Convergence: In Theory and In Practice

in General Discussion edited January 2014
There seems to be mixed feelings throughout the tech community about this obscure concept called convergence. So let's have a civil conversation here:

What are the pros and cons of bringing phones, digital music players, still cameras, address books, calendars, videos, games, GPS, etc. into one device? How convergent should convergence be? What I mean by that is: What technologies are close enough that it makes sense for them to be combined into a really good unit? What should NOT be combined?

The jury's still out where I'm concerned. I can see big positives and negatives on both sides (convergence v. specialization). I like having individual devices that are very good at the one thing each of them does, but I don't like carrying around several gadgets if some of them could be combined into really well-designed efficient devices. There are technologies I don't think should be combined (like phones and video), and others I think should be (like digital and video cameras). There's even combinations I have yet to see (like a phone and useable GPS).

Your thoughts?


  • Reply 1 of 6
    telomartelomar Posts: 1,804member
    Things like address books, calendars, etc I have no issue with because all of that can be done in software and as long as you keep the interface clean and responsive that can work fine.

    GPS strikes me as something that could be useful, especially in smartphones where you might request maps and the such. Again implementation matters.

    Cameras are an annoyance. I wouldn't take photos with a phone unless I was completely desperate. Even low end digital cameras do a significantly better job in all respects except being a separate unit. If the moment is important enough that you want to catch it then it is important enough that you should use a proper camera. I can see the purpose for video calls but I'm usually walking if I'm making calls or driving and seeing the other person is not of key importance. If I want video I'll usually go to a computer, the same holds for mobile video players, which seem to have gained the most popularity for shutting kids up in the car (by the way how does that go with car sickness?).

    Digital music players could go well with phones but the problem is far too many use proprietary connectors and so lock you into certain accessories. Add to that do I really want to drain my phones battery by listening to a decent amount of music? If you really don't listen much then a phone works fine now but if you listen to any reasonable amount then you may as well get a music player.

    Interestingly I would never expect convergence of still and video cameras, although that is more for technical reasons.

    In the end convergence is normally more about adding "value" to a product and less about adding use to it. They rarely think about what people need and usually more about what gimmick they can get people buying for next.
  • Reply 2 of 6
    andersanders Posts: 6,523member
    A telephone needs to have a certain size, a keypad and a screen. Whatever you can put into it that form factor without adding any other needs (like a big antenna, qwerty, ridicules larger screen or larger size) can go into it. I think thats one of the reason why the phone became the gadget of convergence, it already had the basic features for controlling add-on functions, unlike, say, an iPod.

    I once was a purist when it came to telephones but now I use most of the functions of my K700, even the camera for documenting (like last time I was in Berlin and had promised to buy a pair of shoes for someone. Just to be on the safe side I sent her a MMS with a picture of them as a confirmation on the model). A mobile phone camera will never replace a real digital camera and the build in media player not replace an iPod. But as long as it isn´t totally crappy it will at one point become useful. One example: I keep important info on both my iPod and phone, like reservation numbers for flights, bus numbers, timetables and adresses in Berlin and lots of other stuff that I will need at some point on the road. It doesn´t take up much space and doesn´t get in the way until I need it. And even if I very rarely use the calendar on the iPod there simple isn´t any reason not to keep it updated since I don´t have to do anything at all for it to be so. Another: When I am expecting an important call when out biking I don´t bring my iPod but load a couple of songs and podcasts on my phone and use that instead. My Ipod may be a much better music player but exactly in that situation the mobile phone is more convenient.

    The iPod should never become a mobile phone or a camera because a media player doesn´t need the features a phone need (like keypad and a certain size) and the other features would demand something that its main function didn´t already provide. So Apple can focus on other factors, like shrinking the size or battery life.
  • Reply 3 of 6
    i'll share two stories here, for a personal case study kinda thing.

    i had lunch with my dad's friend today. i'm 27 and my dad's friend is mid-40s. he had a cool o2 xda2 smartphone thingy. we both kinda had a chuckle when he had to take a call on the o2, then run over to grab a napkin, and write down a phone number on the napkin while holding the o2 to his ear. he did have some handsfree kit thing but he didn't like using it i think.

    when i have dinner i like to take a break from the computer and watch some tv briefly. i really wish instead of just the *blah* cable/satellite tv i could like pick right off where i left watching survivor11 episode2 on my computer yesterday.

    i honestly think that at this stage apple is the only major tech company out there that 'gets' it enough to make convergence work. and steve says "it wont happen" which as someone pointed out it means that "it wont happen until apple makes it happen" hope this was interesting post from moi? *pats self on back* there there, i think it was alright.
  • Reply 4 of 6
    cosmonutcosmonut Posts: 4,872member
    A thought occurred to me: Why not have the same device interchangability with your cell service as with your music? I'd LOVE to be able to plug my mobile information into an iPod w/ phone capability and take it jogging with me. If someone needed to call me or I had an emergency, I could use the phone. Otherwise it's just an iPod that has a simple phone built in. I would still have a separate device that is my primary phone and has everything that goes along with it, but when I don't want to carry that and my iPod around, my iPod could have a phone if I need it.

    See, phone interchangeability isn't really out there. Typically, people have one device that can be their phone. It is their one and only phone. Sure, you could keep switching SIM cards out on multiple GSM phones, but that would be problematic. Is there anything keeping people from having phone capability built into another device that has a different primary purpose (like GPS units, car stereos, iPods, laptop computers, etc.)?
  • Reply 5 of 6
    pyr3pyr3 Posts: 946member
    Personally, I think that cellphones can have an address book, a calendar, and possibly a GPS (maybe even an email client, mostly to view emails rather than send them).

    I wouldn't want to have my cellphone as my music player because if you are playing music you are draining your cellphone's battery as well as your music player's battery. A music player should be a separate device.

    A camera should be a separate device too, but there can be exceptions. I'm not talking about taking pictures of people and stuff, but for applications like barcode scanning (or those other barcode type things). People can have stuff like that in their business cards, and then you just take a picture of it and the appropriate info is stored in your address book. That is useful, but as far as taking photos for a photo album, I'll stick to a separate dedicated digital camera.

    As far as a gaming platform, simple stuff like tetris or whatever to play while you're waiting in line or something is ok, but more than that it runs into the same problems as the media player. While you're playing games, you're draining battery from your mobile phone, and more complex games take more processor time and more power.
  • Reply 6 of 6
    andersanders Posts: 6,523member
    Do you have MMS in the states?
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