The new mobile device?

More people use a smartphone and now depend on it. Mobile computing is now phenomenal growth industry with many companies trying to define and control the market.

Human factors
However, smartphone screen size and other human factors are now becoming limitations. I was reading “10 worries IT won’t have in 2013” and the author wrote: “Apple could release an iTurd and the faithful would still line up for it. Personally, I need a bigger iPhone screen ….” This captures the issue in a nutshell. I see this “need” expressed when someone jokes about my “brick”, yet they have to go back to those tiny little itty bitty screens and squint just to read even the headlines of a news page.

Larger Screen size
One of the ways the market is trying to address this problem is with slightly larger form factors. One of the first successful larger phones is the Samsung Galaxy Note and the forthcoming Note 2. This phone defined the “phablet” form factor. Is a 140.9mm (5.5″) screen the answer?

There are now three main hand set sizes:

Model inches metric
Apple iPhone 5 4.87 x 2.31 123.8 x 58.6
Samsung Galaxy S III 5.38 x 2.78 136.6 x 70.6
Samsung Galaxy Note II 5.94 x 3.17 151 x 80.5

A visual representation is available at many sites; search for “mobile phone visual size comparison”. There is an inverse relationship between usability and mobility, the smaller the more mobile, the larger the more usable. So, is there no perfect size? No. But, there are other ways to implement mobile computing.

Alternative Mobile Computing

1. The separation of interaction from the mobile device. The main role of the mobile device is as a server for other task specific devices. In future, head up displays (HUD) will be the dynamic mobile interface. This is not a new idea; it has been in the science fiction literature for decades. The tremendous power in modern devices makes this possible. But, when not moving, and more precise interaction is required, the mobile server can use a built-in projector to display larger interfaces. And, when secure and private interaction is desired, the mobile device unfolds into a larger screen size, the phablet form factor.

In this model, the ‘mobile device’ is the expensive “server”. The other devices are lower cost and purchased and carried when needed. Yet this is still ‘stone age’, it is like carrying around a giant wooden club while hunting for food.

2. Ubiquitous computing. This concept by Mark D. Weiser while at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), the same ones who ushered in the modern GUI phenomenon. Instead of carrying a computing device, one interacts with an “internet of things”. The surfaces and devices we use in our lives are virtual extensions of our network aspect. Our operating system and profile will be securely available wherever we need it. This is a direct rejection of hardware ‘silos’ and how they attempt to monetize that lock in.

This new form of computing will rise as the proprietary mobile platforms start becoming low-cost commodities, and are seen as dumbphones.


  1. Despite a Slowdown, Smartphone Advances Are Still Ahead
  2. What comes next after smartphones?
  3. Smartphone of the future will be in your brain
  4. Ubiquitous computing
  5. Mobile computing
  6. Note 2
  7. Samsung Galaxy Note II, With Android Jelly Bean, Demands Attention
  8. 10 things you needn’t worry about in 2013

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