One device or many?

Question: Will the future consist of people carrying a single device or multiple gadgets?

Arguments for one device

  1. Students use it for everything. After reading this New York Times article on how mobile phones are used in South Korea, I’m astounded about the possibilities. Students are using their mobile phones for buying food tickets in the cafeteria, for paying the subway fare, sending virtual coupons for physical gifts, as the university ID card for swiping into the library, and so on. And all this is beyond the existing functionality of camera, internet, sms, location, etc.

  2. Centre of innovation. Companies are extending mobile phones in innumerable ways in an effort to add more features and make new models. For example, Samsung has launched “Solar Guru E1107”, a mobile phone that will get recharged via the solar panels on its back when you’re outside. And it costs just Rs. 2799.

  3. Alpha geeks extending Android. Brad Fitzpatrick got his Android-based phone to open his garage door automatically when he starts coming close to his house, Sony is making future walkmans based on Android, Canonical is making Android apps work on Ubuntu, and Android can even be inside your future washing machine. Alpha geeks are extending Android to do cool stuff (of course with hardware providing relevant functionality), and Android is becoming all-pervasive, which means the code could be reused across devices, which means there is a greater chance that all that functionality can be on one device.

  4. TWIT says so. In TWIT Episode 193, Harry of conjectured that “In 10 years, the devices of the day will be descendants of the iPhone and not descendents of the Mac.”

Arguments for multiple devices

The problem with a single device is that they become a jack-of-all-master-of-none and quickly become difficult to use for non-teenagers.

There are many one-functionality devices that have come up in the past few years and people seem to love it:


This seems to be a tussle of hardware vs. software, for example, one-functionality devices vs. app stores.

In the end, I think whoever wins the usability battle will win the customers.

6 thoughts on “One device or many?

  1. I am betting on the mobile phone for the trivial stuff, and specialist devices for things the phone can’t do well.

    Cameras (the lens is the limitation), ebook readers (Not until mobile phones are as convenient as paper/epaper), …

    The market will fragment into two distinct segments, specialist devices for the professionals/prosumers, all-in-one for the consumers.

    Sort of like the Windows/Mac vs Linux market. Windows for the end user, Macs for the pros who want one single tool, and Linux/BSD/other Unix for the specialists who want extreme flexibility.

  2. I think I need both.

    I love my iPhone since it’s good for all time internet, casual music/videos, games, fun in-the-moment pictures and phone features ofcourse.
    The biggest limitation is battery ofcourse. I have to keep a charger both in office and home if I use it too much.

    But at home/office I prefer having a desktop, an iPod, speakers + large screen for movies, xbox for games and a dslr for pictures.

    In future, I am sure convergence will get better but so will be large scale gadgets doing things that they do best, better.

  3. I use my mobile for most of the stuff.
    – Writing mails
    – Taking pics on the go ( I use actual camera only while traveling and not on everyday basis)
    – I listen to podcasts ( I have an ipod but I need to connect it to comp to get podcasts..thats a fail)
    – I read and comment on blogs
    – I check the status of my server
    – I do my banking
    Yes. They are all through apps. As of now its working for me..

  4. @Devdas I agree with you, especially like the desktop OS analogy. I guess the underlying trend that we have to be aware of is that more of the common devices are merging into the phone. For example, everybody other than advanced travellers will use the GPS built into their phones instead of buying a separate device.

    @Chirag Yeah, specialist devices like XBox and DSLR will always be separate devices, but I think for majority of people, “good enough” is what they will go for. And also, I was mostly referring to devices that people carry around.

    @Thejesh I know what you mean! I’m in the same boat.

  5. Well for carry-along-all-the-time devices, “good enough” is actually great.
    I wish they implement the solar panel thing on my iPhone :)

  6. Swaroop,
    We recently knew each other through DELL. I came to know that you are a very good writer !!! I appreciate your efforts!!! Be in touch!!!



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