In the age of mobility, the bright, tiny screens of cell phones serve as our multimedia windows on the networked world. Long-touted mobile applications are everywhere now-- easy to buy online and easy to run.
New ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee)-capable LG Lotus phones, introduced last month at CTIA, play digital TV broadcasts from the air. Satellite navigation, Internet access, location-based services and even built-in projectors are at our fingertips.
"You can even make a phone call while e-mailing a photo or surfing the web over a Wi-Fi or 3G connection," states the AT&T Web site, as if the phone call has become a secondary feature.
A small device has assumed so central a role in our lives that we no longer leave home without it. Connectivity is steadily spreading, and there is no going back to voice-only once you've tried the live colors of multimedia. You call your spouse from a grocery store to beam over a photo of your purchase to make sure you are buying the right thing. Or, late at night at the airport, waiting for your delayed flight and too tired to work after a long day away, you settle in to watch YouTube on a sharp little screen. It's a wonderful, new, connected world. But suddenly a low battery indicator jars you back to the boredom of the cold, gray lounge and the uncomfortable seat, with no way of calling home to let your family know you're arriving late. Or worse, your car stalls on a desert road on the way to a convention in Vegas, and you reach for your phone, only to realize that you'd drained the battery while projecting slides for a customer earlier in the day.
Handset manufacturers have yet to specify "projector minutes" or "YouTube minutes." But yesterday's "talk time" and "standby time" specs are inadequate for today's multimedia world, and the industry knows it.
The truth is, our 10-year-old lithium-ion battery technology can only provide a few hours of life to modern applications. Manufacturers and carriers are trying to hide this inadequate performance behind obscure specifications based on usage profiles.