Last weekend I was taking my son to his soccer game. I checked the schedule on TeamSnap and followed the link to the location, which took me straight to Google Maps. Checked directions: 27 minutes with traffic. If we leave at 1:00, we should be there in good time for the warm up at 1:30. What I forgot to check, though, was the network coverage. Ten minutes away from the soccer field, my smartphone lost connection, and I had no clue where to go. I did not remember the name of the field, and I could not use my phone to call for help, or get my current location from Google Maps so I could get reoriented.
A smartphone or a smart phone?
With our smartphones, we have become accustomed to always having the information we need be a couple of clicks away, and we plan accordingly, or (more often than not) don’t plan. The problem is that there are still, and will for a long time be, places which do not have coverage, even 20 minutes from the heart of Silicon Valley. The problem is that a smartphone is not truly a “smart” phone, at least not yet. According to Wikipedia, “A smartphone is a high-end mobile phone that combines the functions of a personal digital assistant (PDA) and a mobile phone.”
Today’s smartphones use all these cool features and functionality to give us the information we need, when we need it. However, what is still missing is an intelligent (smart) way for the phone to adapt to its current network status. If the phone loses its connection to the cellular network, the applications are clueless. A truly “smart” phone would have cached my map so at least I could have an escape route back to good coverage.
It takes more to replace your personal assistant.
A smartphone is a great tool under normal conditions, but as soon you get a little off-track, it often provides little or no help. There is a need for solutions for those times you get disconnected from coverage. Here are two critical features I’d love to see integrated into smartphones:
1. The ability to cache and retrieve multiple maps and directions. Beyond saving my current map why can’t I save more than one set of map and directions? I’m going from my house to a restaurant in a small town on the coast with no cellular coverage. Then I’m going to another location. Let me create and cache multiple maps. Better yet, if the phone can monitor the signal strength and detect that the network is losing signal strength well in advance and automatically cache, if needed.
2. The ability to cache webpages. Wouldn’t it be great if you could cache webpages so connected or not you could still have the restaurant’s home page with their phone number? How about letting me cache a bunch of webpages so I can read on my flight (assuming the plane doesn’t have Wi-Fi?
These two features would let our smartphones be smart, no matter where we were. By the way, if you’re wondering how did my son and I got “unlost” last weekend? I borrowed a feature-phone that had good network connection (better than my smartphone at least), and I called someone to get directions and wrote them down on a piece of paper, and we made it to the soccer game before kick-off. Pretty high tech, huh?
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