start.

Storage. I feel like storage in iPhones is still in those phases of when USB thumbdrives first starting popping up. I got a 1GB drive for my birthday once and thought that was the most amazing thing. Now I scoff at anything that is less than 8GB and only use 32GB on a day to day basis.

In this modern day, why should any smartphone be limited to 16 or 32 gigabytes of storage? With a slightly thicker smartphone, you could start everyone out at 128GB of space. Argue all of the price point bull crap you want because you and I both know that’s just some forced limitation designed by a boardroom trying to maximize its profits.

And then what about digital broadcast transmissions like DTV and HD Radio? Suddenly you have a little more space for those processors so you can process the one and zeros already flowing through the air, not biting into your data limits.

Certainly we need to make battery technology better, but the first company that takes a step in the direction of making their phones thicker for the sake of enhanced technology will get my attention. It’s just a matter of someone having the guts to do it.

High atop downtown Vancouver

Vancouver, B.C.

Not too long ago, I found myself on top of a high rise in Yaletown for a work related project. The only camera I had on hand was my iPhone, but I knew I had to snap some photos of the city, no matter how much my vertigo played with my knees.

Vancouver, B.C.

Vancouver, B.C.

After reading many of Rebecca’s “Vancouver History” posts, it makes me look at these photos a little differently. Vancouver’s changed a lot in just the six years that I’ve lived here, yet alone the last one hundred.

July 11th is the day for the iPhone 3G in Canada

The day has finally been set, so we can finally stop all the complaining about how the neighbors closest to the country who originated the iPhone can finally get the same ability to use and abuse Apple’s latest got-to-have-it. We can also stop our whining and pining for an Apple Store of our own in Vancouver so we can be sure that we don’t have to go all the way to Toronto to buy it from one of the three locations there.

Alright, so I’m still complaining, but at least I can say that it’s about time.

For those not in the know, the 2008 Apple World Wide Developers Conference kicked off today with the traditional keynote address. In all actuality, this is more like a sold out rock show that all the cool kids wanna be at. Difference is that all these “cool kids” are major tech heads that get some major kicks out of seeing what Apple has hiding up their sleeve, and you know that I’m a sucker just like the rest of them.

Before any talk of the new iPhone, I thought it was interesting that the next version of the Mac OS, 10.6, is being previewed at this conference. That’s basically all we really know, other than the rumors that the next release will be less cosmetic and more of a back end strengthening of the OS. More details in time, I’m sure.

So the iPhone 3G, on the other hand, is the huge news. So what makes it better than the original iPhone? Lots, and John Biehler has a lot more details on today’s events, even taking in the coverage as it happened at the Vancouver Apple Store.

This new iPhone is wicked, but why does the “3G” tag on the end mean anything? No, it’s not a throw back to the G3, G4, or G5 processor mumbo-jumbo of Mac days past[wiki]. This is 3G in terms of mobile phone standards[wiki]. It just means faster methods of data transfer beyond simple voice send and receive of a normal phone call.

But that’s not all. At my day job, I get a Blackberry. It’s… ok, but there are so many things about it that frustrate me. However, it’s tied to an Exchange Server, so I get all company email to it as well as contacts, appointments, tasks, etc. The new version of the iPhone operating system, “2.0”, promises to work with Exchange Servers. Combine that with a 3G network in terms of speed and the ease of use of the iPhone interface, because the limited experience I have with Rebecca’s, would make me happy not only as a consumer, but as a network administrator as well.

Of course, out of the gate, there are going to be serious elements to look at before any enterprise use is widespread, but that’s the nature of the beast. Even if Apple hits it on the head, you still have to convince the skeptics at the top of the I.T. food chain. That can be challenging, to say the least.

But there’s still more. The iPhone App Store is going to open up a whole new world in terms of what you can actually do with your iPhone 3G. Applications that you can buy to monitor network traffic, get baseball updates, or the Plum Record app that caught my eye, which is software to record audio on your iPhone. Who needs adapters when the hardware is there to record the audio and someone just needs to write the app for it to work? Potentially very cool for the podcast recording needs.

There is going to be more over the coming month to see how this all pans out. First thing to figure out is how Rogers and Fido will price the data plans for these suckers in Canada. After that, it’s just a matter of how you want to position yourself in line. Elbows out on July 11th or wait till Christmas?

Welcome to Vancouver, Apple Store

In less than twelve hours, the first Apple Store in Vancouver will be open.

Apple Store Pacific Centre - Under Construction
Photo credit: gregeh on Flickr

In the wee hours of tomorrow morning, the crowds will descend, a line shall form, and madness will ensue. In fact, people are most likely camped outside of Pacific Centre on Georgia Street at this moment. I would love to be there for an Apple Store opening and have heard nothing but cool things about it.

Sometimes they even hand out super fun free stuff, crazy discounts, or the odd gift certificate. Still, not enough to really want to make me suffer in line on a day off from work. Plus I’m holding out on replacing my Powerbook G4 with something more of a MacBook flavor, so that’s more of a priority in the near future.

There also won’t be any iPhones to speak of, but that will be changing in the very near future. John Biehler has more on that with some good points.

Unfortunately no details other than it’s coming ‘before the end of the year’.

The big questions to me are:

1. How much for the phone itself in Canada?
2. what does the data and voice plans look like? They better resemble the US pricing
3. How long do we have to lock in? Rogers seems to like 3 year terms
4. Will it be the rumoured new 3G model or as Rogers tends to be behind in releasing phones, will it be last year’s model [johnbiehler]

So an Apple Store within easy walking distance plus the iPhone on the horizon. Things are finally starting to happen for B.C. About freaking time, Apple.

I touched an iPhone

Prior to seeing the Simpsons and after a mind-blowing afternoon on the job (i.e. playing radio at a car dealership in Port Moody), we linked up with John Biehler for some pre-movie, post-BarCampVancouver festivities.

iPhone! John's session is up next
Photo credit: Miss604 on Flickr

John is one of the first folks in Canada to snag an iPhone, even though it is not officially available in this country yet. That’s not to say that you can’t use yours here if you are from the states, but no one is offering service here that allows you to activate it, yet alone use it on their network. The only reason I know that U.S. plans have working functions here is because I happened to be in the same room as the lead singer of the band Yellowcard a number of days ago, and he confirmed this to me when I noticed him fiddling with his own iPhone.

Asking him what he thought of it and using it, his repeated response was, “I just love it. Can’t say more than that.”

So having the chance to sit down with John Biehler the other evening, he put the power of grayskull in my hand. I know that sounds corny, if you get the reference at all, but this was a really unique experience that made you realize that you have a very powerful device in your hand.

John and John and the iPhone
Photo credit: Miss604 on Flickr

John has hacked the iPhone enough to get nearly all the features to work, minus the phone, at least while he is in Canada. Memory can’t recall if he activated the phone in the U.S., where he bought it, but the session that he led at BarCampVancouver earlier in the day was all about hacking into the iPhone for those of us north of the border.

Post BarCamp/Pre-Simpsons Movie beverage
Photo credit: retrocactus on Flickr

After about thirty minutes of seeing what I could do with it, minus the availability of wireless internet at the location we were at (which I can report that said location had a plentiful availability of Hoegaarden in glasses the size of my head), I was uber-impressed. Not only is it cool and/or slick, but it works. All the features make sense, applications work like I expect them to, and you quickly forget that you tapping a flat surface, opposed to the numerous buttons that exist on my Nokia 6682[wiki]. In other words, I adapted to it mind numbingly fast.

Do I have to rush out and get one right this second? No, I think I’ll be alright. I also wouldn’t be opposed to it, more so when it works in all its glory in Canada. John knows of ways to hack you way into doing this for those willing to put the work into it. I’m ok for now, but there was something incredibly cool about checking out pieces of The Matrix[imdb] on his iPhone while sitting in a pub. The resolution was astounding.

The Crazy Canucks on the iPhone

John Biehler left a comment on my last post about the iPhone, and the picture he took is too good not to post.

Crazy Canucks Podcast on the iPhone
Photo credit: retrocactus on Flickr

In his comment, he said, “Streaming podcasts in Safari on the iPhone works amazingly well.”

This is certainly some great news. I would still like to see some very simple and easy applications on the iPhone that are specifically geared towards podcasting. You see and hear about the YouTube button on the device, so why not develop something like that for subscribing and listening to your podcasts?

Of course, I don’t own one and have never seen one. Perhaps the function exists, and I just don’t know it yet.

Edit: I found this link courtesy of Scoble. Very funny things you can do with your iPhone contacts.

Podcasting and the iPhone effect

It may seem that I was completely bashing the iPhone in my last post, but I wasn’t. Breaking things is cool, but the iPhone is still a pretty remarkable gadget in my book. Still, I would prefer to wait until a 2nd generation comes out, not to mention to wait out the potential problems that could arise. They don’t say “bleeding edge” without reason.

The iPhone does make me wonder about the effect this product can have on podcasting. It’s true that there are cellphones out there than can download podcasts and play them directly, but the interface is lacking in one way or another. The only reason I say that is because if it were so easy, and it didn’t take a geek to master the method, then we’d have a lot more people listening to podcasts as is.

Flickr photo by: retrocactus
Photo credit: retrocactus on Flickr

The cost of data plans aside, WiFi enabled cellphones is what purely sparks my interest in the iPhone. It’s a feature, besides Bluetooth, that I will look very hard at when it comes to purchasing my next cellphone, granted that the bank account can handle it.

Talking to Tod Maffin about podcasts at Northern Voice, he was surprised to find out that I listened to the hourly news updates from NPR and CNN. It struck him odd that anyone would subscribe to such things, mainly due to their timeliness, but I love them while running in the morning to get a basic low down of what’s going on in the world.

Imagine taking that concept and applying that to a situation where you are standing in line at your favorite coffee shop that has free WiFi. While waiting for people ahead of you to order their drinks with ridiculously long names, you’re snagging the latest news podcast. Better yet, you’re a hockey fan and notice that The Crazy Canucks published an episode last night and want to snag that for your commute home(had to get a plug in there). Download as you wait, get your coffee order, burn your tongue while taking the first sip, but are happy that you have something to listen to get your mind off the pain.

This is what excites me about the iPhone. Being such a prominent product in the cellphone market, I would like to see it revolutionize the whole spectrum in the realm of getting more phones with WiFi built in, not to mention bringing the price down. User interface will be another issue, but keep it simple and easy for developers to make simple and easy applications for people to easily subscribe and listen to podcasts.

This is how I feel about the iPhone hype

I love the concept and wouldn’t mind owning one. However, I got really sick of the hype leading up to the iPhone release, am sick of hearing from those who got one, and am tired of hearing about all the things you can or will soon be able to get for your iPhone. Just not one of those rush-out-gotta-have-it types, even though I love cool, little gadgets from Apple.

I found this highly entertaining.