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Phones

Is the do-it-all device a pipe dream?

By Joe Levi September 6, 2013, 11:16 am
one device to rule them all

We seem to get caught up debating which OS is better, or which manufacturer makes the best hardware. Doing so hides the fact that today’s personal electronic devices are wondrous things. We can literally reach out across the globe to communicate with friends, family, and even complete strangers in real-time. We can surf the web. We can watch TV and movies. We can read books. We can listen to music. On the surface it looks like we have it all. We don’t. Our smartphones and tablets do a lot, but they’re quickly shedding (or not adopting) features and functionality in lieu of other devices picking them up. Is having one device that does everything only a pipe dream?

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If you were to look at the description that I mentioned in the previous paragraph, you’d think that the current generation of devices “has everything”. Sadly, that’s not the case. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a single device that has the fastest processor, most RAM, biggest (removable) battery, external storage, big and vibrant and high-resolution screen, and still manages to be thin and lightweight. Each device falls short in some category. Why? Manufacturers simply cannot cram everything into one device — and those are just the parts necessary to be a phone.

That’s where the paradigm begins to shift

For years, our idea of the ideal smartphone has been a singular device that does it all. But as time goes on, it seems manufacturers are headed in the opposite direction — away from a phone that powers all of your other devices, and instead they are working the Personal Area Network angle with smartwatches, Glass, hands-free kits, and a host of Bluetooth LE devices.

In the past, peripheral devices were just that: peripherals. Your smartphone (or tablet) was the primary device, and the other devices simply extended its functionality. Bluetooth headsets are a great example.

Headsets were simply a microphone and speaker bundled into a neat little package. Most had a few buttons: volume up, volume down, and an “action” button to either answer or hang up the phone. Eventually these devices started to get more advanced. Some of them began to feature more buttons, and some even started to include their own miniature computers to handle stuff like noise cancellation. The simple Bluetooth headset was becoming it’s own little computer.

Cars with “hands-free kits” began to include app and address book functionality. Some even have stereo audio capabilities to play your music through your car’s speakers.

The trend is continuing. Take a look at the image above. That’s a whole lot of Bluetooth devices all connected to a single Moto X.

Gone are the days…

One of two things will happen in the future:

  1. A do-it-all device will never see the light of day, and Michael Fisher’s dream of the best PAN ever will eventually be realized; or
  2. All this talk about the “Personal Area Network” — peripherals of all sorts — is just a short-lived fad and the do-it-all smartphone is just over the horizon.

The do-it-all approach is incompatible with our passion for slimmer and lighter smartphones. We will either see phones starting to bulk-up to fit everything inside… or the PAN will become our reality.

From one perspective, it’s liberating. By having separate devices to handle specific tasks, we, as consumers, can get the best solution that fits our own, individual needs. These needs vary from person to person, so a “perfect” solution is much more likely given the PAN approach. On the other hand, I already carry around too much stuff with me. I don’t want to carry more.

What about you?

Are you like me and want to carry around one device that does everything? Or would you prefer that your phone or tablet was the central hub? Are Personal Area Networks the wave of the future? Is this just the first step toward the Internet of Things?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Pocketnow’s Taylor Martin contributed to this article.

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