Thursday, November 4, 2010

New-age technologies and mobile phones

During this festive season, a cursory glance through newspapers shows advertisements of several new phone launches— Blackberry Torch and the Samsung Tablet. The advertisements do not talk about the hardware but what the "devices and the technology" put together can do for us. With the new age technology products, the whole is truly more than sum of the parts. Let's look into a few reasons why these devices have evolved to the current level.

One key reason has been the rapid pace evolution of core technology in mobiles. Core technology in the mobility space consists of fundamentally the processor speeds and the base memories (RAM, ROM) in the hardware, graphic accelerators, internal memory, display sizes, resolutions and types, ability of play a multitude of music and video formats, camera and video capture in megapixels, output formats and so forth.

Processor speeds that used to be non-existent some time back, have now clocked up to 1GHz. This entails that the device becomes quicker and more responsive to the input commands of the customer. The average speed in the basic Chinese phones is 104 MHz and at best goes up to 208 MHz. These used to be the speeds in the erstwhile premium devices costing 30K or so but this is now passé .

With the operating system (OS) system becoming hungry and constantly being required to ensure multitasking of applications, the average speed of the processors have come to 600 MHz in the touch and Qwerty segment devices from Nokia, Samsung, Blackberry and Sony Ericsson. Processor speeds have little meaning if the RAM and ROM are inadequate. From a mere 1 megabyte or some kilobytes in basic phones which is good enough to take care of saving limited contacts and SMS, the evolved phones now boasts of 256 megabytes of both RAM and ROM and this goes up to as much to 2 gigabytes. This ensures more memory available to the user to store and load programs as well as for the device to store its OS, programs as well as contacts and SMSes etc.

Another reason is the increase in internal and external memory capabilities. For a user, this translates into "more" music, movies, images and so forth. From less than 2 MB memory a few years ago, to 32 GB as internal memory and support up to 32 GB of external memory cards is what is now available in mobiles. A customer can carry about 4,000 songs on a 16 GB card costing a mere 2.5K. The new era mobile phones have the ability to play all or any music format be it MP3, AMR, MIDI, WMA, WAV, RMVB etc.

A few years ago, a video player evolved from a VCR to a VCD player and then a DVD player. This reached its zenith when a Blu-ray player got launched. Today, a mobile phone can play all possible formats including MPEG4, DIVIX, 3GP and WMA. In fact, two models of Nokia and Motorola—N8 and XT720—have HDMI output ports. They can be attached to the HDMI port of the TV and the two devices get integrated—convergence at its best.

The technology pundits are also predicting that growth of the digital camera category will slow down, as the mobile phones enhance their camera capabilities. With pricing going south on phones, this may well become a reality with 5 MP camera phones becoming available at entry level prices.

Display quality in the phones has perhaps seen technology at its best. From the plain Jane black and white displays, we now have colour displays that would put a movie theatre to shame. LCDs consist of TFT, Amoled and now Super Amoled. Vendors have left nothing to imagination with a choice of 16 million colours to give the real depth of the display quality. Along with the colours comes the pixel size. Higher the pixel size better the resolution. A high end phone like the Samsung Super Amoled device—Galaxy S makes viewing a true pleasure.

In a nutshell: The convergence of various technologies on the mobile phone is a force multiplier that is truly delighting the customer.