The Phone is Technology Inertia

[NOTE: this post originally appeared on Datachondria, a blog dedicated to technology, data, and modern life.]


A post by Derek Thompson for The Atlantic Monthly's fine new ideas blog reminded me of something Nathan wrote recently about the impending redundancy of the cellphone. With the development of the MiFi, alongside the ongoing revolution in mobile software applications, trying to cram all of this functionality into a small hand-to-ear device is going to seem increasingly foolish. Why do we think we need a phone at all? It's a vestige of a nineeenth century technology that we've been progressively adapting to do more and more things -- take and store photos, browse the internet, store and play music. This is the anxiety that some feel about an eBook reader -- where would it fit? Wouldn't the ideal eBook reader be larger than the iPhone? When Apple's iTablet Touch finally materializes, will it be yet another device to carry around?

How about this: the tablet lives in your bag. A bluetooth headset -- working off voice navigation like an iPod shuffle -- tends to your urgent phone and audio needs. If you need to do anything more complex -- read a book, browse the internet, work -- you reach for the tablet.

The phone is now a classic example of technology inertia. Why should anyone have to communicate by holding something next to their head?