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The Effective Cell Phone

December 27, 2013

I’ve written a bit about phones recently as I’ve experienced the switch back to iOS from Android. There are a few other posts in this series:

I wanted to stop and take a moment and think about design of cell phones for a minute. I think that Android, iOS, Windows Phone 8, and other systems have their own strengths and weaknesses. Even though I prefer iOS, I wouldn’t want that to be the only choice for everyone.

However why should the choice stop there? I think Apple has done a great job with their App Store, and while I don’t like their censorship of applications, I do appreciate their certifying and curating apps. I just wish they’re allow more applications, and more importantly, more defaults.

What does a smartphone do?

If I think about what a smartphone, I am looking for it to have these functions:

  • Make and receive phone calls
  • Manage voice mails
  • Manage contacts
  • Handle text messages
  • Browse the web
  • Get email
  • Work with my calendars
  • handle navigation
  • provide keyboard for input
  • provide voice to text services

I’m sure there are other things. For example, being able to connect with various other platforms (twitter/facebook, etc) from within any application. Maybe I am concerned about text to speech capabilities, or more. When I look back at Android, I appreciated the variety of keyboards that were available. Like most people, I quickly settled on one (Swype), but I did try out the Swiftkey and KeyPal keyboards.

Why doesn’t that make sense for all of the functions above? Perhaps I want a different dialer that somehow presents data differently, or makes phone calls in a different way. I’m imaging that I might want to route some calls through a service like Skype or Google Voice and some through cellular. I would love the ability to replace the default dialer with some other dialer, just as I could replace keyboards on Swype.

Many of us have a favorite browser, but it’s not the default on your platform, you may find some links opening in another browser. I should be able to set the core default programs for functions on my platform, as I choose them. I don’t expect that any dialer, or calendar, or other service is allowed. There are core functions that need to be met, and I’d accept that the platform provider, or maybe store, would certify applications as working on the OS, but after that, I ought to be able to replace the default programs that can be run.

Android is much more open about this than iOS or WP8 in many ways, and I’m not sure if everything above can be replaced. I know I could replace the dialer with Skype instead of cellular, but I’m not sure if all these functions can be replaced. If they can, then kudos to Android.

I also know that some applications are available for all of these functions, or most of them, but I thought there were places I couldn’t set something as the default. I’m not ready to go back to Android and experiment now, but for sure I wish I had the ability to get automatic, default functionality from the phone in the way I want it.

Ultimately Apple isn’t making money, or loyalty, on their dialer, or calendar. They make money on the platform, so build the amazing platform, but let other people provide more customizations, as you do now in app stores. Just allow consumers to make those defaults if they choose to.

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