Editorial Notebooks

Smartphones challenge laptops

At the first glance, it looks like they’re trying too hard. Seriously, do smartphones really need to have multi-core processors alongside dedicated GPUs, along with internet speeds faster than many internet providers? The answer is yes. To me, the smartphones of the near future will be able to provide the same functionality as a desktop system, with the added ability to carry it in your pocket. Actually, forget the future—you can do this with the smartphone you have today.

When I proposed this idea to my friends, I was met with scoffs and looks of disapproval. This is an understandable reaction, as there are many reasons why one would want to have the functionality and power of a full computer, rather than work under the limitations of a mobile phone. In general, the constraints that limit what I could do with my mobile workstation fall into two categories: hardware and software.

For me, the lack of a full-sized physical keyboard is the most missed piece of hardware when using a smartphone. It’s one of the main reasons I drag my laptop around with me; I need to have a large, sturdy chunk of plastic to quickly and accurately record what I’m doing, whether it be designing a program or writing this notebook. When using a smartphone, I find that customizing the software keyboard to be an effective way at imitating the thing. Although more buttons on the screen can make things quite cramped, having easy access to every symbol and character is necessary in some situations (again, I’m a programmer). On the other hand, nothing can really beat the physical keyboard, which is what wireless keyboards are for. Some portable bluetooth keyboards collapse into wallet-sized containers, maximizing portability.

On the note of portability, it is worth mentioning why I choose to endorse smartphones over other portable devices such as tablets and laptops. It is true that these devices offer much more in available hardware, and would theoretically offer a more desktop-like experience than a smartphone. Yet they do not offer the same level of mobility as does a mobile phone. A phone does not require a backpack nor a carrying case. It doesn’t even need to be tucked under your arm. It is always with you, whether pocket or purse (or palm) and is therefore the ideal way of always having access to whatever digital information that is needed. Since I already have this device with me constantly, why not take advantage of it and lose the extra bulk of larger devices.

In terms of software, I probably don’t need to mention the thousands of apps available for performing almost any task. However, there are many situations where you need specific software or a certain environment to get the job done. While there might not be a solution that will work with a smartphone, there are several projects dedicated to bringing desktop operating systems to mobile devices. Several versions of Windows and various desktop Linux distributions have been ported to run on Android devices, offering a full desktop environment. Even though these tools may not be ready for the causal user, they demonstrate the excellent capabilities of our mobile devices, and one who is dedicated in using their smartphone to its fullest potential can certainly take advantage of them.

If you choose to be an early adopter of the smartphone as your computer, you can take advantage of all the places you can charge your phone on the go, namely your friends’ laptops which conveniently have USB ports.