Douwe Osinga's Blog: The ultimate cell phone

Sunday, April 25, 2004

The ultimate cell phone

To some people, (cell) phones are just things you make calls with. I think that the cell phone will evolve into the one device you'll take with you. PDA, GPS, Camera, Mp3 player, radio, memo recorder, e-book reader, they will all be replaced by the ultimate cell phone. Specialized devices, some people would say, do the job better. But the thing is, in electronics/computers, things become better all the time, until the general purpose thing is good enough. The ultimate cell phone is good enough for every thing and great for making calls. So where will it end? Here's my current idea about the ultimate cell phone.

I like a digital carry all, but it should still fit in a pocket, so not larger than 5"x2" (12.5cm x 5xm). A clam shell like design can create more space. I like the MPX of Motorola for example, though in general, things that move are things that break.

Here the motto is: more pixels is better. On the other hand, the screen has to be smaller than the phone obviously, and more than 300dpi resolution doesn't make much sense, so I'll settle for 800x360, which should be reasonable for basic web browsing or reading books. There are already pocketpc's with 640x480 resolution, we just need to shrink them a bit.

Camera's on phones are here to stay. The only need to become a little better and they will start replacing standalone camera's and camcorders. 2-3 MPixel, 3X optical zoom and auto focus should do the trick. Sure, you'll be able to get a better camera than that, but you phone will be with you when you need it.
For video 640x480x30fps is quite enough for most situations and not that far off from the current capabilities.

A 500Mhz computer is able to do most of the stuff I want, so my phone probably is going to be around that speed too. The intel PXA27x seems about right.

Operating System
I like Symbian, it seems clean and stable, but I think it is mostly that I don't want Microsofts monopoly extended to the cell phone world. A Nokia led monopoly probably isn't much better though. Linux really is the only way to go. This would also create access to a huge set of applications, development tools and most importantly, developers. Nokia seems to have a version of Python for the series 60, but I don't and if it was on SourceForge, I would.

The days when the storage capacity of a phone was measured in the number of phone numbers you could enter, are long gone. Top of the line phones support memory cards and they could have 512Mbyte or more. Still, I'd like to take a decent music collection and a couple of movies with me, so we're talking 10Gb+. This will probably mean a harddisk, unless memory prices drop fast soon.

Internet everywhere. GPRS roaming is pointing in the direction of the future. The telecom people are bound to get 3G right at some point and universal UMTS at 2Mbs is quite enough. I don't think Wifi will not become universal anytime soon. But UMTS will have to be fast and cheap, i.e. unlimited plans for a reasonable price.
I also would like my phone to able to connect over USB to keyboards, mice, printers etc. Bluetooth is nice, Wifi or some other network protocol.

Other features
Stereo sound, VGA/TV out to watch your presentation/game/video on a bigger screen. GPS for location based apps. Integration with some payment system (could be just the phone bill). Loud speakers for music or hands free. Connects to a computer over USB for charging and installs itself as a mass storage device/network card/what have you.