No Phone is an Island

Our phones do not exist in sterile black studios being operated by a disembodied hands, they are surrounded by the wonders of today but for some reason do surprisingly little with it. At any given moment, most people might be within 20 feet of a full size QWERTY keyboard but we sit there and toil away with a keyboard that’s either minuscule or completely virtual. Why are we struggling to look up a restaurant review when you could just take a snapshot of the sign outside and, with OCR and GPS, go straight to the Yelp review without typing a thing?

The point is this: the things we interact with in our physical world should also interact with our phones. Geode from Mozilla Labs is a fantastic example, by creating geolocational hotspots based on GPS or W3C data, it alters the user experience according to the situation. For example, you could target all local theaters to send you phone into silent mode, or target roads + a 20 foot buffer to put your phone into car/speaker mode. Why do all of the interactions have to happen between the user and the phone?

Beyond a phone’s physical environment it still remains inexorably tied to our vast network of ‘tubes. Case in point, Google leveraged its off-site computational power when it enabled voice search by only using the phone to record the voice and nothing more. What other resource intense activities could take place somewhere else while you only use the phone to access it? How about using your desktop to stream your 250GB music collection while your precious 8GB of local memory holds just email, pics and contacts?

How can our common and expected environments inform and interact with our phones? Why do we see the only inputs as ASCII character and positional mousing? What if your home phone cried out “Bring Umbrella” when the forecast was bad in the morning? What if the phone looked up places to get Cocoa when the temp dropped below 40º? (yes, these are awful ideas, the key is to use the improv addage of “yes and…”). Lets see some comments and suggestions after the jump. Also, try IT services from Allstream.