How the iPhone Can Become Key to Computing

My computational needs, like most people’s, are fairly low. I do some light image editing for the AppStorm sites, browse Facebook and Twitter, read, and write. All of those things can be accomplished on the iPhone as it is, and it makes me wonder about how much I genuinely need an i5 processor and four gigs of RAM. It also makes me question the utility of carrying around a laptop or owning a desktop filled with hardware I don’t utilize.

How might this change? The answer is in your pocket.

The iPhone’s Power

The iPhone’s processor continues to improve, typically after the one on the iPad gets an upgrade. The A5 processor in the iPhone already feels like it’s powerful enough for whatever I have to throw its way, and it’s insanely efficient at performing its tasks.

Let’s say, then, that there’s a way to connect the iPhone’s computational power–along with all your information–to an empty shell of a computer. Would it work, from a sheer brute force standpoint?

A5 is powerful. A6 is going to be even better.

A5 is powerful. A6 is going to be even better.

That depends. As I said in the opening for this article, for most people the A5 processor is probably overkill. Checking Facebook and email isn’t a particularly tasking operation for a modern processor, and with proper RAM management all of those gigabytes found on modern computers can be inefficiently used.

Consider the iPhone’s screen. Not only is it the largest draw of power from the phone’s battery (unless, of course, your phone is constantly searching for a barely-there wireless or GPS signal) but it’s also got a pixel density above and beyond most computers. Add in a more powerful processor and I have no doubt that it could handle pushing pixels to something like a 21-inch screen, depending on pixel density.

How This Works: Bluetooth/NFC

Imagine the following scenario: you’re sitting there in your home office, waiting for some inspiration to strike, when you decide that you may need a change in scenery. The local coffee shop always seems to stimulate you in all the right ways (which sounds dirtier than I would like) so you decide to take the relatively short trip and get some work done there.

Right now you have to pack multiple things. Say you only want to bring a MacBook Air; that still requires a bag or case, takes up more space in the coffee shop, and is a general pain. The MacBook Air has a small footprint, sure, but you can’t argue that the iPhone takes up more space.

Let's also assume that this coffee shop will be wealthy enough to afford some Thunderbolt Displays.

Let's also assume that this coffee shop will be wealthy enough to afford some Thunderbolt Displays.

Now let’s see how this may look in the future. Instead of bringing your own computer, the coffee shop already has several “shell” computers available for customer use; displays and keyboards are already paired, possess an ethernet connection and are waiting to be paired with your iPhone.

Via Bluetooth or near-field-communications (NFC) the shell could detect that you are sitting in front of a certain computer and activate the iPhone sitting in your pocket. The coffee shop has provided the keyboard and screen, you have brought the computational power in your pocket.

The Cloud

“But how will I have my information ready with me at all times?” you ask. Simple: the cloud. You’re in a place that is guaranteed to have an internet connection, you have what is quickly becoming the most personal item that one could own right in your pocket, and you probably already have an iCloud, Dropbox, SugarSync, etc. account available to you.

Your content. Everywhere. Always. Some cloud metaphor.

Your content. Everywhere. Always. Some cloud metaphor.

Sure, some data could be held on the device, but what’s the point of having everything on there? With a powerful enough Internet connection, most files could seem like they’re already available without actually taking up space on your device.

Through this connectivity your files, preferences and applications are already synced to your iPhone and beamed over to the display that you’re using. Stop remembering obscure passwords, don’t worry about clearing the brower’s history and cache, and let those feelings of distrust that you have with public computers go.

Issues

Obviously we’re a long way away from this. Costs aside, it’s a plain fact that most people won’t be removing a computer from their homes in the near future. Some are doing this with the iPad, but there’s a fair number of people that work from home who prefer the power and utility of a desktop or laptop. While I could do most of my work on the iPad, for example, I find that it’s more comfortable to get things done on my MacBook.

There are also people that work with prohibitively large files, like video editors and graphic designers. While one could argue that their tools (software wise) need to be made more efficient and less power-hungry, it’s a plain fact that they can and do require powerful processors and huge amounts of RAM.

Security issues would also be a concern. If you build it they will crack it, and it’s going to require a more genuine focus on encryption and security before most people will give someone with a method of cracking into their email accounts access, whether it’s via Bluetooth or some other method.

Conclusion

I don’t have the solution for those problems. People that are smarter than myself are working on this, and I hope that it can be made possible in the near future. I’m excited to see what the iPhone can accomplish. It’s already changed the mobile industry, and it will only continue to have an impact on the way that we process our increasingly-digital lives as a whole.