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Tech Guru’s Mobile Phone Wish List

You might have noticed by now that we’re great cribbers. With most of the products that we review, almost always, we can find either this element missing, or that other feature which could’ve been better. So we thought of coming up with our list of peeves. Better still, a wish list of what we would ideally want in a product. So here’s a look at things we wish cell phones had, and maybe things even the industry at large should wake up and incorporate to make our lives easier. One thing is wishful thinking, but what is the reality? What are the latest developments taking place in the world towards perfection? We’ll tell you about them too.

Universal charging

At some point in your life there would definitely have come a moment when you found yourself running around your office in sheer desperation looking for a Nokia thin-pin charger, or a Sony Ericsson W series charger. Isn’t it frustrating? Your phone is about to die out, there’s electricity around, but you can’t tap into any of it! For long, people have been cribbing and crying about the thousand-odd types of charging pins out there, courtesy cell phone manufacturers trying to be unique perhaps. Why can’t they just come together and make just one universal charging plug? It turns out they are. At the recent World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, the GSMA and 17 leading mobile operators and manufacturers announced that they are committed to implementing a cross-industry standard for a universal charger for new mobile phones. Apart from consumer experience improvement, the reasons are also energy saving and waste reduction. Hopefully, if all goes as per plan, you can expect the new charging solution based on Micro- USB to be the standard by 2012.

More battery. If not, then at least alternative charging methods.

GPRS, Bluetooth, Video, Music — all big time battery eaters. Some people resort to carrying spare batteries. Some carry car chargers. Could there be a better way? Well some time back we heard of motion based chargers that utilize the human body’s natural movements to create charge. So basically run around or go for a walk to charge your phone. Such a device would create power by using motion produced electromagnetic fields that are harvested, converted to electrical energy and stored. But researchers are scouting for still other ways. Companies like ZTE and Samsung showed off their earth friendly solar powered phones at WMC 09. While the ZTE is a rather plain looking ‘making calls’ type of phone, Samsung’s Blue Earth is a full touch Eco friendly wonder. Imagine you’re running out of battery. When this technology is perfected an hour or two in the sun and you should be good to go. But what about the fact that most people quite like to keep their phones in their pockets? Perhaps accessory makers could make hay while the sun shines by coming up with some strap-on devices! You could then perhaps even charge your phone while you’re on your way to work.

More apps, more freedom, maybe fewer operating systems

Compatibility is a prickly issues when it comes to phones and the stuff you can run on them. Who has the patience these days really to look at which platform supports which application? Applications are very important. We would really like to see a free office suit on phones that allows more editing options. Restrictive operating systems inhibit innovation and reaching the full potential of functionality of devices. Whatever operating system it may be, should allow independent developers to develop software applications. Otherwise you have people such as Apple who want to criminalize Jail breaking, which allows users to circumvent the digital rights management (DRM) technology on the iPhone, to be able to install third-party applications not authorized by the company. Firefox incidentally is supporting the iPhone jail breakers.

Bigger Displays

Now that we have so much more to watch on our cell phones why do it on an itsy bitsy screen? When the iPhone came out it its large display, it made even the most hardened critics take notice and go “hmm that’s nice”. Now it’s about time someone came up with a bigger screen. Toshiba unveiled the TG01 which has a 4.1-inch 800x600 display, and a 1- GHz CPU from Qualcomm. But we’re greedier still. Bigger the better is always the way to go to get the most out of your portable media.

Better Cameras

Agreed phones have come a long way since the time of VGA cameras that produced grainy images that barely passed off as photographs. Still, when do you think they’ll come close to truly replacing standalone cameras? Lately many phones do have 5 MP and such. But that’s not enough. The WMC saw a few phones like the Nokia N86 and Samsung Memoir which show that they’re at least getting there, but a long way to go. Zooming is one area that requires improvement. Most cell phone cameras have digital zoom instead of optical zoom. An actual moving lens could help make the leap. Another great divide that cell phones need to cross is sensor size. For greater picture density sensor size in phones must be increased.

Better looking phones

There are the standard chocolate bar phones, sliding phones, and flip phones but we really could do with some radical designs. Something interesting we laid eyes on recently was the GD900; LG’s transparent phone. It’s got a glass-like polished silver body and a translucent keypad. A light illuminates around its keypad to make the buttons visible. It’ll definitely come in handy if you’re Hollow Man or the Invisible woman from fantastic four!

Accessories compatibility (3.5-mm audio jacks and memory cards)

Compatibility is one of the most important factors when it comes to cell phones and its associated accessories. For instance one should be able to plug in any pair of headphones or earphones into any phone. If each manufacturer has its own proprietary standard, so much of listening equipment is rendered useless. One of the possible reasons why cell phone manufacturers even have their own distinct standards could be additional revenue. For example if your bundled LG or Sony Ericsson earphones get ruined, you have no other option than to go in for replacements from that manufacturer. Also most discerning audio fanatics will agree that earphones that come along with most phones are not up to the mark in terms of audio quality. Naturally you would want to use your high quality headphones, but often the jack on your cell phone will not be a 3.5-mm standard jack. For phones to truly replace portable MP3 players they must allow listeners to be able to choose which headphone they want to plug into their device. Another issue is with expandable memory. When changing phones it should be as simple as transferring the memory card from one phone to the other. This doesn’t always happen because of so many proprietary formats such as M2, SD/MMC, Memory Stick, xD-Picture Card etc.

Other wishes

When you buy a rather pricey device, it is not unfair to expect the phone to be easy to handle and of a better build quality. Better ergonomics would surely help; like scalloped or beveled keys, angled screens etc. Plus the slider quality in most sliding phones leaves a lot to be desired. Since we’re in the era of touch screens, that’s an area that could use some R&D, especially by companies other than Apple. Functionality could be improved with small measures like having more useful displays in standby mode — giving you more at a glance without having to open the phone or unlock or slide. We would also like some more ease with inter-transferability of personal data such as contacts, notes and calendar entries between brands.

So we hope our little wish list finds its way into the R&D lab of some handset manufacture. And if at all some genie manufacturer decides to make our wish his command, we get first dibbs on the dream device!

Local search

What do you normally do when you are looking for a service or product in the non-virtual world? A few years ago you would thumb through a dusty old yellow pages directory. Then we got pretty comfortable with services such as Just Dial. Now, it looks like the search giant of the virtual world Google, intends to enter the local search fray in a big way. Recently, Mumbai and Bangalore got a taste of Google’s phone search. Initially launched in Hyderabad and Delhi about a year ago, this service enables users to search for local businesses or movie show-times by calling a toll free number. The results are then sent to you via SMS. We decided to give it a shot. We called up 1-800-41- 999-999 and the automated IVR menu asked us to state business and location. Surprisingly it did recognize in the second try and sent us a single listing of Healthy Meal Tiffin Service in Ghatkopar. Still not bad, though we would’ve liked a few more results. Google claims to transfer the call to an operator after two failed attempts at recognition. We decided to put this to test too, so for business name we said “Ding Dong”. Obviously after two attempts at recognizing ‘ding dong’ as a business name, the operator came on. When asked him for listings of Tiffin Services and he seemed not at all inclined to narrow down the location. When prompted from our end he was willing to send area specific listings. Otherwise he was going send the first three listings for the keywords ‘Tiffin Service’. How typically Google! (sponsored results anyone?) Also the three SMSs that we received were pretty garbled. Incidentally the same service is available via SMS. Simply send your search query to 9-77-33-00000 and wait for the listings to be sent to you almost instantaneously.

Google Latitude

Google seems to be giving a major push to their mobile invasion lately. It’s comforting enough to know that Google already knows more about us than we do ourselves. Be it our searches, mails, likes dislikes, and here’s yet another case Google trying to pervade another aspect of our lives. This time it seems Google wants to pin point our location! Okay perhaps this is a very paranoid way of looking at the recent launch of Google’s Latitude. The new service from Google is supposed to be a feature added to Google Maps for mobile that allows you pinpoint your friend’s location on a map. Your first reaction might be “oh that’s nice; who can I stalk or spy on?” But remember, even your location can be triangulated! Now are you thinking “that’s kind of creepy”? Well Google’s take on the service goes something like this — “Once you’ve opted in to Latitude, you can see the approximate location of your friends and loved ones who have decided to share their location with you. So now you can do things like see if your spouse is stuck in traffic on the way home from work, notice that a buddy is in town for the weekend, or take comfort in knowing that a loved one’s flight landed safely, despite bad weather.”

Jokes and paranoia aside, it may indeed have some uses. You may really want to share your location with people you’re really close to. You could use it to show off too. Yes, apart from automatically detecting your location you can manually set your location with the desktop version of the service via the Latitude iGoogle gadget. So you can even set your location to Paris if you wish. Perhaps concerned parents could use it to keep tabs on delinquent teenagers? Also to dispel a bit of paranoia, all this ‘sharing’ business is entirely as per your choice. You can choose who to share your location with and vice-versa. You can also decide what level of specific location you want to go into i.e. your best available location or your city-level location. Latitude currently is available on Blackberry, Windows Mobile, and most Symbian S60 and Java-enabled (J2ME) mobile phones and the app can be downloaded from www.google. com/latitude.