Opinion: Phones have a way to go before they’re truly ‘all-in-one’

Jamie Feltham
November 11, 2013

If you’ve been following my dangerous, romantic and all-round thrilling What Mobile adventures since I started here back in September, you’ve probably noticed a few things about me.

First of all, I like cats. I make that kind of obvious. Secondly (and much more relevantly), I’m a bit old-fashioned, meaning I still do things like we did before the turn of the decade, ‘back in the day’. I keep my devices separate and dedicated and I leave the house while hurriedly slapping my pockets, checking for three things: phone, iPod, and 3DS/Vita.

Can that be described as old fashioned? Maybe not. Let me coin the phrase ‘neo-old fashioned’, then.

These days, you can get the service that each of those devices provides in one handy place, the smartphone. Need music? It’s either already stored on there, or just a few Spotified taps away. Games? Well, the fact that the PS Vita continues to struggle to sell in the face of the iPhone says it all. Throw in movies, TV, and just about everything else thanks to apps, and you have everything you ever wanted in one pocket. But it’s not good enough for me.

Don’t get me wrong – I love smartphones. I don’t own one myself, but that’s because I’m juggling a constant supply for work, and they never cease to amaze me. But they still slip up in a few areas that have stopped me from taking the plunge. Sure, they cover every aspect of just about everyone’s life, but the industry is really a jack of all trades and a master of none.

Take gaming, for example. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that the latest smartphone processors are rapidly closing the gap between mobile gaming and (current generation) home consoles. Just look at Infinity Blade III or Horn, two games that not even the fussiest of graphics lovers can scoff at. But power isn’t everything – smartphones are missing some key features that keep me, a passionate gamer, from leaving my Sony and Nintendo-branded devices at home.


The first and most obvious reason is input. The Vita just saw the release of Killzone: Mercenary, a visually-arresting first-person shooter that can only be pulled off with the fidelity that the system’s dual analog sticks provide. Sure, there are some fine FPSs on iOS and Android, but none of them can compare to the console experience, while Killzone comes pretty darn close thanks to these little things called buttons. A touchscreen just doesn’t give you the same kind of precision – you can see it directly in mobile versions of games like Dead Space. Then there’s the 3DS, with its unique setup that makes games like Super Mario 3D Land only possible on that system. These are games that are pushing the boundaries of portable gaming forward.

Admittedly, there’s a valid argument to be had in the types of games that should be going portable, and how bite-sized experiences are the real future of the industry. Heck, based on the cash that Angry Birds and Candy Crush rake it’s already set in stone. But€¦ old fashioned, remember? I want to take my huge, complex RPGs and expensive action blockbusters on the go. Not all the time, of course – nothing takes up my time more than Spelunky on a train journey – but I need the option. Smartphones just don’t have that option. The rest is a conversation for another time.

Music is a harder sell, I’ll throw my hands up to that one. But consider this – I use a fifth generation iPod Nano. Sure, it only stores a measly 8GB of my loud, parent-disproving tracks, but it’s also lighter than any smartphone and has about five times the battery life. I take it running and don’t even notice it in my pocket. I can use it for an entire week before I start thinking about charging the battery. If I take an 8 mile run with an iPhone in my pocket (alright, alright, 5 mile€¦ okay 3), I can expect a chunk of the battery to go missing by the time I’ve huffed and puffed my way back to the front door.

It’s also a relatively inexpensive and sturdy device. I run over a busy bridge a few hundred meters off of the ground. Call me paranoid (it’s probably warranted), but that’s not the ideal place for a fragile smartphone to be bounced around. I feel safer, more secure with my iPod, although I’ll admit brands like Samsung’s Active range are making strides to change that point of view.


And tablets? What about those behemoths of technological exuberance? Well truth be told my Nexus 7 is a kind of dedicated device all in itself. It’s the first touchscreen device to replace a more traditional form of media consumption – the comic book. Comics on tablets just make sense. They’re cheaper, more accessible, and have saved me probably a square mile in storage space since I converted. If anything, that’s a sign that one day I will make the jump to an all in one device, but only when it starts living up to my high standards.

Coming at it from another point of view, I think some phones go too far with their accessories. The Lumia 1020’s camera is nothing short of stunning, but, for me, it finds itself in an awkward middle ground. If I were interested in taking pictures to that high a degree, I’d buy the dedicated hardware that I knew was designed for the job. And if I wasn’t, would Facebook photos in which my friends can make out my thumbprint really convince me to splash the extra cash? Not really.

Do I have the perfect solution to my current issues? Not really, other than a drastic improvement in battery life. I want to feel secure with my smartphone in all walks of life – not just to do with frailty or theft protection, but also heading out knowing that my device will be able to last for as long as I need it to before I next reach a charging station.

Until that day comes, I’m destined to keep taking two steps out of my house, then turning 180 degrees and heading back inside for my iPod.

About the Author

Jamie Feltham

Videogamer, music listener, squash player, exerciser, technology journalister. Multimedia journalism graduate, writing for the What Mobile mag and website

Share this article