Unreasonable Stance: Mobile phones can't be improved any further, so why bother?

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Welcome to the Unreasonable Stance, where our own Devin Coldewey takes the minority opinion on a tech matter and defends it with convenient data, spun numbers, fanboyism, and insults until he proves, without a doubt, that those that disagree with him are filthy mouth-breathers.

It’s interesting that there is so much noise being made about every revision of every model of every phone out there. Why do we bother? Phones have been the same for years, and they’re perfect. The amount of improvement possible is infinitesimal, especially when compared with the fanfare accompanying every press release. We’ve already reached the pinnacle of engineering and usability with the phones we have, so why bother trying to improve them?

Let’s take a look at why this is true. First of all, honestly, is your phone not small enough? I often lose my Samsung Trace in my wallet. My Helio Ocean could be a little thinner, but it’s being revised soon and really most of its functionality is still there in the remarkably small Mysto. But basically their form factors are flawless — to say nothing of the iPhone’s. And I already have both!

What are you hoping “next generation” phones will do? Rock you to sleep? Test for poison? A phone is a phone, and every service you could possibly want is already integrated into this generation of mobiles. You can call anyone in the world from wherever you are. You can check your email, send messages, order pizza, even watch porn. Many phones now have GPS built in, that was pretty much the last piece of the puzzle. Do you need an office suite on your phone? No. Do you need any games more complicated than Bejeweled or Tetris? No. Do you need an integrated taser? Maybe. But really, no matter how much stuff you pack in there, it will never make you as cool as Michael Douglas, and he was phone-cool back when when “bricking” phones meant getting some mortar and building a house with them.

A lot of people are pumped for the big cameras in newer phones. The next generation will have five megapixels! Joy! Of course, the lens is the same one you’d find on a $6 disposable so your pictures will look just as good. And have fun viewing them on a small screen made for showing numbers. The PMP aspect of phones has reached its peak as well; the iPod Touch is a great little gadget, but it’s incompatible with the growing presence of HD. Unless you’ve got yourself one of these, you’re not getting the color and resolution you deserve.

By the way, don’t forget that every useless feature you gain, be it torrent downloading, video wallpaper, or Wi-max capability, every single thing is providing another drain on the battery. And I think we’ve all seen Moore’s law and the convergence trend overtake battery technology. My Trace will last for days and days without a charge. Can you say the same about your iPhone? Just wait for the 3G version or the new Instinct to turn in some honest battery usage reports. You’re going to spend more time tethered to an outlet than actually using the thing.

Seriously. All these people are getting excited over microscopic improvements, or over features they won’t use or will only be able to use for an hour before they’re out of juice. Current phones are tiny, durable, and last forever. The fantasy phones people seem to want can’t be smaller, can only get more fragile, and will die in hours. Everything you need from your phone is in the phone you have in your pocket right now, or at the very most, is available at the your local mobile retailer for a bill or two. And everyone at CTIA and all the other summits, conferences, and trade shows is part of the problem. Stop glorifying this excess. The phones are all right!

Yes, I know, the pac-phone in the top picture is an advanced Linux-based smart phone. But it looks old school if you squint. How come GIS has no side views of old clamshells?
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