I cannot remember the last time I was in a record store. I know they still exist, but I am not sure I could find one around town if I had to. I used to spend hours at a time flipping through albums and CDs looking for something new or perhaps a previously owned gem that I have wanted to add to my collection. Nowadays all of my music shopping is done online – either through an app for a download site or in some cases through an online store that sells CDs.
A quick glance at my smartphone, and I can find a dozen or more similar time-saving tools that are making me more productive. In addition to buying music from the comfort of my home, I can tune my guitar, get directions, check the weather, read a book, or take an impromptu photograph. There truly is an app for everything.
To that point, I recently attended a conference where one of the guest speakers was praising the “app model” because applications generally do one thing – and do that one thing very well. He compared this to a futon, which was designed with the flexibility to perform multiple functions but it isn’t very good at either of them – going on to explain that a futon is really just an uncomfortable sofa by day and an uncomfortable bed by night. This theory immediately resonated with me, and I was surprised I hadn’t heard it before.
But then it got me thinking…is my smartphone actually becoming a futon???
That is…if I keep asking it to do more than just be a phone, am I slowly contributing to its place in history alongside the Swiss Army Knife, the fanny pack, and other once-popular contraptions that also tried too hard to combine convenience with functionality?
Even as I write, I am bombarded with advertisements and announcements by today’s device manufacturers that are working feverishly to overcome some of the leading futon-like flaws with today’s devices – things like battery life, better keyboards, and improved displays. There are now touchscreen tablets that swivel to become laptops or have attachable keyboards when we have some serious typing or data entry to do. There is wireless charging to help us fight the constant battle of keeping devices powered up in light of all the new uses we have found for them. There are even plans for computerized glasses that improve the way we view the content that we download using a “Terminator-style” display that we wear at all times.
But I don’t think we have to worry about the demise of the smartphone in the immediate future. We are clearly only in the beginning stages of this phenomenon. And as we continue the pivot to cloud-resident solutions, these devices will become even more valuable for access to virtual desktops, collaboration tools, and workflow automation platforms.
The call to action for providers, customers, and businesses is to continue to innovate, create, and apply the capabilities of these emerging devices so that their functionality remains just as compelling as their convenience. And to the device manufacturers , let’s continue putting some serious thought into the next generation of devices so that we don’t have to sacrifice usefulness for convenience, and risk our smartphones ending up at home in our fanny packs under a pile of laundry – on top of the futon.