Compared to just three or four years ago, the capabilities of smartphones have increased exponentially. The addition of hundreds of thousands of applications across the major mobile platforms and endless built-in features have helped smartphones evolve from mobile email devices into mobile entertainment systems, mobile workstations and everything in between.
Currently, I use my smartphones to keep up with things on a social capacity (Twitter, Facebook, SMS, etc.), work on the go as best I can with email and working on back-end site stuff, streaming music from Google Music and Spotify, watching movies through Netflix and Play Movies, taking pictures, keeping notes and even writing articles when I'm in a bind. Naturally, my phone has become as close to an all-in-one device I could hope for.
However, there are some things, albeit few, it still cannot do.
No, you cannot install extensions or access the Chrome Web Store. It's not the full-fledged browser you get on OS X, Windows or Linux. It is a simplified, mobile browser with cool parlor tricks like synchronization options.
That's not all my phone can't do, though. For example, I continue to believe that, eventually, smartphones will become the driving force behind most other electronics in your home and daily arsenal. If there is one feature I would add to my phone's long list of capabilities, I would make it the brains of all my other electronics.
Although it was overpriced and limited in functionality, the Nexus Q is a perfect example of such. I can sit down on my couch, purchase or choose a movie I already own from my phone and stream it from the cloud or directly from my phone's storage. Within seconds, the video is playing in full HD on my television. Anyone else with a NFC-enabled Android smartphone can do the same when visiting. Just tap to the Nexus Q and choose some media to play. In essence, every phone in the vicinity temporarily becomes the brains of my home entertainment system.
Aside: I'm seriously looking forward to the Nexus Q redux.
Another example is Ubuntu for Android, a Canonical creation which was shown off and announced earlier this year. Essentially, by sharing the same Linux kernel, Ubuntu and Android are allowed to run simultaneously. When in its normal undocked mode, it operates exactly as you would expect an Android phone to operate. It runs Android applications, has a wireless radio, expandable storage, a functioning camera, etc. But place a phone running Ubuntu for Android in a dock to pair it with a keyboard, mouse and external monitor, and you instantly have a full Ubuntu desktop on your hands. On top of all that, you can still run Android apps within the Ubuntu desktop.
This was a marvelous concept to begin with. But as Android has greatly advanced since February, as well as the respective hardware, Ubuntu for Android is easily the most promising future application of Android.
Yet another is one ASUS is honing in on: PadFone. The tablet portion of the PadFone is only a terminal – a large display, battery and housing with various ports and connectivity. Continuing the trend, the smartphone portion of PadFone is the brains – the CPU, RAM, storage, camera, etc. When the phone is docked, it operates exactly as any other Android tablet. Remove it, and it's simply a phone.
I've explained in the past how this could also work with gaming systems (for the casual gamer).
You may be asking yourself, "Why would I want my smartphone to be the brains of all my electronics? What's the appeal in that?" The answer is simple: consolidation. Right now, I have thousands of files scattered across at least 15 devices. Some have the same files, some files are specific to one device, etc. I like using different form factors, but I would like to keep my files and storage consistent and synchronized between all the different devices.
Sure, cloud storage like Dropbox and iCloud work wonders to keep things synchronized. But it's not quite the same as simply having the same storage drive for all devices. Plus, considering how much smartphones have advanced in just three short years without drastically changing in price, they will eventually (sooner rather than later) be viable options as a replacement to home PCs for many people. And the price of other electronics – only as terminals – would drop. For instance, a laptop dock (if priced appropriately, unlike Motorola's Lapdocks – could be cheap. As could a tablet shell or a connected home entertainment system, such as the Nexus Q. And integration, as the Nexus Q proves, would be seamless.
These are things I imagine may come in time. Mobile platforms may also converge with desktop software – that's how iOS and Windows Phone are headed anyway with OS X and Windows 8/RT, respectively.
If there is one thing my phone can't do that I long for, it's power all my other devices. I want a consolidated experience with a single storage drive across multiple devices and form factors.
What about you, folks? What is the one thing your smartphone can't do that you wish it could? Is it something simple, like having a projection keyboard? Or, like me, do you wish smartphones were more closely integrated with all your other devices?