Fact: There have been USB chargers for phones for sometime now. And fact: most phones come bundled with cables to connect to the computer too. (You’ll have to separately install some terribly unfriendly, proprietary software to manage your phone or sync with something draconian like Outlook. But that’s kinda expected from handset makers.)
Also fact: Most users don’t connect their phones to a computer (Yes, you do. But I said most). Most important fact: But everyone charges their phone. My mom does. So it must be everyone. Why isn’t there any effort to piggyback data connection onto this compulsary user activity, aka ritual? To segway more users to connect their phones and computers… like PDAs?
For years (years!), PDAs comes with something known as a cradle. PDAs sit in it to charge its battery - and with a usability sleight-of-hand, it’s also connected to a computer. So what you say? An uncountable number of PDA applications are out there (freeware, shareware, commercial software) totally relying on their users putting those handhelds into the cradle - the consistent, daily ritual! I remember, in my Palm wielding days, AvantGo is a really defacto application to install (offline news reading), and Showtimes! keeps my weekly movie schedules handy wherever I go… so many internet-related applications… and the handhelds themselves weren’t even network capable then! How crazy is that!!?
(Btw, I could have any PDA sit in its cradle for hours - charging is "managed". No big deal. What’s with the don’t over charge your phone thing? Mobiles are lame? Or just urban legend?)
Just gimmie 1 USB cable.
This USB cable ("sync cable") connects to my PC on one end, and my phone on the other. This is the phone’s "cradle". It charges the phone with USB power while and revealing the phone as a thumbdrive to the computer. Using the most fundamental, cross-platform, desktop interface: files and folders. SMS, contacts, MMS, images, videos? Everything. Only files and folders. (Note: Any required software is installed through the USB’s drive, no separate install CD please!)
In the phone, let’s have a launcher application called "Mothership". Now, "Mothership" will launch other (registered) applications whenever the phone is in such "cradle" (similar to "start this application when Windows start" in the Windows world). So we now have a "cradle" equivalent for a phone: When the phone is charging, some applications are launched to perform syncs and what not.
Wait, I’ve merely taped a USB charger cable (nothing new) and data sync cable (nothing new) together, provided a files & folders interface on the PC (not new for some phones) and added a launcher event on the phone (Symbian developers can already detect "charging" event). What’s the big deal?
When "Mothership" launches an application, it automatically maps all network calls (3G, GPRS, whatever) of that application to use the computer’s internet connection! - i.e. effectively free internet connectivity. (I’ve polled several Symbian programmers on technical possibility and the response is positive ;-). So, with "Mothership", the message to mobile developers is this: No rewrite - if your program is launched by "Mothership", access to the Internet is automatically routed to use the PC’s connection.
Suddenly, a mobile podcast application looks more appealing - hey, just like an iPod synching. Sharing photos and videos becomes more seamless and free. A "free" network has been sorely missed in the mobile developers’ world. This cradle thing should open up so many possibilities…
Lots of usage edge cases? Maybe. But none that hasn’t been tackled by handhelds already, I suspect. And oh ya, "sync cables" should be sold cheaply, not for reaping huge profits. HOWTO build those cables, or tie up existing cables together, should be publicly available for DIY.
Perhaps the impact of such connectivity can finally be brought home to the mobile world by somebody in the PDA / PC world?
Whoever it’ll be, please please make it happen soon