Mobile Computing Revolution

Rahul Devnath
Published: April 2015

A new era of mobile computing is knocking at the doors

mobileThere was a time when mobiles phones were just mere phones – you would talk and send some texts on an 8 bit monochrome display. Over the years the technological breakthroughs in processing technology have made it possible to replace several applications performed by our humble personal computers, with the latest smartphones on the market. Well, it coincides perfectly with the theory of natural selection, that the latest generation of smartphones are increasingly viewed as handheld computers rather than as phones, due to their powerful on-board computing capability, commodious memories, large screens and open operating systems that encourage application development.

Today more than half of Indians aged 25-30 live in households with mobile phones but no traditional landline telephones. Indeed, smartphones have been one of the success stories of the last decade. In a relatively short period of time, smart mobile technology has penetrated significantly into society, capturing an entire age spectrum of subscribers in the world, from school children to senior citizens. This progress has been built upon a long history of the use of communication devices, and a rapid adoption of mobile communication devices that began in the latter part of the last century. Such rapid uptake in mobile phone ownership has transformed many aspects of our lives. It is impacting not only the manner in which we communicate, but also on our sense of culture, community, identity and relationships.

In the past decade, both mobile computing hardware and software have seen an unprecedented development. Under ideal conditions, software brings the creativity of the human mind to work on a machine. A machine or the hardware generally tries to keep pace with the demanding and expanding scope of a software. Thus, the latest game or the heavy app you just downloaded needs a most powerful processor and buckets of RAM to run them smoothly. Not surprisingly, the economies of scale make your year old phone cheap and an ancient relic compared to the slew of latest launches. On the other end of the spectrum, the prices of the latest hardware just keep setting new benchmarks. So, are the prices really hardware driven and justified for the higher cost of production? In the mobile computing world, things change fast for good.

Future is exciting, but the fact is – mobile industry’s future will no longer be decided in Silicon Valley or Seoul. It’s being determined at the Beijing headquarters of Xiaomi, often described as the “Apple of China,” and or at Micromax’s campus on the outskirts of India’s capital, New Delhi. The winds of change are evident. Part of this demographic shift is due to fact, that processing power is no longer a deal breaker, it’s given!

Clever marketing strategy, coupled with cheap manufacturing cost in China has taken the world by a storm. In most quarters of the developed world, Apple’s iPhone still remains a default smartphone to buy. Apple’s robust ecosystem, never gunned for the performance numbers and kept pace with its rock solid stability. The others who owned a smartphone went on to leverage the open source Android, and embraced phones from the Korean manufacturers like Samsung and LG. And well there’s a market out there for the Windows phone too! The current trends in the world market point towards a time, where hardware processing numbers will come to a stagnanting halt.

If you have not been living under a rock, chances are there that you might have heard about phones from Xiaomi, which are sold in seconds after they go on sale. No wonder, Xiaomi’s smartphone shipments almost quadrupled in the first half of this year, surpassing the total amount of the devices the company sold in 2013.

xiomi

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak recently visited Xiaomi’s headquarters and declared, “They’re good enough to break the American market.” India’s Micromax, meanwhile, has been described in Forbes India as the “Zara of smartphones,” because it tests devices before speedily flooding the market with products that prove to be popular. Global consumer Internet and mobile companies will increasingly need to work with companies like Xiaomi and Micromax – not to mention China’s Lenovo, Gionee, Oppo, Huawei, ZTE, and Coolpad – if they don’t want to miss out on mobile’s next growth phase in emerging markets.

To an average Indian consume, it would difficult to explain as to how Sony’s Exmor Camera Sensor, which sits on Sony’s flagship smartphone, can be made available on a handset which retails for half the cost. Xiaomi’s latest smartphone, the Mi4 sports a 5.0-inch full HD (1920x1080p) display with Sharp/JDI OGS (One Glass Solution), 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 series quad-core processor, Adreno 330 graphics engine ,and 3GB LP-DDR3 RAM, with 4G LTE support. If that’s not all, the new Xiaomi phone also boasts a 13.0-megapixel main camera and an 8.0-megapixel Sony front camera with CMOS sensor and a high-capacity Li-Ion 3080 mAh battery, which can last for one-and-a-half day. And yes! all this with an earth shattering price tag. What makes things even more exciting is that all these sub-systems are sourced from OEM suppliers from various global manufacturers. Right from the Qualcomm 801, beast of a processor to the battery which is made by Samsung or Sony, speaks about the best possible quality available anywhere in the world.

Much like the Amazon’s Kindle, Xiaomi calls itself an e-commerce company and is here to lap up to the Internet generation rather than say a mobile handset manufacturer. Xiaomi sell and market their phones completely online. This allows them to manufacture built-to-order phones by picking up selected OEM suppliers for their handsets which is then assembled for them. We are increasingly moving towards a time, where the hardware will no longer be a game changer, but a complete eco-system of quality products which will make the difference. Yet, Chinese companies are not alone here nor they are the first. Much like Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Motorola handsets and Microsoft’s Nokia Lumia series are other such players who actually use hardware of other manufacturers to provide their services. This is in stark contrast with the time, when hardware manufactures would define the rule of the games.Services are a crucial part of mobile technology. From payment gateways to health care solutions, this tango of mobile technology and the Internet is bound to influence our cultures and lives like no other. With hardware no longer the deal breaker, mobiles will continue be embedded with a plethora of sensors. The software and its capability to utilize the sensors onboard, will perhaps define the next generation of phones. Yes there will be evolution in displays, memory and everything which we can quantify, but it’s the real world application which will shape the future.

 - Rahul is a well travelled Bangalore based photo journalist with experience in reporting, writing and communication. Currently, onboard The Jain University Press, he specializes in aviation and technology.