Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less
The unprecedented evolution of mobiles continues to generate great interest. The idea of a single portable device that can make phone calls, take pictures, record audio and video, store data, music, and movies, and interact with the Internet — all of it — has become so interwoven into our lifestyles that it is now surprising to learn that someone does not carry one. As new devices continue to enter the market, new features and new capabilities are appearing at an accelerated pace. One recent feature — the ability to run third-party applications — represents a fundamental change in the way we regard mobiles and opens the door to myriad uses for education, entertainment, productivity, and social interaction.
Over the past few years, mobiles have undergone a continual transformation, becoming ever more capable and flexible with each new release. The ability to record audio and video turned them into portable multimedia devices; as storage capacity increased, they became keepers of our family photos, phone books, and calendars; and now, geolocation, web browsing, and email have brought much of the functionality of a laptop to the pocket-sized devices. In a marketplace that turns out 1.2 billion new phones each year, innovation is fluid and ever-present.
About a year ago, another round of new developments took place in the mobile markets — developments that have resulted in a profound change in the way we think about and interact with mobile devices. A new generation of mobiles appeared on the market featuring multi-touch displays, the ability to access the Internet over increasingly higher-speed 3G networks or by using wifi, and the capability for sensing motion and orientation and reacting accordingly using built- in accelerometers. These new devices can use GPS to locate themselves and can run robust applications. They can communicate with and control other devices. Most significantly, their manufacturers are working with the broader community to open up the devices to all the innovation enabled by third-party developers.
These new mobile applications have nothing to do with making phone calls. Instead, they expand the capacity of mobiles to keep us in touch with information and activities that we want while we are on the move. Third-party applications are very easy to acquire and install; commonly priced at just under a U.S. dollar, they add games, reference materials, tools for measuring and calculating, checklists, reading material, productivity applications, social networking tools, and more to a single device that slips into a pocket. In mid-2008, Apple launched the App Store for the Apple iPhone, and less than six months later, more than 10,000 such applications were offered. Other mobile platforms are encouraging similar development, such as the Android platform developed by Google and the Open Handset Alliance. The first Android phone was released to market in October 2008, and the number of applications in the still-beta Android Market is growing by the day.
Applications designed for mobiles can take advantage of built-in features like the microphone and the camera. For instance, TinEye Music (http:// www.ideeinc.com/products/tineyemobile/) and Snap-Tell (http://snaptell.com/) use the camera to record a photograph of a CD, video, or book, then identify the artist or author and display that along with reviews of the piece and information on where to buy it. Shazam (http://www.shazam.com/music/web/pages/iphone.html) does the same for ambient music — the microphone records a snippet of any song that is playing in the vicinity, and the waveform is used to identify the song, artist, and album. The games available for new mobiles are full-featured and richly rendered. Some, like Nanosaur or Asphalt 4, use the accelerometer to control movement within the game by tilting the phone.
Over the past several years, we have watched mobiles become ever more capable and more common. The rapid pace of innovation in this arena continues to increase the potential of these little devices, challenging our ideas of how they should be used and presenting additional options with each new generation of mobiles. While there are constraints in some regions on the adoption of mobiles related to local regulations, availability of bandwidth, and affordability — especially of the newest models — it is apparent that the devices and their new applications have been accepted in the mainstream. In countries like Japan, young people equipped with mobiles often see no reason to own personal computers. A recent survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project predicts that by the year 2020, most people across the world will be using a mobile device as their primary means for connecting to the Internet (http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/270/report_display.asp). It is clear that mobiles are already well on the way to becoming a universal tool for communication of all kinds.
Relevance for Teaching, Learning, Research, or Creative Expression
Mobiles are already in use as tools for education on many campuses. New interfaces, the ability to connect to wifi and GPS in addition to a variety of cellular networks, and the availability of third-party applications have created a device with nearly infinite possibilities for education, networking, and personal productivity on the go; almost every student carries a mobile device, making it a natural choice for content delivery and even field work and data capture.
Third-party educational applications are readily available for the newest mobiles, and educational content is easy to find for almost every discipline. More sophisticated tools that tap into the unique capabilities of mobile devices like the touch screen, the camera, the microphone, and the accelerometer are quickly emerging. Language learners can look up words; practice listening, speaking, and writing; and compare their pronunciation with a native speaker’s. Graphing calculators display 3D graphs that can be rotated with a finger on the touch screen or viewed from different angles by tilting the phone. Detailed reference materials for medicine or astronomy include the ability to supplement information and illustrations with online sources. The variety and quality of educational content is growing at a fantastic pace.
A sampling of applications of mobiles across disciplines includes the following:
- Computer science. At Clemson University, students are developing tools with a pedagogical or social focus for mobile devices. Each student is co-mentored by two faculty — one each for content and technological development — as they propose, design, and implement projects for the device of their choice.
- Mathematics. By selecting custom applications, students can turn their iPhones into sophisticated calculators. SpaceTime (http://www.spacetime.us/iphone/) and QuickGraph (http://www.colombiamug.com/EN/QuickGraph.html) are just two examples of graphing calculators that display graphs in 2D or 3D; SpaceTime also includes a scripting language for custom computations.
- Campus Life. iStanford (http://stanford.terriblyclever.com/) is a custom application commissioned by Stanford University that includes campus maps, course listings, the campus directory, current sports scores, and other campus-related information; course registration, course history, and grades are planned for future releases. iGFU (http://www.georgefox.edu/cmc/) is a similar application developed at George Fox University exclusively for the campus community.
- Music. Instrument simulators for piano, guitar, drums, and other instruments let students practice fingering and chords or compose simple pieces. Applications for ear training, reading music, and generating warm up exercises assist with basic practice. Artists can mix and record multiple tracks using loops, ambient sounds, or voice recordings to create unique compositions. With the right applications, a mobile can be instrument, tutor, and recording studio all in one.
Examples of Mobiles
The following links provide examples of mobile applications.
iPhone in Medicine
(Jeffrey Leow, Monash Medical Student, 10 June 2008.) Medical resources developed for the iPhone can be used by students and practitioners; a few are reviewed here.
Columbia University’s Mapping the African American Past (MAAP) website now includes a mobile version designed to be viewed using the iPhone or iPod Touch. The tool includes text and audio information about historically significant locations in New York City and is designed as a tool for mobile learning.
Mobile initiatives at Seton Hall University
Seton Hall University is conducting research to determine how mobiles can be used in teaching, learning, and social networking for the campus community. Part of the initiative calls for the development of a custom mobile application.
Short Messaging Service Response System (sMsrs)
Researchers at the Centre for Applied Research at SIM University, Singapore have developed a way to use any SMS-enabled mobile device as a personal response system. Students can respond to open-ended or multiple-choice questions, and their answers can be immediately tabulated, graphed and displayed to the class via a website without proprietary equipment.
For Further Reading
The following articles and resources are recommended for those who wish to learn more about mobiles.
The future of the Internet III
(Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie, Pew Internet & American Life Project, December 14, 2008.) This report describes the results of a survey of Internet leaders, activists, and analysts assess- ing predictions about technology and its roles in the year 2020.
Next Generation Mobile Networks: Industry Leaders on Challenges Ahead
(Larry Lang, SP360: Service Provider, 28 June 2008.) This blog post summarizes the remarks of several industry leaders in a session at the Second NGMN Industry Conference in June 2008.
Time to Leave the Laptop Behind
(Nick Wingfield, The Wall Street Journal, 27 October 2008.) This article reports on the observed trend among business travelers to rely more on smartphones, rather than laptops, as travel computing devices.
Voice in Google Mobile App: a Tipping Point for the Web?
(Tim O’Reilly, O’Reilly Radar, 18 November 2008.) This blog post discusses the release of speech recognition for searching with Google Mobile App for iPhone and its implications for developing computing services designed to be native to phones.
(Tagged by Horizon Advisory Board and friends, 2008.) Follow this link to find additional resources tagged for this topic and this edition of the Horizon Report. To add to this list, simply tag resources with “hz09” and “mobile” when you save them to Delicious.
Posted by NMC on January 18, 2009