Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Smartphone, a modern lifestyle convergence

Today, cell phones are not merely verbal communications devices. The cell phone industry has also shifted from focusing solely on ordinary communications instruments to becoming massive convergence that combines various kinds of technology in a device.

In their most simple forms, the latest models of cell phones generally have a camera with a larger number of mega pixels. Other cell phones, meanwhile, also serve like iPods that can store thousands of MP3 songs and play back DVD-quality video.

Although various technological features are not what customers demand, their presence in a cell phone has become more and more popular. Consumers tend to appreciate the presence of this technological convergence and this has forced producers to team up on a broader platform with other industries providing various technological features.

This reality can be found in a number of prominent cell phone brands, like Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, Samsung, etc. The presence of sophisticated cell phones is a necessity in terms of the latest development of information communication technology, and consumers will continue to be lured by various devices that indicate a lifestyle.

Nokia, the leading cell phone maker, has recently established strategic collaboration with three broadband wireless Internet service providers, namely PT Telkom, PT Indosat Mega Media (IM2) and PY Cyberindo Aditama (CBN), and one aggregator content, PT Mobile Lifestyle Indonesia (MLI) in offering free hotspot services.

This collaboration allows all users of Nokia N-series handsets, which have a wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) feature, to access high-speed Internet freely in 1,000 hotspots owned by the three operators in over 20 cities in Indonesia. However, to be able to access the Internet free of charge, N-series users must first register at www.cooldesak.com portal built by MLI.

According to Nokia Indonesia general manager Hasan Aula, in offering free Internet access, Nokia is not seeking short-term profit but is focusing on long-term benefits in order to ensure that its handset users can get easy access to Internet services.

"We hope that N-series users, now numbering tens of thousands of people, will continue to increase in number as will the number of Wi-Fi users," he said.

Undeniably, a cell phone eventually cannot be a stand-alone device. The latest hi-end cell phone, for example, which is also frequently referred to as a smart-phone, is often linked, in terms of its sophistication, with its convergence capacity, such as the connectivity of Bluetooth, InfraRed, Wi-Fi, etc., all now considered essential.

Basically, there are two things that a cell phone must have if it is to be included in the smart-phone category, namely versatility and capacity. The first is the versatility to run various functions. Capacity, meanwhile, is linked with storage capacity (memory).

Competition in this market is quite fierce. Not only GSM-based cell phones but also smart-phone vendors have begun to tap the potential of CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) subscribers. This is in line with the availability of a great number of CDMA-technology-based handsets. As the number of CDMA subscribers grows from one year to another, vendors are optimistic that technology-based smart-phone subscribers will continue to increase in number.

The growth of CDMA operator services in the sector of data dispatch has also spurred an increase in the smart-phone market.

"Although the speed of its data access is still under GSM, competitive rates will attract public interest," said Idris Efendi, general manager of mobile business units of PT Sistech Kharisma, the sole distributor of Dopod in Indonesia, when introducing Dopod D818c earlier.

According to Idris, CDMA has penetrated the market faster than GSM. That's why smart-phone users have begun to shift to CDMA technology. He also said that sales of GSM-based Dopod had gone up by 20 to 30 percent annually. Dopod claims it has secured 30 percent of the Windows Mobile-based PDA market share in Indonesia. "Easy-to use application will jack up Dopod sales," he noted.

So a cell phone is no longer a mere device used for communication as it now has various functions. The era of the cell phone being a mere device through which to speak and send text messages is over. Today, there are more functions in a cell phone as there is better capacity to put various kinds of technology in a cell phone.

The most standard features in a cell phone are SMS, address book and organizer. Next come the features of MMS, small notes, ring tone and wallpaper download, bank balance check and transactions, SMS news service, Internet connection and the dispatch and receipt of email.

With the availability of more features and the rapid progress in technology, there will soon be a time when we will not be able to make the distinction between a cell phone, a personal digital assistant (PDA) and a computer, for example. This is what is usually referred to as convergence in information communication technology. This convergence is capable of putting together various technological capacities as a unity.

On the other side, the wireless telecommunications industry has continued to spur this wireless network infrastructure by introducing various new and more sophisticated technologies, including Wideband CDM (WCDMA).

Our need for wireless telephone access has indeed become limitless. The presence of 3G, Super 3G, 4G, MiMAX technologies and the like in the not too distant future will change the way we use and think about a telephone. This, among other things, has spurred convergence in the wireless telecommunications industry by including as many hardware and software features as possible in a cell phone.

Indeed, when 3G technology was first introduced, cell phone users felt there was a technological hiccup of sorts because it changed the way they normally spoke on a phone from merely speaking and listening to also viewing. 3G technology has been growing slowly as it takes time to change people's telephone habits and because cell phones with 3G capacity are not widely available, plus they are rather costly.

These are constraints that wireless telecommunication players have been trying to overcome by not only introducing new infrastructure technology such as WCDMA, but by also pushing cell phone device producers to converge various technologies that have been familiarly used in information technology. Yahoo Messenger, Skype, email, word processor and the like will be available in various cell phones.

Now that 3G or even 3.5G technology is available, cell phones are no longer merely telephones. Various future devices, which will be the convergence of various features of information communication technology, will be someone's multimedia assistant with a very large scope, as far as it can be adapted to our use for maximum benefits.

When a mobile lifestyle requires flexibility, a device needs more than one function. What is needed is a practical device with various functions. It will be a convergence device enabling the user to use it for all needs. The hope is that a mobile lifestyle can be applied perfectly without the user having to bother with a great number of devices that go along with his mobility. Just one device for all you needs. (Burhan Abe)

The Jakarta Post - August 22, 2007

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