Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Offline with Samsung and Apple

I remember a few years back hankering after a device that was phone-sized, doing all the things that phones do - except for one thing. Telephony! I didn't want a phone, I wanted a pocket computer!

A Psion, I guess, but more. A powerhouse device that sits in the pocket and can take photos, play music through speaker/s, manage files, show TV and film, hold a reading library, gather news, be a shopping portal, note-keeper, link to online documents, be able to play podcasts, hook up for online banking, be an updated and updatable calendar/diary, contact list, email client, offline reader, online reader, GPS and Mapping travel aid, photo storage device, clock/alarm, weather station, web browser, social media client, voice recorder, video recorder - and so on. All the things that we have now come to expect phones to be, but without the complication of phone contracts, cellular connectivity, PAYG and anxiety associated with being out of range and out of touch. And into the bargain, amazingly improved battery life without cellular connectivity draining it constantly. Remember the AA's of the Psion lasting 2 weeks to a month?

Then came along the iPod Touch and this seemed to be it. A shift in expectation, psychology and approach. Accepting that the very capable device in the pocket was almost every bit as capable as the phone in the other, but that you had to think about not being always connected. I don't remember it being a big difficulty, once you'd accepted the parameter. I got used to working from wifi zone to wifi zone - and that would be even easier in this day and age where it seems every cafe, library, airport, train, bus station and public building has a facility. But I didn't live in the Apple world, so it soon became disconnected from my data and I was doubling up on lots of stuff and having an Apple account that I really didn't need. No big deal for many, I know.

Then along came the Samsung Galaxy Player in 2011 and that seemed to be it for me! The very device I was looking for, but sadly, like a lot of Samsung ideas, it only lasted one generation and was soon dropped, not supported or updated as Google marched on and left it behind. It was also a Samsung and, at the time, that stuck in the throat because of the thick overlay and complications and bloat it came with. The more modern Samsung Phones, like the Note9 and S9/10 are far from that, have huge storage facilities for offline use as well as an amazing tick-box list combination of hardware attributes not available anywhere else - including of course with the Note, a stylus!

The need is simple, I think. The reason that it's not popular is that Big Brother wants us online as much as possible. Giving people the choice to run their digital life offline seems to be too much when we live in a world where revenue streams come from pushing adverts at people to get them to part with the money that they would previously have shelled out on hardware or software. As a business model, you can see what's going on - and if I were in business, I'd do the same.

I expect by now you're wondering where this drivel is leading, so I'll tell you! It's leading to two places. Firstly, I read that Apple are likely to very soon relaunch an iPod Touch (or similar) which will enable the above - and allow people to shift emphasis to managing their digital life offline much of the time. Kudos to them, I say. Secondly, it got me thinking about the Samsung Galaxy Note9 which I have here rockin' 512GB of storage with another 512GB on a microSD Card, connectivity by cable to TV's and Monitors via DeX or just HDMI-out - and how that could be thought of by the user not so much as a phone but rather a pocket-computer, as they rip out the SIM Card.

I have to admit that I have struggled to keep my SIM Card in the Note9 because I so love other phones and I'm a serial SIM swapper! I don't want my phone to be this big pocket computer. I want my phone to be a smaller phone-sized-phone, as we used to say. The Nokia 8 Sirocco is a good example, but so are many compact devices still available, with screens under 5" and not 6.4" and more. So, the idea is that one has the powerhouse pocket computer in the bag, glove-box, coat pocket, in the house on a Qi charger, wherever - with the battery being sipped with no SIM Card - for use, topping up, connecting and updating, sending/receiving as you come and go into WiFi zones. A pocket computer that can hold 1TB of stuff offline, no clouds here, that you can plug into keyboards, mice, displays when needed - but then use another device as a phone. Into the bargain, the phone is used less so its battery lasts longer too.

I know this isn't rocket science, and most people want to be connected all the time with everything they have, so wouldn't be able to resist putting in a data-SIM to keep that connected too. But the point of these thoughts were to think back to the older days when everything wasn't so connected and when hardware supported big storage. Look at the amount of phones and other devices now which only have 64GB storage or 128GB and no expansion. Even my laptop computer has a fixed 256GB SSD. We're encouraged not to store stuff outside of the cloud - but I say that there's still a place for it. Well done to Apple and Samsung for retaining that option and allowing some of us to think and behave differently. I wonder if Samsung will follow Apple again and try another Galaxy Player - and if so, will a generation of people re-emerge who are not addicted to being online and living in clouds.

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