Kindle. More than a Wireless Reading Device?
The Kindle wireless reading device is one of many latest generation e-readers revolutionizing the way we read books. Could it also be your next mobile phone?
Clearly, the Kindle needs a wireless handset Have you ever asked yourself why mobile phone form factors (shapes) are similar?
Since the first Motorola cell phone hit the streets in the early 1980′s, most cell phones have been rectangular variants of the earliest devices.
Even the iPhone, released in 2007, is rectangular despite its innovative touch screen with app icons.
What if your next mobile phone looked like a Kindle, an iPad or other tablet PC or even a Roku Video Player?
What if you could fold it so it fit in your pocket or purse? What if it were in color and high-resolution? How about a touch screen? Nine hours of battery life? More than a wireless reading device? Getting interested?
Current wireless reading devices on the market are also rectangular, but that will change rapidly as mobile phone users continue to migrate to smartphones or, more correctly, “smart devices” that consolidate the features of mobile phones and other wireless devices. Nokia’s ClipIt and other evolving 3G mobile devices are examples.
But the Kindle is the best model for future mobile communications devices. First, it’s already connected to the Internet wirelessly via Sprint’s “Whispernet” service, now primarily to buy books, magazines and newspapers from Amazon.
Users may turn off the wireless connection to save battery life until they’re ready to shop on Amazon or download. Battery use only occurs when users click to turn the page, go back, return to the home page or choose the menu button.
Navigation to the next page, back, table of contents, turning wireless on and off, go to location, sync to the last page read, book description, word phrase searching, deleting bookmarks or notes and marks are easily accomplished by pressing one or two buttons.
Note that there’s a large QWERTY keyboard for entering book notes or searching for content on the device or online. Using two thumbs to enter text is very easy. Forget about current mobile users’ complaints about touch screen or small QWERTY keypads on mobile phones. Each key is fully tactile, similar to a BlackBerry’s but larger.
To search or enter data, users simply start typing. A large text screen opens when adding notes and all commas, dollar signs and other symbols are accessible by pressing the Kindle’s symbol button.
Accessing the Web
You turn on Internet access on the “experimental” page under “Menu.”
While the current display is black and white with only 16 shades of grey, I’ve found its page load times very acceptable for a device mostly used for reading books and other printed materials.
See how a MobileBeyond page renders. Note that this is not a mobile web page. The blog text and header are quite readable, although the quality pales by comparison to a personal computer or smartphone Web display.
The Kindle also plays MP3′s in stereo (two speakers are on the back of the device or listen with ear buds or a headset). To load your favorite songs, connect a USB cable to your PC or Mac and copy the songs to the device.
Internal memory is now limited to 2 gigabytes without an SD card on the Kindle 2. However, in future versions, more internal memory and an SD card will probably be added.
The text-to-speech feature, activated by pressing down the shift and symbol keys, is listenable, although the voice resembles typical computerized speech. Newer text-to-speech technologies are available, however, for integration. I also believe that the current dispute by audio book authors and publishers about limiting text-to-speech on a book-by-book basis will be resolved.
Mobile Phone Size Compared to the Device
Below you’ll see a photo I took displaying a BlackBerry Curve inside a Kindle. The BlackBerry is roughly one-third the size of the wireless reading device.
What if it could be folded in two’s or three’s like a wallet? This would prevent screen damage. Current thickness folded lengthwise would be one inch and 1.5 inches if folded in three’s–three times the width of an iPhone 3GS. Although a bit bulky, the Kindle should become thinner as screen technology improves.
Kindle – A Phone?
Standardizing the OS is a major factor in application development as the device morphs from an e-reader to a smart device. (See Thomas Baekdal’s article about his design ideas for a Kindle 3.)
He proposes changes to improve it as an e-reader, but some of his ideas are applicable to turning the wireless device into a mobile phone as well.
As with all new mobile phones and other devices, what comes to market is basically determined by handset manufacturers, the operators and, to a great extent, mobile marketers and advertisers.
Although e-readers, including Sony’s, are selling well in the electronic reader market, the world of wireless is much more competitive especially in the smartphone sector.
A “Kindle Mobile Phone” would only launch in the marketplace if handset manufacturers, mobile carriers and marketers and advertisers believe it’s profitable. That leaves aside Amazon which controls the device’s functionality.
But if Amazon doesn’t increase features of this amazing device, other competitors will develop other readers. The Kindle, Sony Reader and Barnes and Noble’s “Nook” e-reader have entered a very profitable market as readers turn to digital media.
So Amazon’s product your next mobile phone? Probably not your next one but certainly a possibility for the one after that.