I Want a Phone to Think for Me

I see a lot of phones in my line of work — so many that I have to admit after a while they all begin looking alike. They are similarly sized to fit in the hand, some of them have keyboards while others don’t. There are big screens and small screens, 3G and Wi-Fi, touchscreens, trackballs… well you get the idea. They run different platforms and have different apps; well to tell you the truth they often have the same apps or at least apps that do the same thing. The differences are largely minor, to tell you the truth. If it sounds like I am a bit jaded then you understand why the big news about the “Google Phone” has not gotten me excited. Not even a little bit. It seems like another Android phone to me, no matter how Google (s goog) sells it / doesn’t sell it / gives it away. The fact is I have been thinking about what I really want in a phone, and it’s nothing that’s available today.

If I can borrow from the HTC ad campaign, I want a phone that gets me. More to the point — I want a phone that watches what I do each day and then figures out what I am going to want to do next. Then make that easier for me to do. Learn what I do and how I do it, and then make it simpler.

Sure, I want the web and social networking, I want to track my schedule and stay on top of my email. But I want my phone to know how I do all of those things and to make it easier. That’s not too much to ask, and today’s phone hardware is more than up to the challenge, I’m pretty sure.

I don’t care what platform my phone runs or what is under the hood. I want to turn it on and get busy doing the things I do each day. I check my email every morning first thing when I turn on my phone. After a few days of paying attention to what I do, my phone should know that’s always what I do. When I turn my phone on in the morning then fire up the email app. Download the email headers for me to see what’s come in overnight.

If I get an email from a colleague (and past email should allow the phone to figure out if a given email is indeed from a colleague), and that email asks if I can meet with them on Thursday at 10 am, then the phone should offer to set an appointment for me at that time. All I would have to do is tap a button on the phone to confirm the meeting, or another to suggest another time. The technology exists today to do this so let’s get after it.

The phone always knows where I am physically located given location-based tech, so if I try to enter an appointment too close to another given the distance between them, then the phone should tell me. It can use location to determine how far the two appointments are located, and thus prevent me from making a scheduling mistake. Think for me (and with me) about things, that’s what I want.

We are largely creatures of repetition in our daily lives, and my phone can leverage that to my advantage. A lot of the time it can accurately predict what I need to do next based on my historical actions, and that’s what I want it to suggest. Sure, there will always be the exception when I don’t want to do that next thing I usually do, but a simple confirmation / rejection can handle that.

Earlier this year I was having a conversation with Dr. Sanjay Jha, the CEO of Motorola (s mot). We were talking about what we wanted in our phones, and it didn’t take long to figure out we wanted the exact same things. Dr. Jha had obviously given a lot of thought to this “anticipatory phone” like I have, and it was a fantastic conversation as we bounced ideas back and forth. Maybe someday we’ll see such a phone. I am not in a position to build a phone like this, but I dare say that Sanjay is.