An observation on miniaturization.

As I watched mobile phones become tinier from 1996-2006, I wondered what the endpoint would be. Some were so comically small as to be useless to anybody over the age of 40. Would we eventually be depositing them directly into our ears?, we wondered. And then along came the iPhone. It’s on the larger end of phones on the market today. But it does way more than most other phones. And thus came this realization: Technologies will shrink indefinitely, but products will adopt more technologies to maintain the smallest practical size. In two years, when the technological components of the iPhone would allow it to be half of its current size, it will come to incorporate a projector, video camera, and other delights that only Jonathan Ives can predict.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

16 replies on “An observation on miniaturization.”

  1. Sorta. I’d say that there’s something of a convergence point for most electronics – the functionality of a netbook. That is, communications (data/voice), web browsing, and music/video playback (with sufficient storage). Functionality after that? No idea. Camera, maybe, but that fits within that space. I’m something of a GPS dork these days, but I don’t see that becoming widely desired.

    On a physical basis, we have only input/output minimums. For output, I think it’s a display area somewhere between the size of an iPhone (more than big enough) and a Nokia screen (too small). For input, I think it’s something better than T9, and something less than a chiclet keyboard (as much as I think the iPhone softboard is ridiculous). These requirements don’t necessarily dictate physical minimums, though. As you note, a projector could easily solve for the output. And on the input side, if people find that they can deal with softboards, there’s no reason we can’t end up with some tiny square that projects a keyboard on most any flat surface. Maybe there’s some minimum size that will allow for a 0-9 keypad, but that might be the absolute lower limit.

  2. I think we’re going to be putting things in phones (or, properly, mobile computing devices) that we’d never considered. For instance, I don’t think many people desire a GPS in their phone, but they do appreciate the brilliant features that come of their iPhone knowing where they are. Those are the sort of bolt-on enhancements that we’ll see.

  3. Probably not. It *might* have GPS, but most likely it has a tower triangulation positioning system. Which is still positioning info (albiet not as good), but not GPS. More importantly, it’s a positioning system you can’t tap into outside of the confines of your providers walled garden of services. You don’t like what Verizon wants to give you? Too bad. No outside developers will have access to that data for their own applications.

    But I guess we’re really getting into another area, here.


    Oh, and Geneieve? I was terribly impressed with your ability to rein your second yearness in on your summary of the Summu case. And then you made the Blackacre joke. Be careful, chica. For the sake of your future self.

  4. Sorry, MB! I think it was the combination of the MPRE last weekend (on the same day as the journal’s symposium) and the professional responsibility final this weekend and my utter inability to outline criminal procedure that drove me to that last comment. I promise not to do it again.

  5. Oh, and I have a blackberry, because I am cheap. AT&T was giving them out the day the iPhone came out, and since I did not pre-order the iPhone (which was stupid because my phone at the time was flat busted . . .) I got myself the blackberry. It’s not as magical as the iPhone, but it has real GPS.

    I’m restraining myself, MB, from noting that my phone’s GPS is so awesome, it can find blac–nope! I stopped myself!

  6. Here is a million-dollar idea for the propeller-heads at Verizon: Have a windows-based smartphone/pda built WITHOUT the camera. Not all of your customers are 14 years old, grandma doesn’t use it, and business phones shouldn’t have a camera. My people need to get email, not photographs.

  7. What advantage do you gain by leaving out the camera? The part is so cheap that even if they did leave it out, it wouldn’t translate into any cost savings for the customer.

  8. Guess that’s another reason to be annoyed by Sprint and Verizon’s refusal to get on board with the rest of the world on the GSM train. With AT&T or T-Mobile, even if they themselves didn’t offer a camera-less phone, you could still get one elsewhere and throw in their SIM card.

  9. What MB said. And while you can get a VerizonWireless CDMA Blackberry wo/camera, it requires a proprietary Blackberry server…that will sit there next to your underutilized Windows server.

    None of the GSM networks is worth a damn out in the sticks.

  10. Judging by my T-Mobile phone, “the sticks” would have to include a sizable portion of the 64 and 81 corridors — particularly between Richmond and Staunton, with the exception of the area around the Charlottesville exits, and anything even fifteen feet off of 81 — assuming, of course, that there was an adequate signal on 81 itself.

  11. Sticks: Where the streets have no names, or pavement, back in a dark hollow, where the sun refuses to shine. The kinds of places that when you need to make a phone call, you REALLY need to connect.

  12. And this is where I differ from the good folks at T-Mobile. I’m more inclined toward your definition of “sticks,” whereas theirs seems to be “when the population density drops below 200/sq. mi., that there is the sticks. Be careful, lest you hit the boonies, because your phone may just go all France on us and up and surrender.”

    I’m guessing they didn’t really leave Germany behind when they expanded out here. (Not that there aren’t some boonies to be found there, mind — plenty of them.)

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