Mobile devices: it is all about the battery

012110-small2The tech world has been abuzz with the recent announcements of the iPhone 6 and 6+. There is no doubt that these are exciting new devices for Apple although the curmudgeonly might argue that these are catch up devices to bring Apple more in line with their Android competitors. Regardless, there is an element of the announcement that I find disappointing and to be fair, it is a complaint that I have with most of the latest mobile technology – battery life.

Battery life is a key metric for device usability. What good is an iPhone or Galaxy S if its battery life is short? Sure, it has mobile payments, GPS and health tracking, but all of this is irrelevant if the phone is dead. Yet the newest announcements highlight features like higher speed wireless radios, new phone sensors, thinner form factors or bigger screens and virtually all of these impact battery life in a negative way. It seems that buyers are so enamored with these additions that they ignore the fact that battery life sucks. Yet if I look back just a few years ago, we had phones where battery life was measured in days and weeks versus the sub 12-hour life which is common today. Continue reading Mobile devices: it is all about the battery

Blackberry OS 6.0 – Is it enough?

There have been numerous leaked videos of the upcoming Blackberry 9800 slider.  The device brings a new form factor to the Blackberry, but most importantly incorporates a brand new OS, 6.0.  The combination of 6.0 and the 9800’s touch screen mimics the experience found in competing phones running Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, but is it enough?

I have blogged before about how I believe that RIM has to re-write their OS to become competitive in the rapidly changing and multimedia-centric smartphone market.  OS 6.0 represents RIM’s strongest move yet in this direction, but is still based on their traditional Java OS. has links to sample videos of the new phone/OS combination in the links below.  (Note: that some of these videos have been removed, and most can be found here.)

These videos show an impressive improvement in Blackberry functionality and features, but I am not convinced it is enough.  If you look at the market, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android battle on hardware and software features.  They are constantly trying one-up each other with enhancements like video-conferencing (iPhone) or wireless hotspot (Android).  RIM is behind on touchscreen functionality and 6.0 is a catch up release for them.  It breaks no new ground but rather brings RIM a touch interface that is similar to what Android and iOS have been offering since inception.  Where is the innovation in the platform? Continue reading Blackberry OS 6.0 – Is it enough?

The demise of Kin – What does it mean for Windows Phone 7?

This week Microsoft announced that they were discontinuing their Kin product line.  The Kin phones are their new social-oriented devices that were developed by their Danger subsidiary who also designed the Sidekick family for T-Mobile.  (On a side note, the Sidekick was discontinued this week too.  Coincidence?)  The Kin was the first all new phone design out of Microsoft in recent years, and they are currently working on another new platform, Windows Mobile Phone 7 (WMP7).

The Kin makes an interesting case study; it was developed by a team with a proven track record of releasing successful Sidekick phones.  One would have expected the successes to translate to the Kin, but unfortunately that is not the case.  The phones suffered from an overly expensive pricing model and a number of questionable design decisions.  You would think that Danger’s experienced phone designers would know better, and I worry that the same myopia could lead to a WMP7 failure. Continue reading The demise of Kin – What does it mean for Windows Phone 7?

Choices: iPhone, WebOs or Android and why RIM must rewrite

The Mrs is looking to take the leap into the world of smartphones.  Up until this point, she has used a traditional cellular phone and an old fashioned Palm Z22.  The combination has worked okay, but the requirement for frequent manual syncing of the Z22 due to recurring data loss is frustrating.  It is time for a change.

As I am reviewing options, the realization has struck me that what really matters is the OS.  I define the OS as not just the software that runs on the phone but also the supporting infrastructure.  Apple has masterfully innovated through their iPhone OS and complementary applications such as iTunes and the AppStore.  Apple created an entirely new and highly profitable business model with these products.  They then ported the same technology to two additional platforms in the iPod Touch and the iPad and further extended their reach.  In fact their OS and infrastructure was so revolutionary that they have made few changes to it since the launch in 2007 and it still is the leader.

Continue reading Choices: iPhone, WebOs or Android and why RIM must rewrite

Haiti, the iPhone and airplane guidance: A true story

I had dinner with my cousin, a plastic surgeon.  He is a very friendly and warm person and donated his time to help operate on Haiti’s earthquake victims.  He participated with a charitable organization called Operation Smile.  At the time of his trip, Operation Smile had two sites in Haiti, my cousin’s was in Fond Parisien, a 7 hour bus ride from the Dominican Republic while the other was in Hinche, a 12 hour bus ride.  The actor Harrison Ford is involved with the charity and agreed to fly the team to Hinche from the Dominican Republic, and this is where the iPhone comes in.

The medical team boarded Ford’s plane and flew to the GPS coordinates of Hinche.  One of the doctor’s had been to Hinche before and was familiar with the location and topography.  The plane arrived at the coordinates and was unable to find Hinche airport.  The doctor looked out the Window and told the pilots that he did not recognize the area.  They kept circling and then headed towards a nearby airport to reconfirm the coordinates.  The tower provided the same GPS information and so the plane flew back to the same location and was still unable to find the airport.  Clearly the frustration was growing in the aircraft.
Continue reading Haiti, the iPhone and airplane guidance: A true story