Perhaps the world is ready for a new mobile device that will become the icon of the real mobile internet revolution.

What would the device do? Most likely it would work first in Wi-Fi hotspots, connecting from further afield as the range of 802.11-based access points grows and other wireless networks emerge. It would probably do VoIP and IM exceedingly well. It would possibly also do email, RSS, and music. All these we can pretty much take for granted. More interestingly, it may start doing completely different things. Its ability to go where laptops can’t go, and do things that mobile phones can’t do, will create new needs and new opportunities, which make people write new apps.

It might be used to access place and event information in the form of annotated maps for instance. Or it might be used to download and watch TV shows. Or make them in the spirit of podcasting and vlogging. When high bandwidth mobile data becomes free, some of those old mobile service ideas that history left for dead might suddenly begin to make a lot more sense. The fact is, we don’t know what the device will be used for. That’s why the code base has to be kept open.

What might the device look like? It would need to be small and afford effortless one-handed use, incorporating the best learnings from over two decades of mobile phone design. This points to a Blackberry-style roller wheel to scroll up and down the buddy list, the email inbox, and the RSS feeds. However, it would also need to have a QWERTY keyboard or some radical new key layout if it’s going to do text input well. The large footprint of a full keyboard suggests a flip design of some sort. But it would have to be extremely slim.

Here are a few sketches.

Foldclosed_2

Foldopen_2

On the software side, the limited screen real estate requires that the active application must occupy the full screen. IM would probably be the default active app because the presence status of buddies has to be visible at a glance. Switching between apps would need to be extremely simple and smooth, like control-tab on the PC. Perhaps quick switching is important enough to warrant a dedicated button on the side of the device. Click! From IM to email. Click! From email to RSS. And so on.

Here’s a sketch about the ‘full-context switching’ between apps (I looted the term from Chris).

Fullcontextswitching_4

Comments

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Gerd Kortuem
April 19th, 2005 at 12:04 pm (#)

Looks suspiciously similar to a Danger Hiptop, doesn’t it?
Except for the one-handed operation.
Shame no carrier supports it in the UK.
-> http://danger.com/consumers_hiptop2.php

Jyri
April 19th, 2005 at 12:51 pm (#)

Danger ranks pretty high on my list of potential disruptors even though Hiptop2 has a cell radio. I haven’t gotten my hands on one yet (how much longer before HT2 lands on this side of the Atlantic?!). Interesting to see what happens if Danger comes out with a WiFi Hiptop. On a more general level, the point that I’m trying to make is that in order to be successful, such a device would require a HW/SW design approach that builds on the internet world, not on the telecommunications world — and that can be challenging if the organization’s resources, processes and values have developed to meet the needs of the latter one.

Gerd Kortuem
April 19th, 2005 at 2:11 pm (#)

I agree that a new model is required – if it is the classic Internet model I am not sure – how would you classify iMode phones?
It’ll be interesting to see which carrier will be first in figuring out that providing an open network might be more benefical than the current approach. I am not confident that existing carriers will be able to adapt – maybe we need a new carrier?
BTW Danger’s hiptop is available in Germany through ePlus – it’s actually a tri-band GSM device.

Wireless Networking News
May 25th, 2005 at 3:01 am (#)

Disrupting the ancien régime

[Source: zengestrom.com: Why some social network services work and others don’t ”” Or: the case for object-centered sociality] quoted: It’ll be interesting to see what happens if they come out with a WiFi (or perhaps WiMax) Hiptop. On a more…

Pierre Kerchner
January 22nd, 2006 at 12:58 pm (#)

Probably the big problem is
that there is no major company
having the courage to build it
All major companies have commitments in GSM and UMTS
So why should they shoot their own foot?
pierre
http://kerchner.de/blog/
founder of http://www.sofanet.de/

Jan Michael Hess
January 27th, 2006 at 1:05 am (#)

I strongly agree that some smart people have to open the mobile economy which means to create open networks, open devices and open services. Linux and open source on devices is the future.
I also believe that these smart people are going to work in a startup environment, in a company which does not own anything to anybody. But a company that owns to support the wishlist of their target group.
In fact, I am working on a concept for such a new company and I will be happy to tell you more about it.

Jyri
January 31st, 2006 at 4:00 am (#)

Hey Jan-Michael, I’d be interested to hear more about your startup concept. Can you provide more information?

Jan Michael Hess
March 30th, 2006 at 4:35 am (#)

Jyri,
I have just sent you an update regarding our Data MVNO OPEN. OPEN aims at becoming a European mobile data pioneer. We now focus on finding Host MNOs offering us good wholesale data tariffs. We appreciate if you can point us to any progressive MNO Wholesale Manager you might know.
At launch OPEN will also offer the best existing data devices we can find. In the mid-term we dream about an OPEN Device that we can develop together with our customer community. Think Open Source Device Development. Think OPEN becoming a virtual device maker.
Regarding OGO: I tested OGO at CeBIT. That’s a cheap plastic messaging device with super bad usability, very limited functionality, proprietary OS and without options to install new apps. Nothing for wireless dudes like us.

Lifeblog
April 18th, 2006 at 11:01 pm (#)

zengestrom.com on: Stepping down from Nokia

Jyri Engeström is an interesting, kind, and clever guy. I’ve had the good fortune to listen and learn from him on numerous occasions. I’ve been watching him closely in his latest project that recently landed him in Nokia Multimedia. Unfortunately,

Alex
April 20th, 2006 at 2:04 am (#)

In Germany (and most Europe) the major companies paid billions for the umts rights – it will take a long long time to change to another standard…

mobilephone free gift deal
September 7th, 2009 at 10:20 pm (#)

mobilephone free gift deal

Most people make the mistake of going direct to a UK network for the next mobile phone… not knowing that there are incentives available from household names such as Tesco. These include Laptops, HDTV’s, Wii’s, Playstations, Tom Toms and much more.

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