Phones grow up
It’s a phone. It’s a computer. No, it’s a superphone, writes Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
FIRST there was the car phone. Then came the mobile phone. More recently, the smartphone emerged. Now these devices are evolving further into a different, more powerful telephone that has already been dubbed the ‘‘ superphone’’.
These phones carry more grunt than your average handset, offering more RAM, extra storage and dual-core processors typically seen in computers that won’t fit in a pocket.
Technology experts claim this ‘‘ new class’’ of advanced phones will seriously challenge their full-sized computer cousins in future by connecting to large screens and transforming into other devices to offer all the power of current desktop computers.
While the term ‘‘ superphone’’ initially emerged in the TV series Dr Who, it has more recently been pinned to these powerful phones.
Three examples are now available in Australia, beginning with the LG Optimus 2X in May and followed by the Motorola Atrix and Samsung Galaxy S II this month.
The second Samsung Galaxy S is the most powerful of the three — and the fastest on the market — offering a 1.2GHz processor like those in netbooks.
Samsung telecommunications vice-president Tyler McGee says the power boost makes completing tasks ‘‘ easier and faster’’ on a mobile phone.
‘‘ This means the mobile user will be able to enjoy enhanced performance, faster web browsing, seamless multitasking, supreme graphic quality and an instantly responsive user interface on a large screen,’’ McGee says.
But Telsyte research director Foad Fadaghi says mobile phone fanatics can expect greater advances from future superphones, with even more powerful upgrades planned.
‘‘ We can expect this trend to continue and make mobile phones more like computers down the track — it’s headed that way,’’ he says.
‘‘ Without a doubt you’ll see increased processing power start to appear in phones, including quad-core processors. They will be available for tablets, initially, and then move into smartphones.’’
To prove their potential, chip maker Nvidia last week demonstrated early results from its quad-core Kal-El mobile processor project. Onlookers were shown a 3D game called Glowball being rendered by its four processing cores with no visible delay on the screen.
Nvidia claims the Kal-El processor will deliver five times the performance of its dual-core processors currently used in the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v and Motorola XOOM tablet computers. Fadaghi says these performance gains will be used to speed up mobile gaming, enable 3D cameras and deliver displays with even greater resolution ‘‘ than what you currently get on full HD televisions’’.
But some superphones will use their power to become something altogether different.
Motorola’s dual-corepowered Atrix, for example, can be inserted into a laptop shell to run a full-sized web browser and become the brains behind a basic laptop replacement.
The Telstraexclusive handset can also be plugged into a monitor, mouse and keyboard to become a basic and highly portable computer.
Computer maker ASUS will also be part of the trend as it plans to offer a phone that morphs into a tablet computer.
It revealed the Padfone at Computex last week; a mobile phone that can be inserted into the back of a tablet shell to offer a ‘‘ seamless transition’’ between small and large screens.
In both cases, users only need one SIM card to access the internet on both devices, and the accessory battery will recharge the host phone.
Fadaghi says these unique, phone-transforming accessories could eventually ‘‘ cannibalise’’ computer sales, replacing their use in some instances as they become more powerful and the software is refined.
Currently, however, he says they are part of a ploy by hardware makers to ensure their smartphone stands out in a crowded market. Consumers will face tough choices, however, as the speed of superphone innovation improve and significantly smarter phones emerge every six months.
‘‘ There are so many developments happening so rapidly now,’’
Be touched: Advanced new phones have emerged every six months.