SMH at Mobile

I am all too willing to admit that I can sometimes have some very high (and not quite unrealistic) expectations towards mobile. Part of that is because of how I’ve grown up with mobile – as a device and software reviewer who pays too much attention to characteristics of a device, not just a glazing feature. But, man, I think I’m ready now to just say that some things just shouldn’t be tolerated.

For example, yesterday, Nokia announced some new devices and a major update to its long-running Symbian operating system. The devices aren’t by any means anything more than variations on the current Symbian meme (touchscreen, home screens, multimedia, and shiny-interface elements). The software’s main highlight – icons! You mean to tell me, that in a company that can iterate all kinds of experimental software that none of it is included on new devices? Wow.

Or, let’s take HTC. Their introductions (also yesterday) amount to an iteration of processor speed, a smaller iteration of the shell, and additional price points. Where’s the innovation? Really, where’s the UI that doesn’t need to be trained, but learns and adapts itself to the owner – it is called sense? Heck, why is it that your highlighted feature is that you’ve finally nailed the camera lag that has plagued your devices – fixes aren’t features, except in this age of mobile it seems.

As I sat awaiting the clock to turn into my birthday (also yesterday), I went around the web looking for a mobile to replace my N97 (its two years old, I deserve a new one even if its a gift to myself). I found nothing except upcoming products that even made my eye glisten just a little bit. There is so little different between mobile devices, that to actually find something that is an upgrade over what I have, I’ve got to wade through movies and announcements of concept devices. I know my expectations are a bit much, but this is seriously a problem.

Or, maybe its not a problem at all. People who are the loudspeakers of life and innovation in mobile rarely speak in depth about how they live with mobile – the talk is much more about numbers (apps, downloads, screen sizes, processors, etc.). There’s very little accountability towards mobile unless something goes wrong like the placement of a hand over an antenna. Why aren’t mobiles being taken to task for getting worse in battery life? In light of issues with components, why isn’t there talk about more efforts to educate the media on the issues of fragmentation, development, and integration so that people can make smarter decisions about which mobiles work best. Heck, why is it strange to have a mobile that’s waterproof that doesn’t look like a rubber brick? Haven’t we moved forward.

For me, I found nothing in my search. The news cycle offered nothing. And I’m again reminded towards how a mobile that slips into my day without me needing to push a button is something that I’m not willing to give up. A mobile that plays the role of my information hub without agreements to advertise to me in order to keep that information central to me is what counts. Like yesterday’s story, I’m not interested in keeping a relic, but in making sure that I live a life that offers future generations a story that betters their lives. Very little about (consumer) mobile is offering that. That’s a shame, and an indictment towards the kind of mobile culture that I helped shape.