iPhone for all!
Call us Utopian, but thatâ€™s what weâ€™d like to see. An Apple iPhone for everyone, irrespective of where they live, the carrier they prefer or the subscription plan they subscribe. Câ€™mon Apple, you have committed the sin of creating an imperfect but stunning phone, now itâ€™s your time to pay!
The Android Dream phone
If both Google and HTC are involved in something, we are interested to know more about it. Phones based on the Android are expected to be available in mid-2008 though some news reports indicate a phone as early as February. Sounds doubtful, but whoâ€™s complaining?
Sony Ericssonâ€™s Maria
In 2007, Sony Ericsson failed to deliver a good touchscreen phone. The initial lot of the P1i was full of bugs and did as much good to the P-series legacy as the P990i could. However, we want the Swedes to put up a better show. We have heard that the folks at Sony Ericsson are looking up to a device code-named â€˜Mariaâ€™ that will be their answer to the iPhone, complete with finger-based touch input. Will Maria be capable enough to take on the iPhone?
Nokiaâ€™s touchscreen phone
It is kind of difficult to imagine that the worldâ€™s best selling handset brand had only last year brushed off touchscreen phones and pinned their hopes on its range of smartphones. The Finnish are forced to eat up their own words as they develop a completely touchscreen phone. We donâ€™t like what it will look like, but itâ€™d be interesting to see how the leader responds to a threat from an unexpected quarter.
BlackBerry with touchscreen
Talking about touchscreen phones, how can we not talk about a BlackBerry handheld with a touchscreen. The device is rumoured to be indexed in the 9XXX series and wonâ€™t have a physical keypad. We wonder if Microsoft is hearing this.
Moto Rokr E8
We call this one â€˜The Chameleonâ€™. The Rokr E8 has a morphing keypad in which the keys change according to the function being used. So you get music keys when you play music, alphanumeric keys when writing a text message and a numeric keypad while making a call. It would be safe to assume that these virtual keys will vibrate when you register an input just like we experienced on the Moto Razr2 V8.
Nokia N-Gage revived
Now that the N-Gage platform has been delayed till sometime in 2008, Nokia has enough time to conjure an N-Gage handheld. No doubts that the first two handhelds were a failure but considering that Nokia will have an online mechanism of delivering games, it might make sense to try just once more. And going by the latest patent, we can barely wait for next year.
Nintendo Wii phone!
Before we begin, let us clarify that we donâ€™t know about any Wii phone in the making. But what the heck, who wouldnâ€™t love to have a Wii phone? Who knows, next year you might be wielding a slim, white phone like a Jediâ€™s light saber and battling the Dark Lord, himself?
The Department of Telecom (DoT) is likely to allocate additional spectrum to cellular carriers based on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of Indiaâ€™s (TRAI) model of spectrum allocation. The government and carriers have been on loggerheads for over two months now during which a lobby of carriers has dragged the government to court.
“The process will take some time till the government comes out with the final decision on it. However, it is likely there could be some changes on the final guidelines compared to the original recommendations filed by TRAI,” informs a TRAI official.Â
Initially, a TRAI report had recommended the government to hike the subscriber-linked additional spectrum allocation by four to six times the existing number. However, the government had consulted the Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC), which suggested the figures to be hiked by eight to 12 times, which sparked off a retaliation by the carriers, who claimed that they were unable to provide quality service to the ever-increasing subscriber base on the initial spectrum.
This year, the mobile industry witnessed something that can be termed as the beginning of the cellular revolution. Voice call charges have dropped to such an extent that any further decrease would make them free. There are almost 3 times more mobile Internet users in India than the number of broadband subscribers. And of course, India is now adding over eight million new subscribers a month. But when it comes to mobile technology â€“ the stuff that makes smart phones with mind blowing features â€“ the story isnâ€™t exactly the same.Â
This year, we saw numerous interesting technologies that were surely amusing but failed to make any significant mark. Some let down by regulatory issues while others just too expensive to implement on a larger scale. Still others, whose seeds were sown this year and the benefits, will be reaped next year. Hereâ€™s our list of seven hot technologies of 2007 that will become the buzzwords in 2008.
GPS/Maps:Â Watch out for this one! Location is poised to become big, very big. We are not talking of real-estate prices but services enabled by location aware cellphones! Next year, almost every cellphone priced at Rs 5,000 upwards will be capable of showing your location on a digital map and might even help in navigating you to your destination. Nokia has already demonstrated its prowess with its GPS-enabled phones, while Google Maps shows your position on detailed maps of most Indian cities. Whatâ€™s next? Google is expected to launch navigation capabilities for India in the first quarter of 2008 and other handset brands are likely to piggy back on its solution. Also expect to see lot of Bluetooth GPS receivers in all shapes and sizes to complement non-GPS enabled cellphones.Â Â
Mobile TV:Â Everyone has been talking about Mobile TV as the â€˜next-big-thingâ€™ for two years now. So what makes us think that it will finally fly off in 2008? We expect the regulator to come up with a clear policy for Mobile TV operations in the country. With 3G coming in (finally!), the carriers will be more than interesting to offer special Mobile TV packages for subscribers of 3G services. Another factor would be wider availability of phones with larger screens optimised for watching streaming media.
Motion sensors:Â Initiated by the iPhone for its changing screen orientation feature, expect motion sensors to become a hygienic feature in mid-end and high-end phones by the last quarter of 2008. This will bring features like motion based games (jeez how about a Nintendo Wii phone?), browsers that scroll by tilting the phone and similar fancy features.
Touch sensitive UI:Â You must be wondering why we are talking about touchscreen phones when they have been around for eons. Blame the iPhone for this. Next year is going to be the year of touchscreen phones. Starting from mid-end phone upwards, touchscreen will gain popularity like FM radio has seen in 2007. And whatâ€™s more, you wonâ€™t be fiddling with lousy styluses any more, the UI is going to be finger-based input. Some multimedia phones that wonâ€™t have a complete touchscreen will have a narrow touch sensitive strip that will replace the soft keys.Â
Open mobile OS:Â Smartphones running on a variety of open source operating systems will rule the year 2008. Needless to say, everyone â€“ from handset vendors to carriers to app developers â€“ have their hopes pinned on to Android, Googleâ€™s foray into the mobile OS environment. It is going to be a rocking year for application developers.
Virtual phones:Â Next year, your cellphone will go virtual. Imagine the freedom of accessing your cellphone while sitting in a cyber cafÃ© and downloading pictures and files from your phone. You might even be able to make calls and send text messages from your phone via a web environment. Nokia already has such an application in the beta mode and others will follow.
Smart keypads:Â Keypads are one of the most crucial elements in a cellphone. No matter how great a phoneâ€™s features might be, a poorly designed keypad is all that it takes to make it a failure. We expect to see touch sensitive keypads that morph according to the application that is being used. Since there wonâ€™t be any mechanical keys, these keypads will either vibrate or emit a â€˜beepâ€™ when a key is pressed. We have seen a similar mechanism in the Moto Razr2 V8 and expect it to be used on the entire keypad.
There you go! Now we are off for a catnap and dream about phones that will rock our world in 2008.
Delhiâ€™s chapter of Mobile Monday (MoMo) is organising a day long event on January 5, 2008. The theme for the day is Mobile VAS â€“ Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats. Participation is open to all mobile enthusiasts. You can confirm you participation by adding your detailsÂ here.
In order to show off its latest toy, Nokia took a chirpy bunch of scribes on a treasure hunt last week. We were divided into five teams, bundled into cars fitted with the 6110 Navigator and handed out a clue. The objective was to follow the clue, look up the navigator to find the destination and then give directions to the driver to reach the destination. That was about it or so we thought.
Thanks to our earlier experience with GPS functionality of the Nokia E90 and the N95, getting accustomed to the 6110 didnâ€™t take long. The first thing we did was to set the routing to â€˜shortest routeâ€™, which though doesnâ€™t means the fastest but ensures that you give many signal crossings a miss and hence save some precious time. One thing that we noticed about the navigation software on the 6110 was that it was way better than that found on the E90 or the N95. We were later told that the one on the 6110 is powered by Route66, while the others are based on Wayfinder with maps from Navteq.Â
The clues were simple but since none of my team-mates were familiar with the area (unlike some teams), the navigator was our sole companion. We did manage to screw up with one clue and found ourselves scratching our heads (not the navigatorâ€™s fault). The navigator, on its part, was accurate to less than 10 metres, which is way too good! In order to test its re-routing capabilities, we deliberately didnâ€™t take a turn that it instructed us to take and were surprised to see a new route based on our current location prop up in less than two seconds! There were no hang-ups and it didnâ€™t even make us wait for it to plot a new route.
Half-an-hour into the treasure hunt, our driver, Mahesh Negi â€“ who never floored the gas pedal over 40 kmph, was clued in to the navigator business. The 6110 has dual speakers and the audio instructions are heard loud and clear even in slightly heavy traffic conditions. Now all we did was set the destination and Negi would follow the instructions. We think thatâ€™s the real acceptance for the 6110 â€“ real people, in real conditions using GPS. The 6110 is priced at Rs 20,869, which we feel is slightly steep for this device.
And if you are wondering who won the treasure hunt, we didnâ€™t. We came second, after a team of photojournalists who relied on their photographic memory than the GPS. Well, it seems that technology still canâ€™t match the beauty of a human brain.