Matt's Grand Ideas

Your phone wants to go swimming

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The smart phone has changed the look of the mobile phone. Each new generation of devices pushes the envelope with new features and capabilities, to the point where they are now getting ridiculous. Today I saw mention that Samsung is releasing a phone with a flexible screen. Yeah, I’ve always wanted a bendable phone! Not. A few years ago there was a race to see who could make phones smaller and smaller, and now we’re trying to make them bigger and bigger! (case in point, that phone linked has a 5.5 inch screen).

I feel like the phone makers are mostly out of touch with what consumers actually need. Here are a few practical features I’d love to see in a phone:

1. Droppable phones

Apple does some great stuff, but seriously, glass? On a phone? Samsung is only slightly better. We carry these things around with us and sometimes hold them with our shoulders. Let’s take the galaxy S3, with a thickness of under 9mm, and wrap it in about 4mm titanium or magnesium with rubberized edges. I think that if our designers care about making their phones drop proof, they can do it in a way that looks good. Car manufacturers have consistently gotten their cars smaller and smaller while also making them many times safer. And they’re still functional works of art. Phone makers can do it, if they care.

2. Batteries that don’t die after a year

This is one they’re working on, I know. It’s tough. Lithium chemistry is the foundation of all phone batteries currently. The most common formulations are good for about 300 charge/discharge cycles before the lifespan of the battery is severely depleted. Thinks about this for a moment, 300 charge cycles. Do you drain your phone every day and recharge it at night? That means in a little under a year your phone battery is in sad shape. (Also think about this in relationship to devices whose batteries can’t be easily replaced) Next time  you bring home a shiny new phone, go ahead and mark on the calendar for 9 months out, “pick up a new phone battery.” And in case your phone is acting glitchy, consider replacing your battery. Once it’s a 1 to 1 and 1/2 years old it’s ability to deliver energy will be so depleted that your phone may act up. This manifests as the GPS not working, the phone getting very hot, acting slow or even shutting down. Personally, I’m in favor of super capacitors which have the added benefit of extremely fast charge times, or maybe the fuel cell will get to market quicker.

3. Water proof phones

This should be a no-brainer. Life can sometimes get wet. A few phones are water resistant. A few. But for the most part, water + phone = “dude, you’re getting a new phone!” Water damage is so common that phones have moister sensors that alert the service provider that the phone is no longer covered by a service warranty. Are you glad that such a technology exists? Wouldn’t it be awesome if the moisture sensors instead disabled the battery until the phone was dry so that it wouldn’t short out? With the advent of touch-screens, soft buttons and conctactless inductive chargers, why aren’t phones completely water tight? A couple small screws with a rubber gasket would still allow access to the battery compartment (until super capacitors make this unnecessary). With a water tight phone, I could talk in the rain or keep my phone with me at the beach. I could take under-water pictures!

I think there’s ample opportunity for innovation in mobile phone hardware.

Photo credit: Mobile splash by Alexandre Ataide

Web guy, big thinker, loves to talk, teach and write. I make technology easier to use @ John Deere ISG.

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