Why Don’t Modern Mobiles Do A Better Job of Linking Data Between Apps

Back when I used a Palm PDA, there were a few applications which gave you this ability to take a snippet of data from one application and link it to another application (and its data store). It wasn’t easy to do this for some apps, you had to add some special brackets and a command for which app you wanted to link to. But, when you linked it, then it was literally a matter of tapping on what was linked and you went to that other app. There were even app suites which came out by the time of the Treo which shared data between them (contacts, calendar, notes, and tasks) which made the management of people and their relationship to whatever data/tasks easier – at least within that suite. These days, you have to beg and plead for a developer to take advantage of an API to keep data linked, and even then, its more like sharing (copying between data stores with a link-back to the other content maybe added). If modern mobile platforms/OSes are so good, then why is such a feature neglected?

Ok, maybe I can actually answer the neglect piece. I know from some experience that many of the features that were on PDAs (calendar, contacts, etc.) haven’t been thought of from the paradigm of how we use them. That’s partially why people have some relative ease with Google’s Circles concept, it actually follows how some of us think about people and their relevance to our lives (I would have thought an onion would be a better metaphor, but hey, Google works with lists not layers). Not being able to code relationships outside of how we want to see content really hinders how well we can visualize (or audio-embed) how those features might better work.

Another aspect of this answer has to do with the whole push towards being connected for every little thing. I mean to offend – I don’t want to have my address book stored on your servers. I don’t want its backup there. As a matter of fact, unless I put them in a group (er. circle) that has some log of being communicated to on a regular basis and I know exactly what you would do with that data including monetization schemes, I don’t want you even tracking them. When everything is connected, you lose that liberty to have some owner-embedded discretion to that kind of information. As such, it remains in rigid formats made better for selling and advertising, rather than maintaining those relationships.

The last aspect of this answer has to sit on the shoulders of developers. They can beg and plead for all kinds of things from manufacturers, but then when its exposed for their use, you see so little from it you have to wonder "why all the kicking and screaming?" I remember back on Symbian Ideas how some folks (me the non-developer included) kicked and screamed about being able to see from a contact all of the information on our mobile associated with that person – communication logs, pictures, sent files, calendar items where they are located, URLs, etc. With that kind of information, at least from the address book, a developer could (re)invent some of those other services which advertisers like a lot (scrobbling apps for example) while enabling a better sense of the depth of relationship that people have with whom they connect themselves to. Kicking and screaming for this… and Symbian devices still have those core applications so isolated from one another you would think you were back in 1999.

Look. It makes no sense that if I have a file manager on my device by default that I have to download another app to access Dropbox. This should be integrated as a share within the file manager. I shouldn’t see an HDR camera app, Instagram, and then still have the regular camera (app) on the device. These should be folded into the main app as settings and preferences for greater functionality. I shouldn’t have to mine in my photo gallery for pictures, I should be able to go to the mapping application and see those locationally-tagged pics right from where I took them, regardless of when I took them. Yes, I know its an "app-world" for many of you, but your apps aren’t doing anything but adding friction into how you should be addressing communications and productivity – your mobiles require too much cognitive attention.

Maybe because it doesn’t make enough money for platform owners. Maybe that’s why something as smart (IMO) as a database driven OS like with Palm OS Classic didn’t pan out. Heck, every OS that tried something that knitting has pretty much died. We are left with modern platforms which beg for more of your attention, and then ask you to fork over more money to share, not link, to contextually-similar content.

You see, I want to go a lot further. I want to be able to create a drawing on my iPad, then embed within it links to other properties. I’d like for that to transfer to my mobile with those links intact, and then an ability to directly link it to content structires like the contacts and calendar. And then see those links in those specific contacts or that calendar item or even the mapping app. I’d like the file to have something in it saying “more information about this file is linked on ‘X’ device” so that I’m further embedded into this frame of thinking. And no, I don’t want it to run through a 3rd paty service. It should be platform-level at all times.

Remind me again why today’s mobiles are more advanced? I can’t for the life of me find the contact who last shared with me that point.