Adios, GPS: Smartphones Play Taps for Stand-Alone GPS, Camera and Video Devices


Before we left on Home Office Highway, our 4,100-mile tour of the American West, my wife visited AAA (American Automobile Association) for a Trip-Tik. I gathered up our GPS and charging cables. Meanwhile, our son slipped into his pocket his iPhone with Google Maps. Guess which former trusty tools of the road warrior were a complete waste of time and effort?

This is a story about convergence of technology, the death of the Old New, and what tomorrow holds.

First, the Trip-Tik. We’ve used them for years. My wife loves the milestone of “flipping the page” as we travel from one stretch of highway or backroad to the next.

Make a wrong turn, though, or do a little exploration, and the Trip-Tik is hard-pressed to reroute your travels on the fly.

That leads us to traditional GPS devices – Tom Tom, Garmin, Magellan and the like.

Simple to use, their “spoken,” turn-by-turn directions were effective, even novel. But in their simplicity lies their shortcoming. As a focused-use devices, they lie in wait for an address.

Then there was Zack’s iPhone. With that device in hand, the GPS and Trip-Tik were bystanders on the byways and superhighway — virtual and real. Plug in an address or a restaurant name, and the directions are revealed onscreen in crystal clarity. As for spoken, turn-by-turn instructions, Zack has a grasp of the English language and a voice that carries.

More to the point, though: What the iPhone – and any smartphone – portends is the death of the uni-purpose device.

With a smartphone, the GPS is detritus on the roadside.

Still cameras? Have you seen the quality of a smartphone still image lately? My son shot a photography with his iPhone and emailed it my way. It was close to two megs, and sharp as crystal.

Want to shoot video? Even in its heyday before its new owner killed the product, the Flip video cam was simple — but yet another device that required downloading or offloading in order to share, post or send.

iPod or other MP3 players? They might as well be playing taps. Include in the list newspapers and magazines, alarm clocks, and wallets. Take a read for a list of what smartphones and tablets actually are replacing.

It’s like the multipurpose printer, scanner and fax machine. Why buy many, when one will suffice in both functionality and efficiency (I’m thinking desktop space saved with one tool). Ditto for a multipurpose wireless phone. Who has the pockets for such nonsense?

With growth among competitors to Apple, like Samsung, HTC and others, this is not about what Mr. Jobs offers. It’s about the convergence of technology into one, compact device that’ll do all we need it to do.

Word to dying technology out there: Might want to find a new road map.

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