Improved Cellphone Integration

905i CellphoneWith the release of the 905i series of cellphones in Japan, the degree and quality of integration continues to improve.  3G network, GPS, high-definition TV, 5-mega-pixel camera, fast internet access, and even English-Japanese translation are included.  Of all the integration factors we have talked about, only Bluetooth and WiFi are missing.

Quick to adopt

The last few weeks I have been traveling to various semi-conductor manufacturers, and many people have been showing off their 905i phones.  Just mentioning 905i is enough to get all the owners to pull them out.  At one dinner various executives were showing off their phones, which resulted in one of them having to issue an apology to his coworkers.  In his enthusiasm to show off his 905i, he had forgotten that his phone did not contain any of the integrated circuits they manufactured, while his coworkers had remained loyal.  They were quick to demo the TV and GPS capabilities, along with the ease of accessing the internet.  Although, they do admit that data rates are still too high to make it worth dropping their much cheaper PHS modems.  the phones have made one segment TV tuners a part of the local vocabulary.  The enthusiasm from 905i users because of all the new capabilities is very visible.

Cell phone travel agent

The value of the internet connectivity was demonstrated after a meeting we were attending finished early.  Upon entering the taxi everyone pulled out their cell phones and quickly changed their flights to an earlier flight.  After changing flights, they quickly viewed which seats were open, and made their selection.  By the time we arrived at the airport, their reservations were all updated, and all they had to do was place their phone over the scanner for both security screening, and boarding.  There was no need to contact anyone at a travel agent, or the airline.  The entire work of updating the travel schedules was completely outsourced to the traveler.

GPS deficiencies

While phone owners were quick to show off their GPS capabilities, these capabilities still do not yet equal those of a handheld GPS.  The 905i phones have navigation capabilities, but none of the users could figure out whether or not they could maintain track data or waypoints.  Also, noone was sure whether or not the images captured were automatically geocoded with where they were taken.  The technology integration is taking place, but the users and manufacturers have yet to realize the full advantage that this integration provides.

The majority of users do not think of GPS the way a camper would, but instead in terms of car navigation systems which tells how to get from here to there.  The ability to capture where you have been, or to maintain location data with pictures, is still not widely used or understood.  Since the phones provide GPS, camera, and internet capabilities, everything we have talked about GPSes could be handled within the 905i systems.  However, the software does not yet fully support all the desired functionality.  They lack the digital compass feature for determining direction, and altimeter.   There is still room for improvement in the integrated GPS functionality.

GPS Functionality still not widely available

  1. Basic GPS handheld functionality
    • Capture waypoints
    • Capture tracks with position and time
    • Digital compass
    • Altimeter
  2. Integrated altimeter
  3. Geocoding of pictures with coordinates
  4. Ability to transfer pictures and track data to online mapping services such as Google Earth and Maps

Portable Entertainment

Many of the new 905i models provide HDTV.  Some even allow for recording and transferring of the video.  With higher-resolution cameras, they continue the trend of providing quick access to camera and video recorder.  Watching movies on planes may not be an option since most cell phones do not allow for disabling of the transmitters, and even if they did many would likely forget to turn them off.  Phones often serve as mp3 players, and ring tones continue to become more and more individualized.  More and more games are available in mobile versions.  Playing on a 3-inch screen may not be the most enjoyable, but screen sizes are likely to increase.  Who wants to watch a HDTV video on a tiny screen?   Also, missing is the ability to transfer video on the phone to a nearby TV.

Take advantage of sound

All telephones require a microphone, and cell phones have been increasingly taking advantage of this.  For years now you can tell the phone who to dial, and it generally gets it right.  The 905i phones are offering English-Japanese translation using audio.  Also, on the future tech page at NTT, they are talking about integrating audio bar codes into newer phones.  Audio bar codes seem to offer a wide range of possibilities.  While the microphones are insufficient for recording music, they are more than adequate for voice.

Still farther to go

One way to address the small screen issue would be video projection.  This would allow for watching video in a a better way than the current 3-inch screens do.  Also, using hacks like those discovered for the Wii remote to allow for multi-touch input on any surface, the phone could serve as a very convenient computer interface.  Integration of digital compasses and barometers will bring the phone closer to hand held GPS units.  Better integration of the camera, GPS, and internet is still waiting.  With geocoded photos community services will be able to improve the travel preview experience by allowing better viewing of areas to visit.  While printers and keyboards exist to connect to your phone, the peripheral space is still widely unexplored.  As the phone capabilities increase, it will move closer and closer to serving as your personal digital assistant.

In the next article we’ll talk about how researchers are taking advantage of all those GPS enabled cellphones. Until then, post your comments on what functionality you are waiting to appear inside your cellphone.

Reference to Related Articles

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