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Paradigm shift: cell phone to PCD (Personal Communications Device)

Gatta’ have those TLA’s (three letter acronyms) so I’m calling the modern smart phone a PCD (personal communications device). 

Ye olde flip phone’s external LCD decided that it was going to emulate a modern art postage stamp rather than communicate things such as time or date or ID of incoming calls. That screen was a nice feature as you could see who was calling and then flip open the lid to answer the call. Convenient. The phone also had a Bluetooth radio, a camera, and a 2″ inside screen so you could browse the I’net. Text messaging was interesting as you had only a ten key pad for input. The focus was on being a phone and it was good at that.

But a broken screen meant it was time to upgrade. QVC had a bundle with a new Tracfone PCD made by LG that included a one year ticket for only a bit more than the ticket alone would cost. That looked to be a low risk opportunity to see what the LG L41c smart phone (a.k.a. PCD) was all about.

First off, to call this thing a phone is a mistake. Yes, it does have a CDMA radio so it can talk with the Verizon network and software to dial telephone numbers and converse as if on a phone.It can behave sort of like a phone but that isn’t really it’s focus. It is a general purpose computer with a full suite of sensors and radios that can serve a lot of personal communications needs.

The ecosystem for PCD’s reminds me of the personal computer heyday’s of the 80’s. Then, as now, it was Apple versus everybody else. Fanboys would troll forums defending their choices and preferences. Everybody and their brother was developing software applications to sell to get rich. Even the Apple aesthetics and price versus the other’s utility and variety issues were similar then to the situation now.

There are two keys to his phenomena. First is the platform. Like in the old days of MSDOS, you don’t have to worry much about what was underneath it all. These days, that ‘underneath’ includes a whole lot more than it did then and going around the offered interface is no longer tolerated. What you still have, though, is a whole horde of people addressing shortcomings or inconveniences they feel need to be addressed. 

The second key is in the hardware. The modern PCD has sensors to detect its position, movement, and environment. Radios are available for the cell phone network, WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS. As a computer it has multi-media, data storage, display, user input, and processing capabilities. 

There’s a lot more than these common factors between then and now. These days, matters of privacy, security, synchronization between user devices, and distribution  all make their mark. Here’s a list of just a few things that the paradigm shift from phone to PCD brings to mind:

  • Convenience apps: automating function by sensor analysis such as for answering the phone or turning off the screen (e.g. SpreakerPhoneEx and Gravity Screen)
  • Navigation: PND vs PCD and closed vs open platform implications and the offline conundrum
  • Contacts and POI: multiple needs for locating places and people
  • Software development, distribution, updating, and security
  • Multi-network connection utilization: e.g. cell vs wifi for voice and data
  • Entertainment: video and audio streaming and services
  • Politics and FUD mongering

The age of the PCD started only a few years ago. It ties together many technologies to put a litany of communication tools in your pocket. The hardware side is pretty well figured out. The social and soaftware sides are just beginning to figure out what might be. Interesting times, indeed.

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