In the vast kingdom of gadgets, there is no doubt who holds the crown: Smartphones. To which particular brand the crown goes to is debatable, but smartphones have become an essential gadget. What we will focus on this week is essentially the brains of the smartphone, the software. More specifically the applications.
We have seen applications greatly evolve since the launch of the Apple App Store in 2008. We have seen the interface improve greatly as well as the general functionality of the apps. The adaptability of these apps helped smartphones become appealing to the general public in comparison to the offerings from Blackberry, which at the time were mostly for business-class users. If there is a function, there is probably an app for it on the major platforms.
This week Cameron Banga spoke with us about the continuing development of mobile technology. He and Mike Phelps co-founded the software company 9Magnets back in 2010. Since then they have gone on to create over 100 applications that have included battery management, games, and many other apps to fill clients needs.
What type of app do you see the most potential in?
Cameron Banga: Thats’ a really good question. We do so many apps in such quick cycles, so its hard to say. The Batterygo application app we did was the most commercially successful.
I would say the most successful recent app was the Mac-only application we did called Nectar. That one is my absolute most successful personal one. I designed it for myself, which is really rare for what we do since 90% of our work is contract based.
The most rewarding part of doing contract software is that you are often tackling problems or tasks in fields that you have no experience in at all. You have to put yourself in not only the mind of your client, but also the end user.
What do you see in the future of applications?
CB: The next step in the future will have to do with connectivity with respect to your whole digital personal persona. I think wearable technology is the next step. Comparable things today would be Google Glass and Galaxy Gear. Although I think that both products are very far away from what will ultimately be popular in the mainstream. I do think wearables are going to be the thing that excites me for the next 3-5 years.
It’s not so much your smartphone or tablet, but your smart other things that interact with your phone. The phone will be the ideal connectivity device because it is always on you during 90% of your day. It serves as a good technical HUB. I’m seeing it now with a lot of things that I really enjoy. I have, for my car, a new product called Automatic. It’s a dongle that connects into the data port in you car. It is bluetooth powered and maps out all of my drives and gives me a driving score. It tells me if I am driving in a way that negatively affects my gas mileage. It mostly just charts my day. Tells me where I have been and how much it cost me to go from one place to another. Really neat metrics that are passive.
What are Passive Metrics vs. Active Metrics?
CB: Active Metrics are possible with mobile phones because we have these personal computers with us. We can do things like track what we eat by inputting what we eat into an app. Those apps that actively require you to enter in your own data are neat tech demos but they often become not very promising in practice because of the amount of manual labor needed to input data.
With the 4.0 version of Bluetooth Low Energy it allows these things to become cheap and easy to create hardware. The Automatic app utilizes this. Another piece of Bluetooth Low Energy hardware that has recently come out is the August Smart Lock.
(Writers Note: The August Smart Lock is a bluetooth lock for your house that is opened when your phone comes within a close proximity to the lock.)
Will tablets and smartphones eventually replace laptops and desktops?
CB: They are definitely coexisting today. They are projecting 2015 for tablet sales to surpass laptop sales. I think that they will continue to coexist for a long time. The question will be what the average person uses. I think for the average person any other computing done outside of work can be done on a tablet. I think for the future even computing at work could be done on a tablet. I think there is still a niche for desktops though. I think what you will see is that desktops and laptops will move towards something like a server space. There will be a [collection] of people that pay a lot of money for [laptops] and use them everyday.
Do you think that we will start to see a tablet/laptop hybrid sort of what Microsoft tried to accomplish with the Surface?
CB: I definitely think there is a place for the hybrid model. Most people have no idea of how they use something like a computer. People like to overestimate their own knowledge or understanding of a subject. When buying a car they want more space or power than they need. When buying a house people always overestimate the space that they will need. Technology is one of those fields where it is easy to be gluttonous because they are not relatively big investments.
There was an attempt to create something that there was no real demand for. People buying tablets were buying them for consumption and home use. They are not buying them to type on.
The problem with the Surface was it was a half-hearted tablet and a half-hearted laptop. It wasn’t great at either. For the people who needed both, they would just buy both because it wasn’t much more expensive to just buy both a tablet and a laptop.
Is it a challenge figuring out how to interact with applications on a new platform?
CB: Now is one of the first times in computing history where having businesses rethink their workflows and software methods is within reach. If you were a business and needed a piece of software for your business, you bought something off of a shelf, like Excel, Word, or Powerpoint. You then adapted it to your needs. Sometimes overly adapting. You see all these situations where all these businesses just adapted because they had to survive with a $300 license to Office. Now is really the first time where the clients can rethink the processes and have the software custom built for them. There are a lot of businesses who have never been into software development and now that it is a realistic opportunity for them. Creating software that only meets the needs of their team members and those team members become happier and more productive than they have ever been.
Thoughts on Mobility to Conclude
In my conversation with Cameron, I found myself agreeing with a lot of the points that he brought up. Mainly the smartphone becoming our digital hub. I believe that more objects in the future will passively interact with your phone like the August Smart Lock and apps like Automatic that Cameron mentioned. You can see this happening already with all of the cars equipped with bluetooth. I believe that you will start seeing more companion apps for things like cars. These apps will present you with data just like the one that Automatic or a smart dashboard presents you with.
I also strongly agree with Cameron that the proliferation of wearable technology is on the way, and that none of the first generation products are close to the end results. I think that the first generation Galaxy Gear and Google Glass do one thing, they lay a foundation for what will be a great product in the future. But I would not suggest anyone buy them in their current form.
Finally, the future of the laptop is an interesting prospect. I expect to see some high powered tablets in the coming years that will really have people considering the choice between tablet and laptop. I know I am already considering it for when I need a new laptop.