When I say “mobile,” what comes to your mind? Mobile phones? Smartphones? GPS devices? MP3 players? Other portable gadgets? Evolving 3G mobile communications devices, such as the Amazon Kindle, are becoming examples of mobile convergence.
Technology Advances and the Consumer Experience
Only recently have mobile phones, running on 3G wireless networks, delivered a satisfying mobile Internet browsing experience and access to e-books, games and mobile applications.
The iPhone, introduced in 2007, re-defined the mobile phone as a multi-function device–phone, web browser and application launcher. Yet even the iPhone has its weaknesses and competitors, such as Palm and HTC/Google, who introduced smartphones that rival the iPhone.
Moreover, market share of smartphones and mobile phones is minuscule compared to other portable electronics, such as digital cameras, HD TV’s, radios, online gaming, personal navigation, digital photo frames, blue-ray players, e-readers and mp3 players.
While it’s true that many smartphones today have integrated cameras, music players, higher resolution screens and the like, most smartphones features, like cameras, are inferior compared to the multimedia quality of standalone consumer electronic products.
One to five megapixel camera quality on mobile phones, for example, pales when compared to standalone digital cameras. A phone’s MP3 player, listened to with ear buds, doesn’t approach the quality of a home audio system. And we won’t even talk about the superiority of HD-TV.
Product reviewers in print and online publications drool over anything labeled “mobile” because they know it sells magazines and increases online traffic. Yet, the media forget the tens of billions of other consumer electronics products that inform and entertain the vast majority of people.
Mobile phone and other consumer electronics companies will continue adding features, despite the fact that the average consumer uses only 20% of a device’s functionality. Consumer electronics companies are like restaurants that serve big helpings. Most customers won’t eat everything But offering smaller portions will upset the “big gulp” crowd.
The Kindle: Only an E-Reader?
The Kindle II is an e-reader offering 3G wireless access and synchronization to Amazon’s Kindle Store and the Web using a Sprint 3G connection. (You can also connect the Kindle to a PC or Mac for moving files or email file attachments that Amazon syncs to the device.)
The Kindle II sports a keyboard to find device content, search history, bookmarks and personal note insertion into e-books, magazines, newspapers and blogs.
Although listed as “experimental” on the Kindle II, you’ll also find an mp3 player, understandable text-to-speech and basic Web access with search, connecting you automatically to Google, Wikipedia and the Web.
The Kindle II’s screen size is around 5 inches by 3.5 inches. Its e-paper, easier on the eyes than any mobile phone screen, displays readable text and extends battery life. Pictures and graphics vary from acceptable to unreadable.
In a 3G–soon to be 4G–world, I wonder if mobile communication devices, like the Kindle are only E-readers. Could they do more? Could they replace a mobile phone?
What if you could…
While smartphone market share continues growing in developed nations, can you imagine a Kindle or similar device with smartphone features? What if you could make and receive phone calls via Skype or Google Voice? What if you could load applications? How would you like to text with a full QWERTY keyboard? Need to send email? Like music? Need to process credit card transactions on line? Keep a grocery list? Replace your smartphone?
Last point. The eternal question: will the Kindle replace “physical” books. I’ll leave that one to David Pogue of the New York Times.