Based on my experience testing the IBM Seer software on an Android phone  I have been considering what type of mobile phone to get when my current contract expires. Here are the features above what is common in current smart phones that I think most people will sorely miss if they don’t have them for the 2011-2012 period:
- Camera that takes reasonable quality pictures at a 5MP resolution.
- High resolution screen (VGA or better).
- GPS (for navigation and augmented reality.
- Digital compass for augmented reality.
- An open market for applications which allows free software to be installed – such as OpenSSH.
The first two items shouldn’t be a problem, there has been a constant trend towards better cameras and higher resolution screens in phones. The difficult ones are GPS and a Digital compass which require phone software to use them. I get the impression that Android and iPhone are going to share the market for fully functional smart phones (because they have the market of applications). So I predict that by 2012 the phone market will have iPhone and Android fully functional smart phones as well as budget phones that don’t support running applications (and will probably lack a compass and GPS).
Here are the features that while not essential, will greatly increase the experience of using a phone for serious users:
- At least 2G of storage built in – installing a 2G micro-SD card is not adequate.
- A screen that can be easily read during the day – maybe Pixel Qi.
- The ability to give a good quality of sound for playing video and audio recordings with a regular headphone jack (so I can use my Bose headset).
For my use a hardware keyboard (such as is used in the Motorolla A855 “Droid”) is essential. I want to have a pocket sized ssh client for emergencies, and I want to be able to type notes reasonably quickly.
I wonder what portion of the smart-phone user base actually needs a keyboard. I’ve seen many people who use a smart-phone as just a regular phone that can exchange photos. Even among people who are moderately serious about smart-phone use there are probably many who only want to take high resolution photos and tag them with GPS data. Currently there are no Android phones on sale in Australia that have a hardware keyboard, I’m worried that this may be an ongoing trend which will result in people with my requirements being forced to either pay significantly more or compromise on features due to the market meeting the needs of average people.
Finally I would like to have a smart-phone that has a regular USB port for plugging in devices (which would of course require an adapter as the size of a phone doesn’t permit a regular USB port). That would permit copying files from USB flash devices, driving a digital SLR camera, and printing photos directly to a USB printer. It would also allow connecting a USB video device, keyboard, and mouse to make a mobile phone work as a desktop workstation. Current smart phones have a lot more compute power than the desktop machines I was using in 1998, so there’s no reason that one couldn’t be used as a workstation with the appropriate peripherals.