Smartphones shipments passed featurephone shipments for the first time ever in 2013-Q1. While the trajectory of smartphones overtaking featurephones was long established, this still marks a watershed moment in the rise of mobile.
People don’t only want to be connected by voice, or even text messages. We want to be connected to data, our data as well as other, public data. We want to read about ourselves everywhere and comment on what we read, even if it only means tapping a like button.
The larger meaning of this smartphone milestone is that smartphones are now completely mainstream, mass market devices with wide acceptance. In that sense, smartphones are no longer leading edge devices, they are as ordinary as your Toro lawn mower.
What is the leading edge today?
It looks like the next wave of early adopters will be seeking wearable computing devices like Google Glass or an Apple iWatch. Don’t reach into your pocket for that smartphone, you’re already wearing it.
There is a gimmicky feel to these devices. Will wearable computing amplify your social isolation as you remove yourself from conversations to react even more to technology? How long can this perpetual data session last?
We do like smaller, lighter and easier to carry, so wearable computing looks like a winner to me. Bluetooth headsets have been popular and they’re one precursor to the age we’re about to enter. First the clunky wearables, next the fashionable wearables. So expect a fusion of technology and jewelry that really didn’t happen much with smartphones, except for the rubber cases you slipped over yours.
Of course connecting us to data has meant we become less connected where we physically are. Are we going to be always interrupted by not just a phone call, but an email, text message, tweet or status update? Right now society is plunging into that model where the circle of your social friends will continually tug you away from whoever you’re with.
This communication revolution has meant you can communicate in a variety of expressive ways to whoever you decide matters.
Hidden in the rise of mobile devices that get ever smaller is the increasing importance of the cloud. Connectivity enables the device shrink and server growth. We’re starting to see data centers emerge as the reincarnation of mainframes, with all the misbegotten potential we assigned to them in the 1960s. How much does Google know about you? We used to ask this about IBM 50 years ago, but then IBM was a proxy for whatever organization was using an IBM mainframe (think government, phone company, etc.). Today it literally is Google that knows what you’re searching for and also what you select out of those searches.
The cloud is growing. The cloud hosts your data and the data of others that interest you. There are a handful of big cloud players, so it’s not the one phone company ruling the earth scenario from The President’s Analyst 50 years ago, but the danger is apparent.
In today’s world, how do you drop out and start a new life? We live in a world of identity cards, usually driver’s licenses or passports, and computerized verification of that identity token. There has never been better authentication available. As we age older most people rely on the government for pensions and healthcare. How do you get that without identity checks?
You can’t leave your past behind. It’s recorded, stored and retrievable in the cloud.
So all the data we are recording, uploading, then downloading and viewing is waiting, lurking for an abusive authority. That authority knows a great deal about you. You can’t escape it.