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Tomorrow's Cell Phones 301

bart_scriv writes "Businessweek looks at the future of the cell phone, starting with some existing button-free prototypes and moving on to more outlandish and whimsical designs. From the article: 'New technologies drive many of the new designs. One example: Synaptics ClearPad, a new type of touch screen that will become commercially available later this year. Unlike today's touch screens, which aren't entirely transparent and often not very sensitive — we've all had to endlessly tap one with a stylus to get a response — ClearPad is clear, so it can be used as a sensitive overlay to a cell-phone display. Another innovation likely to change the cell-phone's appearance: flexible displays. An electronic ink screen prototype, developed by Koninklijke Philips Electronics and startup E-Ink, is thin and flexible like paper so it can be worn wrapped around a cell phone. Users can unwrap it to view a map on a larger screen. Eventually, the display could be used to watch video.'"
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Tomorrow's Cell Phones

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  • misfeature (Score:4, Funny)

    by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @12:51PM (#15956438) Homepage
    The most important use of the cell phone is to get a girl's number. In a loud club, a phone without buttons would fail at this most important of duties.
  • by techmuse ( 160085 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @12:53PM (#15956455)
    There have long been rumors of a 6th generation iPod with a full screen display and a virtual click wheel. This invention might make that possible. The track pad could be an overlay on top of a display that spans the face of the entire iPod.
  • What I really want (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Phreakiture ( 547094 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @12:53PM (#15956456) Homepage

    First?

    I don't want a touch screen. In fact, that is the precise antithesis of what I want.

    I want a cell phone that has few to no menus. I want to be able to operate it without looking, by feeling the keypad.

    I don't care if the screen is even in colour, because I'm not going to be looking at it if I don't have to.

    I also want to be able to connect it to my computer as a USB modem.

    I have been asking for this for upwards of four years. Can I have that, please?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What I really want is to be able to hear the person I'm talking to.

    • by generic-man ( 33649 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:00PM (#15956522) Homepage Journal
      So buy a cheap Motorola phone with real keys, use a standard USB cable (with the mini plug on the phone end) and Google for instructions about using it as a modem.

      Here are search results pertaining to my old Motorola v180, which at the time I bought it was the second-cheapest phone T-Mobile sold. [hotbot.com]
      • by bunions ( 970377 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:15PM (#15956644)
        Thank you.

        Every time there's a cell phone thread, someone posts a variant of the grandparent post about how all they want is a simple phone that only makes calls and oh god why can't someone just make one. Apparently these people have never been to the damn cell phone store, because they make a jillion of those things and they're cheap as dirt.
        • by anothy ( 83176 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @02:33PM (#15957256) Homepage
          the problem is that all these folks say "i just want a phone that does X, Y, and Z, and i don't care about A-W", but everybody's X, Y, and Z is different. the phone manufacturers can only produce so many models, and the stores can only stock so many; the market drives them to hit averages and exclude the peripheral. for example, the grandparent wanted a USB modem. well, that's not on most peoples XYZ list; most folks who want a USB modem also want a camera phone, so they only (not literally "only", but the focus, still) build ones that bundle the two. there's no build-to-order market, clearly.
          i have a very small set of features i want, but i'm well outside the curve. actually what i want is very close to the firefly, except some form of data service (preferably bluetooth) is a must and it clearly should have some form of address book syncing via USB/bluetooth (programming it on that 5-key pad is stupid).
    • by loose electron ( 699583 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:00PM (#15956525) Homepage
      Except for the USB port modem, what you are describing is a cell phone from 5 years ago.

      The modern cell phone has gone thru gobs and gobs of feature creep. The market wants more gadgetry, and if that is what sells, it will be provided.

      I think the reason nobody has made (to my knowledge)the cell modem, is because they can cell (sell!) you a PCMCIA plug in and bill you for the modem service as an independent service. Verizon sucks $150 a month out of me instead of $70. You get the idea.
      • by pnuema ( 523776 )
        Switch networks. Go with Cingular or T-Mobile, that offer GSM phones. Then just take your SIM card out, stick it in your GSM modem, and done.
      • My LG VX3300 that I got free from Verizon does that. I did have to buy the $35 cable, but it plugs into my laptops usb port and works like a regular modem. The billing is just air time, so on nights and weekends it is free to use. That is great because during weekdays I am almost always near a real internet connection anyways.

        The one drawback is that it is a modem. It is not a broadband connection. The speed is similar to a 56k modem. Don't expect to download your favorit Linux Distro. Not even DS
      • cell modem? you mean like this one? [mobiledata.com.au]

        or you mean the possibility to use a cellphone as modem? well, even an old nokia 8210 can be used as modem via the infrared or (with a data cable) serial interface.
    • by patrixmyth ( 167599 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:12PM (#15956625)
      I really want a device that drops the functions that aren't directly tied to remote communication, and adds features that make remote communication easier.

      OUT-
      Video
      Camera
      Ringtone Symphonies

      IN-
      Detailed Call History w/ Search
      (ex: show me the number from the phone call I got on a thursday night last month after 11pm, not sure which week)

      Intuitive Dial
      (ex: I call my wife from work, and I call my office from home, when I open the phone it should be ready to guess which call I want to make based upon the time and location)

      Security-
      My phone is probably the ONLY place I want a biometric security device like a fingerprint scanner, and I want to be able to call the cell company and have them tell me the approximate place I left my phone (ie Corner of 9th and Main)

      Energy-
      I know it's not going to recharge the thing instantly, but why not toss a small solar cell on the back and let me dribble charge my phone by setting it on the dashboard?
      • Don't ever leave something lying unsecured on your dashboard while driving. Sooner or later, its sliding WILL distract you enough to get you into an accident if there's one to be had right then.
        • Good point on driving, but I was thinking more about when the car is parked or broken down, when the battery may not be available to charge. I have one car that will charge while the key is out of the ignition, and one that will not, only while driving.
        • Don't ever leave something lying unsecured on your dashboard while driving. Sooner or later, its sliding WILL distract you enough to get you into an accident if there's one to be had right then.
          Go away, safety nazi! Those intelligent enough to secure their phones when placed on the dash don't need your advice, and those too dumb to secure their phones certainly won't heed advice from J. Random Slashdotter.
        • Or worse, depending on what happens, the phone becomes a projectile that kills you.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by pherthyl ( 445706 )
        Hehe, dribble charge.
        The term you are looking for is Trickle Charge [wikipedia.org]
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by patrixmyth ( 167599 )
          Right you are, but being able to kinetically charge my phone by bouncing it would also be cool. Excuse me while I head out to patent the "Happy Fun Ball" phone. It would require a Lithium battery of course.

          WARNING: Do Not TAUNT The "Happy Fun Ball" Phone. If your "Happy Fun Ball" Phone begins to glow or grows warm, set it down immediately and move to a safe area.
      • Add to that list, the ability to record your calls to a removable 2GB flash memory card. When this becomes ubiquitous then all those customer service reps and salespeople you speak with over cell phones might stop being such pathological liars when speaking to you over the phone becuae you can then play their own words right back to them.

        (and recording your own phone calls is perfectly legal in most states, it certainly is in mine)

        A few phone makes/models are starting to be made that do this, but for some r
        • Add to that list, the ability to record your calls to a removable 2GB flash memory card. When this becomes ubiquitous then all those customer service reps and salespeople you speak with over cell phones might stop being such pathological liars when speaking to you over the phone becuae you can then play their own words right back to them.

          The treo will do this, with the $20 CallRec program. The windows mobile based phones can generally do this as well, some even have the software built-in. I've even seen app
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by soft_guy ( 534437 )
            ou can prove to them over the phone what SOB's they are

            You don't need to use this when you call me, though. I already know I am an SOB.
      • I heartily agree - would you go and be a PM at a cell phone company? Awesome.

        BTW, one of the items on your list, the GPS phone locator service, is offered by Disney Mobile [go.com].
      • by anothy ( 83176 )
        you claim to want a phone focused only on remote communication. yet you're stripping out the camera and video capabilities. those are forms of communication, for certain. and you want a biometric scanner? that's not communication (which isn't to say it's not a good idea, but be aware of what your goals are versus what you think they are). your phone book features also aren't directly related to "communication", really, but rather addressing.
        i want bluetooth and/or USB, which is data networking, locally; i w
    • STANDARD replaceble batteries- AAAA?

      no recharge cable & brick; standardized dock, cheap to buy extras

      STANDARD cell phone network (FCC does its job)

      bluetooth contact sync & bluetooth modem -- don't care about usb

      ONE E-paper screen (save power- ditch graphics)

      Runs at least as long as my iPod

      no buttons except as needed (please kill keypad, I can speak names, numbers, and spell words)
      Example: STNG communicator badges have 1 button

      no moving parts, strong enough to survive being in a back pocket of an a
  • Buttons are "out"? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Dalex ( 996138 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @12:54PM (#15956467)
    What's wrong with buttons? How would replicating the function of buttons on an easily-dirtied touch screen be an improvement? It really does sound like they are trying to find applications for technologies that are not really needed when trying to make a phone call.
    • How could doing away with buttons be of use to the user?
      No buttons means,you have to LOOK at the pad when you type.That means its going to be difficult to dial under low light conditions.

      An example is ipod.Every time I use Ipod at night before going to bed,I first have to hit some button to light itself up and then work on the menu/pad.

    • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:18PM (#15956667) Homepage
      Well, one advantage of a touch screen is flexibility when presenting user interfaces, as you're no longer limited to a prearranged set of hardware buttons.
    • My phone still plugs into the wall. Onephone I still have has a stalk microphone, and a crank on the side to get the operator's attention. It delivers a 24volt jolt of goodness down the line which fries every DSL modem between my place and the main office. I always wondered about the sudden screams of agony in my neighborhood when I placed a call...
  • by cjmnews ( 672731 ) <cjmnews@yahoo.com> on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @12:56PM (#15956481) Homepage
    As long as it makes and takes calls reliably, that's all we need.

    Forget the camera and data transfer capability, as this makes them a target for bans at work, jury duty, the gym, and other sensitive areas.
  • by techmuse ( 160085 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:00PM (#15956520)
    The e-ink prototype that they are displaying from phillips looks almost identical to one that was on Earth Final Conflict years ago. Just like the one on the show, this one has a screen that can roll up to place in your pocket, or expand to reveal a large screen suitable for displaying video.
  • Helloooo? (Score:5, Funny)

    by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:00PM (#15956526)
    From TFA:
    In mid-2005, the average person bought a new cell phone every 18 months. But by May of this year, the cycle had shortened to 17.6 months, according to a J.D. Power & Associates survey of 18,740 consumers. "Cell phones [are becoming] so increasingly personal, they tend to be a slave to fashion,"
    Yah. I think we can all see how that statistical fashion trend is accelerating. :-/
  • The "e-Ink" guys need to shut up until they make their technology work. What they have is an expensive overlay film for existing displays that makes them reflective. What they've been talking about for years are cheap high resolution flexible displays, which they don't have. Eventually, someone may do that, but it probably won't be e-Ink.

    • Thanks for saving me my post. I swear we've been hearing about this revolutionary, cheap, flexible e-ink/flexible LED sheets forever. We're supposed to have 60" HDTVs we can roll up for a few hundred bucks. And that was 2-3 years ago. Call me when this stuff is here now.
  • Cue the oldies (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BenjyD ( 316700 )
    "I just want a phone to make phone calls" they will say. "Who wants all those other features? Kids these days...".

    It's OK, you don't need to keep telling us, we know and phones for you exist. There is also a large market which wants email, internet, calendar, notes, SMS, video playing, music playback, radio etc on their phone: I certainly do.
    • Re:Cue the oldies (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:56PM (#15957020)
      The problem these people have is that they precive the extra features as adding expense and more parts. This is largely not true. The phones already have a processor and a display. Radio requires extra parts (but the cost is virtually $0), and the video playing requires a better screen. The better screen just makes everything else more pleasent to use. Other than that the rest is basically software. These people complaining about phones getting more features are in the same category as people complining that computers are too fast and have too much memory. After all, the C-64 computed just fine, and that is what we should all stick with. Anything more is just making computers more complicated and expensive.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by deadhammer ( 576762 )
      It's not a matter of "you old fogeys, stop whining about walking uphill in snow both ways!" It's entirely a matter of function. I'm 26, and my main consideration when buying anything, cell phones or no, is "What does it do, and how well does it do it?" If the new future phones make calls, have clear reception, and don't drop them every five minutes, I'm all for them. If they have a bunch of semi-functional feature bloat and suck as cell phones, I'm going elsewhere. There's still lots of people who want
    • There's some fair points to be raised, though.

      1. The actual function of the phone call is still shit poor. I live in a HUGE metropolitan area, and there's still random and inexplicable dead zones. If they can't deliver an audio stream, how are they going to deliver a video stream?

      2. More features means more to break. There's a car analogy lurking about. They either have to stream the video, which I'll believe when I see, or it needs to be stored locally, and now I need either a iPod-style hard drive, or

  • Kids Cellphone (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bender0x7D1 ( 536254 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:10PM (#15956613)
    How about a simple cell phone for kids with around 6 buttons that can be pre-programmed with phone numbers.

    Button 1: Home

    Button 2: Parent's cell/work number

    Button 3: Other parent's cell/work number

    Button 4: Other relative

    Button 5: Neighbor

    Button 6: 911

    Now the kid can use it to call their parents in case of emergency or other problems, (or just need to be picked up after soccer practice). Can't use it to call their friends since it doesn't have a normal keypad. If you want to be paranoid, add some GPS tracking software so you know where your kid is.

    This type of thing may also be appropriate for younger children since it is hard to abuse - except by calling 911 when your mommy doesn't answer her phone. But if your child isn't old/smart enough to know that, they probably shouldn't be out of your sight.

  • by maillemaker ( 924053 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:23PM (#15956720)
    ...is price.

    I cancelled my family's cell phones because with the price of gasoline we couldn't afford an extra $80/month, Verizon's cheapest plan at the time, for two cell phones. So I cancelled them and we went back to a "land line" via Vonage for $27/month. Yes this is on top of our $50/month for broadband but I'll cancel everything before the broadband connection.

    It's amazing how little I miss having a cell phone. Of course I still keep the phones in the cars in case of emergencies - all cell phones will dial 911 for free.

    I won't consider cell phone service again until it's around $10/month.

    Keep the bells and whistles - give me Third World cell phone prices. If they can have it, so should I.

    Steve
    • "I cancelled my family's cell phones because with the price of gasoline we couldn't afford an extra $80/month, Verizon's cheapest plan at the time, for two cell phones. So I cancelled them and we went back to a "land line" via Vonage for $27/month. Yes this is on top of our $50/month for broadband but I'll cancel everything before the broadband connection."

      Here in my third-world country (Brazil) it's easy to get $20/month plans (not including prepaid) for cellphones. You can also get broadband for under

  • My fiance, who couldn't be more obsessed with fashion, pretty much stopped at getting the coolest cutest phone available. I have no doubt that if one came out that was really cheap and better, she'd probably switch. I don't think anyone's switching up in price on a phone very often, though. That would imply they bought a crappy one to begin with. Once they trade up, the trading pretty much stops there in my experience.
  • I want a cellphone that is not half assed like everything we have today.

    Razr V3 - nice formfactor, volume is way too low, antenna sucks badly, OS kind of crappy, camera a complete joke.

    Treo - nice try, let's not have early alpha stuff please?

    Some of the Nokia devices get close but they always lack somewhere. Somf of the lacking is the fault of the provider locking it out.
  • by CharAznable ( 702598 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:30PM (#15956780)
    I had a Samsung i300 that had no buttons, just a touch screen. It was a pain if I had to use the thing while I'm eating fried chicken or pizza. It also sucked because I couldn't dial by touch. I just want buttons. Nothing bloody wrong with buttons.
    • by twifosp ( 532320 )

      I had a Samsung i300 that had no buttons, just a touch screen. It was a pain if I had to use the thing while I'm eating fried chicken or pizza. It also sucked because I couldn't dial by touch. I just want buttons. Nothing bloody wrong with buttons.

      Dude... getting grease from fried chicken or pizza on your buttons isn't any more sanitary than getting it on your touch screen. You don't need to answer your phone while stuffing your face with substances more likely to kill you than ciggerrettes. Call them b

  • Quantum leap (Score:2, Insightful)

    by oz1cz ( 535384 )
    The article is called "A Quantum Leap for Cell Phones".

    It puzzles me that people use a "quantum leap" as a term for a large jump, when in reality it is the smallest jump possible.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by smoor ( 961352 )
      The term reflects the nature of the change - not the magnitude...

      In physics, a quantum leap or quantum jump is a change of an electron within an atom from one energy state to the next. This is a discontinuous change in which the electron goes from one energy level to another without passing through any intermediate levels. This phenomenon contradicted expectations set by theories older than quantum mechanics that energy should always change continuously.
      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_leap
    • The article is called "A Quantum Leap for Cell Phones".

      It puzzles me that people use a "quantum leap" as a term for a large jump, when in reality it is the smallest jump possible.

      I think the idea is that it is the smallest jump possible that makes it different; in other words, there is a substantial change. I guess you can add as small an amount of energy to a radiating body as you want, but if you don't add a quantum of energy, it's not going to produce a photon.

      But you're right, too many people seem t

    • by hb253 ( 764272 )
      You are now my friend :-)

      The misuse of quantum leap bothers me just as much as the misuse of aggravate vs. irritate.
  • by dysk ( 621566 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:31PM (#15956786)
    These phones look pretty stylish, but I'd stay away from any touchpad style phone if you ever plan on wearing gloves. Touchpads only work with direct skin contact, so that rules out using them outside in cold weather.

    Cell phones could go a long way, but I think that something like this limits the environment too much.

  • I am glad that they started including a secret compartment for valuables. That way if someone tries mugging me then they will only see the 120 carrats of diamonds and not think that I have anything worth stealing.
  • by bunions ( 970377 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:38PM (#15956854)
    Cell phones are computer replacements for the general public. Eventually displays will get good enough, input will improve to an adequate state and cpus will be fast & low-power enough. Once technology gets to a point where you can browse the web in some sort of reasonable fashion, [desk|lap]top computers will become a niche market item.
  • by ZombieSquirrel ( 978302 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @02:21PM (#15957181)
    Here's my idea. Instead of buttons they could have a small plastic wheel with holes along the circumference that represent the numbers 0-9. You stick your finger in the desired number hole and spin the wheel to a starting point. Release the wheel and it spins a back to it original position, inputing that number. No more buttons! Just one plastic wheel with finger holes in it. To hell with having to "button" all these phone numbers. I want to "wheel" all my phone numbers. I wonder if I should patent this?

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