Do you remember the time before everyone had a smartphone? We all carried flips and candy bars. These were basic communicators without any bells, whistles, or even protective cases or accessories. We were either not worried about them being damaged, or we didn’t care about how they looked. It was probably a combination of both.
These days, it seems almost every iPhone you see in the wild is sealed tight in one of those fancy Apple iPhone cases designed to protect the phone from everything up to a nuclear explosion. One has to wonder how we arrived at this point.
Three things happened that brought on the case revolution:
- Mobiles got a whole lot more expensive.
- Mobiles got a lot more fragile.
- Mobiles started replacing a lot of other gadgets, making them far more important.
To that last point, you can probably come up with five devices killed by smartphones in just the last few years off the top of your head. Putting together many such lists wouldn’t be very difficult.
Looking back, though, it wasn’t obvious at the time that any of those gadgets would be replaced by a pocket computer anachronistically called a “phone”. To see how difficult it was to predict then, let’s try looking forward and trying to predict the next few things likely to be replaced by smartphones:
Right now, home wifi is faster than the average cellular connection, but that might change with the adoption of 5G. Even now, the fastest smartphone connections are faster than what many people have at home.
The other barrier is the price. While there are some unlimited plans for both types of connections, most people have limits. And those limits are usually more stringent on mobile. That is one of the factors that makes it more expensive to use a cellular connection for the home.
We also need to consider the number of devices connected to the network. The smartphone does not usually have anything else connected to it. So all of the bandwidth goes to a single device. Your home may have two computers, smartphones, tablets, and a set-top box to connect. These are substantial differences.
That said, in the UK, the smartphone is now the most popular way to browse the internet. When it comes to using the internet, convenience is king. We will use the thing that is less capable and more expensive if it is also more convenient. It won’t be long before capability and price are good enough to make home wifi a thing of the past.
Wired predicts that, in less than two years, a smartphone could be your only computer. This is already the case for many people in less developed countries. Because they have no legacy networks with which to contend, in many cases, the mobile networks are much faster than those in more developed nations.
Because of this blazing fast infrastructure, it is much easier to make the move from $300 PCs to $100 smartphones without losing functionality. Making a smartphone your main computer is less about capability and more about the format.
You can use the same Bluetooth keyboard on your smartphone that you would have used on the desktop. It is all about the apps, and the presentation of information. Millions of others around the world have already figured this out. When it comes to desktop replacements, the smartphone is the new laptop.
Rulers and Tape Measures
There is never a tape measure around when you need one. But you do have your smartphone handy all the time. This is a problem that developers have been trying to solve for a few years. In the upcoming iOS 12, Apple will be including a new core app called Measure.
The smartphone is a few years away from replacing home wifi, home computers, and measuring devices. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.