The Problem With Smartphones
When the iPhone first debuted about five years ago, it was so far ahead of everything else on the market that it immediately became, and still remains, the gold standard of smartphones. But when the iPad was introduced just two years later, it made the smartphone suddenly look, well, small. The larger screen real estate of the iPad allowed us to do just about everything we could do on a smartphone, better.
Now let’s consider the cost. A 16GB iPhone5 (or Samsung Galaxy SIII, the other leading smartphone) costs around $600 without contract. A 16GB iPad Mini is $329. And a 16GB 7 inch Kindle Fire HD or Google Nexus7 is $199. Seriously? No wonder the iPhone is 50% of Apple’s revenues and an even greater percentage of their profits. The real cost is hidden from us.
And one more thing…have you ever used your smartphone for turn-by-turn directions with a turn approaching and you suddenly get a phone call? Argh!
Enter the Tablet
Our tour guide in Thailand used his 7 inch tablet for GPS and to provide WiFi hotspot for his passengers. He used his Nokia phone as, well you know, a phone. Since returning to the US, I recently looked into my options for doing the same. I can get a 4G LTE-enabled 16GB Google Nexus7 for $299 and a 3GB data plan with T-Mobile (my preferred provider) for $35 per month with NO CONTRACT. Further, I can get a prepaid feature phone from T-Mobile for less than $20 and purchase a prepaid SIM for 1000 minutes for $100 (good for up to 12 months). Since the phone has become such a commodity for most of us (we prefer text, email, chat), let’s treat it (and price it) as such.
This plan is *almost* complete. The Google Nexus7 is an absolutely perfect device. I bought one for our Thailand trip and it was just the right size to carry in a coat pocket. I used the Kindle Reader App to read books and did just about everything else I would normally do on a smartphone. My iPad2 looks huge and clunky in comparison! I used Google Voice to manage voice and text messages (the virtual phone number feature ROCKS!). I used What’sApp for free chat worldwide and Skype for video calling…there’s just one problem with this plan.
Feature Phones Suck
Good luck finding a good feature phone these days. You can find a cheap Nokia on eBay. But you can’t sync your calendar and contacts, texting is a pain and the navigation menu is terrible.
So here’s what I propose. Someone needs to create a hybrid device between a smartphone and a feature phone. This hybrid phone should assume that you carry a 7 inch tablet with you for all your “smartphone” needs so it just has to perform the basic phone functions…with a few exceptions. This phone needs the ability to sync data seamlessly with your tablet via bluetooth. And it needs to look *Apple-sexy* so everyone will want one.
It should be so tightly integrated that it can store a week’s worth of pop up alerts and reminders that your tablet forwards to it; and it should sync all your contacts. It should work as a slave device to your tablet. It should have a modified Android interface that just provides phone and basic calendar and contact functionality. Everything else should be done on a tablet.
It should have gorilla glass and a software keyboard for maximum durability and functionality. This phone should have a paperwhite display like the best e-readers for battery life measured in days or weeks rather than hours. It should have dual SIM and support all the GSM frequencies so it can be used anywhere in the world. It should be really thin and tiny…about the size of a credit card. And it should be priced like an iPod Shuffle (ie less than $100).
This phone needs to be bundled with a tablet and marketed as a whole new way to communicate and stay organized. Who is likely to make a phone like this? I think it’s obvious.
NEXT PAGE: Introducing the (Imaginary) KindlePhone