Friday, April 10, 2009

The Future of Cell Phones

Mobile phone technology is advancing rapidly, but what can people expect to be using in 2015? What will their mobile be able to do and what will it look like? Nokia has collaborated with Industrial Design students from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London to come up with some ideas.
So your cell phone can take and send pictures, even video. You can text message and download ringtones and games. Maybe you can even watch a little television and do some limited web browsing. But if you're a person who's been using mobile phones for a number of years, you can appreciate just how far they've come since the early days when we carried around bricks in dubiously bright neoprene covers, and simply trying to get a phone and service required the kind of stringent credit checks associated with entry to Fort Knox - or being able to rent a video in the early days.

The services available now couldn't even be imagined by most of us 10 years ago. Nor could the numbers of people using cell phones, as a generation grows up with them as a normal, essential tool of life, as much as computers or DVD players.

Perhaps surprisingly, in general the U.S. has lagged behind Asia and Europe in the way its adopted phones. It's really only in the last three years that there's been a huge burgeoning in the numbers using them, whether on contract or pay as you talk. Nowadays though it seems like everyone has them — and loves to use them. They've become so pervasive that many countries (and a number of states) have passed laws preventing motorists from using handsets as they drive, creating the eerie hands-free conversationalist who looks to be talking to himself.

Yes, we've come a long way baby, but as far as phone technology goes, the simple fact is that you ain't seen nothing yet.

What is 3G?In Japan, always the leader of the pack, you can have a wrist videophone — about as Dick Tracy as you can get — watch all manner of television, use your phone for downloading and listening to music and browse the Web freely. Welcome to the third generation of mobile technology, or 3G as it's known. Think of it as the cell phone equivalent of broadband. And it's not so much the future as the present.

With 3G data can be transferred at rates between 64 and 384 kilobytes per second, a blazing speed compared to most phones whose transfer speed is slower than the old 14.4 kbps (many services aren't at 3G yet, but at 2.5G, a sort of interim stage, with transfer of 114kbps). It will create a unified global phone standard (anyone who's travelled outside the U.S. with a dual-band phone will understand the frustration in trying to get your cell phone to work in, say, Europe). But above all, it's going to transform your phone into a multimedia center.

3G is already widespread in Japan and it's hitting Europe (Finland is a leader) and America. By way of illustration of 3G's possibilities, British mobile service O2 has replaced its own mobile phone Internet service which it introduced with a flourish only three years ago for i-mode, from Japan's NTT DoCoMo — and this after its O2 Active has been a runaway success, as had Vodafone's Live mobile Internet service. But with the ability to access more sites (over 100), more customers will use the service, spending more money. i-mode currently has about 55 million subscribers in 22 countries. The cost is quite cheap — about $5 for every hundred pages browsed. But of course you'll want a new phone to be able to use it fully, buying into the British love of replacing handsets, which happens on average every 18 months.

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