Yeah, everybody’s been talking about the iPhone. It’s last week’s story but it can still generate a fair bit of coverage. People are already thinking about the next models.
Apple has most of the technology to build what would be my dream handheld device but the iPhone isn’t it. Yet.
My wishful thinking for what could in fact be the coolest handheld ever. Of course, the device should have the most often discussed features which the iPhone currently misses (Flash, MMS, chat…). But I’m going much further, here.
- Good quality audio recording (as with the recording add-ons for the iPod 5G).
- Disk space (say, 80GB).
- VoIP support (Skype or other, but as compatible as possible).
- Video camera which can face the user (for videoconference).
- Full voice interface: speech recognition and text-to-speech for dialing, commands, and text.
- Handwriting recognition.
- Stylus support.
- Data transfer over Bluetooth.
- Adaptive technology for word recognition.
- Not tied to cellular provider contract.
- UMA Cell-to-WiFi (unlicensed mobile access).
- iLife support.
- Sync with Mac OS X and Windows.
- Truly international cellular coverage.
- iWork support.
- Disk mode.
- Multilingual support.
- Use as home account on Mac OS X “host.”
- USB and Bluetooth printing.
- Battery packs with standard batteries.
The key point here isn’t that the iPhone should be a mix between an iPod and a MacBook. I’m mostly thinking about the fact that the “Personal” part of the “PC” and “PDA” concepts has not come to fruition yet. Sure, your PC account has your preferences and some personal data. Your PDA contains your contacts and to-do lists. But you still end up with personal data in different places. Hence the need for Web apps. As we all know, web apps are quite useful but there’s still room for standalone applications, especially on a handheld. It wouldn’t take much for the iPhone to be the ideal tool to serve as a “universal home” where a user can edit and output files. To a musician or podcaster, it could become the ideal portable studio.
But where the logical step needs to be taken is in “personalization.” Apparently, the iPhone’s predictive keyboard doesn’t even learn from the user’s input. Since the iPhone is meant to be used by a single individual, it seems quite strange that it does not, minimally, adapt to typed input. Yet with a device already containing a headset it seems to me that speech technologies could be ideal. Full-text continuous speech recognition already exists and what it requires is exactly what the iPhone could provide: adaptation to a user’s voice and speech patterns. Though it may be awkward for people to use a voice interface in public, cellphones have created a whole group of people who seem to be talking to themselves. 😉
Though very different from speech recognition, text-to-speech could integrate really well with a voice-driven device. Sharing the same “dictionaries” across all applications on the same device, the TTS and SR features could be trained very specifically to a given user. While screens have been important on computers for quite a while, voice-activated computers have been prominent in science-fiction for probably as long. The most common tasks done on computers (writing messages, making appointments, entering data, querying databases…) could all be done quite effectively through a voice interface. And the iPhone could easily serve as a voice interface for other computers.
Yes, I’m nightdreaming. It’s a good way to get some rest.