Mobile Trends: The Cell Phone Body Count

Opinion

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144 full sized keys of QWERTY. Email’s falling into disuse with the younger set, but they still use the full-size keyboard for instant messaging, blogging, posting to their social networks, and other things that require heavy-duty text entry. If email sinks soon, it’ll be under the weight of a dozen PC alternatives, not the mobile one. The GET here is simple—45 words per minute. Danger level: low.

Laptops—You’ll still take it with you.
Travel-weary executives dreaming of the day when their backs no longer ache from lugging around heavy laptops will have to keep wishing. E-mailing and messaging capabilities are good enough on a phone for short trips, but who really wants to create Excel spreadsheets and edit lengthy documents on a screen the size of a sticky note? It may save a basket in the metal detector line at the airport, but the GET here is text that 40-year-old eyes can read. Danger level: low.

Console gaming—Target acquired.
While hardcore gamers will want an oversized graphics accelerator under the hood—never good for a power-sipping phone—the big play here is casual games. That’s Tetris, not Tekken. The GET is Solitaire, the most popular game in the world, and it plays just great on a phone. Studios like Gamehouse, Popcap, and Sandlot are making sure that the new generation of casual blockbusters like Bejeweled, Zuma, and Diner Dash will be released side-by-side on phones, PCs, and consoles. There’ll always be the power-user market, but for the mainstream, phones are poised to seize the future of gaming. Danger level: high.

MP3 players—The iPhone tolls for thee.
Storage, battery life, and a decent interface—the iPhone (and, less noticed, just about every smartphone on the market) has proven it can be done, and the clock is ticking. To date, only Apple has made it reasonably simple to fill the thing with music. Players like nuTsie and Sprint’s new music service are pushing sub-$100 phones over that hurdle. This GET is gated on the design teams: as soon as they start shipping phones that slurp up your music collection without a forest of cables and complicated software, kiss the standalone MP3 player goodbye. Danger level: high.

Television—staying on the airwaves.
Mobile TV’s coming, and it’s going to be everywhere. But the experience just isn’t the same on a phone. Bigger is way better in this case, and two hours vegging on the couch is going to trounce ten minutes of channel-flipping on the bus every time. The GET for TV is simply not in sight yet. TV will take some hits but emerge strong. Danger level: low.

A local furniture store used to advertise, “Free is a very good price.” As technologies get miniaturized, cost-reduced, and subsidized, consumers are starting to agree. Keep an eye on the cell phone—and an eye on your business. Your Good Enough Threshold may be just around the corner.

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Dan Shapiro is the CEO of Robot Turtles, a crowdfunded boardgame that teaches children programming. He previously worked at Google after it acquired his company, Sparkbuy. Follow @danshapiro

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