Here’s what I’d like my smartphone to do for me. Before I leave the house, I’d like it to remind me to bring an umbrella, or put a coat on, or even slap on some sunscreen, depending on the weather forecast. I’d like it to remember the apps that I open on particular days and times, and go ahead and offer to open them for me automatically. And I’d like it to just know to do common-sense things like turning off 3G data and auto-sync while I’m sleeping, adjust phone settings to maximise battery life when it goes below 10%, and turn the ringer to mute while I’m in a scheduled meeting.
I don’t think I’m being too demanding. Why call it a smartphone if it can’t actually do anything clever like that? Being able to run any old downloaded apps isn’t really smart in and of itself – even ‘dumbphones’ can run Java apps, after all, however limited these may be in functionality.
1 Smart phone ringer
I’ve seen some phones do clever tricks that fall under the umbrella of ‘smart’. A select few HTC and Nokia smartphones I’ve reviewed in the past take advantage of the built-in accelerometer to silence the ringer when you put the phone face down on a table.
HTC has taken the idea further in its latest HD7 smartphone by increasing the volume when the phone’s in your pocket or bag (using the ambient light sensor above the screen as a reference) and automatically activating the speakerphone function when you flip the phone its face during a call.
2 HTC's inner circle
HTC had another smart feature on its old Snap Windows Mobile 6 Standard smartphone called ‘inner circle’, which would automatically bring all of the emails from your favourite contacts up to the top of your inbox at the touch of a button.
It’s a shame that the company has since abandoned this feature on its newer smartphones – what I’d love to see is someone expanding on this idea and incorporating Facebook and Twitter as well, so you can quickly see all of the emails and updates from your favourite contacts first. The BlackBerry OS, with its universal Messaging inbox, would be the perfect candidate for such a feature.
3 Tasker for Android
There are third party apps that can add that extra layer of intelligence to your smartphone. Tasker for Android works by automating tasks based on certain triggers, so you can, for instance, set it up to launch particular apps based on time and/or geographic location and turn on Wi-Fi when you’re at work or home only. Nokia Situations is a similar app for Symbian smartphones, available for free from the Nokia Beta Labs website.
4 Combining Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Wikipedia
ReQall Rover, currently in private beta for Android, is perhaps the most promising of them all as far as artificial intelligence goes. By connecting to your Google Gmail, Google Calendar and Facebook, as well as your GPS coordinates, it acts as something of a personal assistant and gives you verbal summaries of your appointments, email action items, Facebook feed, local Twitter trends, weather, and commute times based on local traffic.
It can even do a web search of anyone in your addressbook and presents a summary based on their LinkedIn profile, recent Facebook activity, any recent email interaction you’ve had with them, and any matching Wikipedia entries.
This is what I’d like to see more of: apps that do something with the deluge of information streaming in and out of my smartphone, and apps that can automate – or at least offer to – any tasks or settings based on my repetitive behaviour.
With smartphones now moving to dual-core processors and mobile platforms that offer an increasing number of API hooks for developers to sink their teeth into, all of the technology pieces are there for the picking. Will someone just do something with it all, already?