Phone Flip

How your cell phone is morphing into the center of your universe.

What if your cell phone was more about the cell than the phone? Before long, your phone will also be your wallet, keys, and garage-door opener, among other things. It's already happening in countries such as Japan and South Korea. "They call it a 'remote control for life,'" says Robert Mesirow of industry group CTIA—The Wireless Association. "And it really does become that." You can still make calls, too. We think.

Entertainment hub

Thanks to faster cellular networks, a host of companies is bringing live TV and video clips to your handset. Sprint recently launched a pay-per-view service ($6.95 a month), offering streams of full-length feature films powered by Palo Alto—based mSpot. It isn't home theater, but it will liven up your next long train ride.

When it'll be as ubiquitous as camera phones: 3 to 5 years

Remote control

As depicted in Microsoft's concept home and elsewhere, your cell will dial down the room lighting and temperature, call up your favorite music and TV shows—even lock the front door. It isn't that far-fetched: AT&T recently debuted a home-monitoring service that, for an initial $199 and $9.95 a month, lets Cingular users check live video feeds of their property, receive alerts when motion sensors go off, and control lighting.

When it'll be as ubiquitous as camera phones: 5 to 10 years

Medical monitor

Cell phones—and devices connected to them—may give new meaning to the term "house call." Users and their doctors will be able to keep tabs on a variety of medical conditions—from diabetes to heart disease, and eventually, even stress levels. And how's this for a mating call: A new phone available from Japan's NTT DoCoMo alerts women trying to get pregnant when they're likely to be ovulating.

When it'll be as ubiquitous as camera phones: 8 to 12 years

Wallet

After years of hype, e-cash is finally on the way. Companies such as Obopay now make mobile payments possible via text messaging. But as technology called "near field communication" (NFC), now being used in services such as MasterCard PayPass, makes its way to phones, true mobile commerce will become reality. Buy snacks, train tickets, or almost anything else by just waving your phone or tapping a few keys.

When it'll be as ubiquitous as camera phones: 4 to 7 years

Information finder

Companies including Google, V-Enable, Promptu, and 4INFO are making search mobile using text messaging or spoken requests. But before long, the storage capacity of your handset might put an entire reference library in your palm. Phones could even interact with objects around you, like those misplaced glasses, giving you information about them.

When it'll be as ubiquitous as camera phones: 5 to 15 years

Data Dump


Percentage of people who don't currently use their cell phone to watch video or TV programs but would like to: 14%

Percentage of people who don't currently use their cell phone to perform Internet searches but would like to: 24%

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project; the Associated Press; AOL cell-phone survey, March 2006

 

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