While rumors are again flowing over what the next iPhone or Galaxy S smartphone will bring, it's easy to forget that a bunch of mobile technologies remain half-baked in today's smartphones and tablets.
Sure, I'd love if the predicted Apple iPhone 5S's screen were truly larger and easier to read, and the idea of copying the iPod Touch's cornucopia of colors is attractive (I'll take blue, thank you). Ditto with the predicted Samsung Galaxy IV's supposed "unbreakable" screen and included stylus, which shows a lot of promise in the Galaxy Note II. But those are largely cosmetic changes taken from existing products.
What I'd really like is for some of the touted features of 2011 and 2012 to work better -- a lot better.
1. Make NFC interoperable
Near-field communication chips for very short-range wireless connections are one of Google's "big deal" technologies for Android, deployed in its Nexus 4 and in Android devices from Samsung and HTC, among others. Research in Motion jumped on the NFC bandwagon as well in some models in its poorly selling BlackBerry 7 lineup, such as the Bold 9900. But NFC is deployed in a proprietary manner, so you can "bump" devices for sharing only if they're from the same manufacturer. Its advertised use -- easy sharing -- is just a toy capability.
Any sharing technology of consequence needs to be standardized and openly available. NFC should work like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. When it does, it'll become really useful -- and widely adopted.
2. Standardize video-out and mirroring in Android
Apple's AirPlay protocol and common video-out capabilities on iOS and OS X via adapter cables has made Apple devices amazingly easy to use for presentations and video watching. All of its recent devices work with an Apple TV to share screens and play videos, so the Apple ecosystem is the only one for reliable wireless video. I've argued that Apple should make the AirPlay technology available on rival platforms, along with iTunes and AirPrint, but that's probably a bridge too far for proprietary-oriented Apple.
But there's no reason for the rest of the industry to remain a chaotic mess when it comes to video-out. Right now, there are three physical ports in the Android platform for video-out, creating an incompatible chaos; many devices support none of them. Also, the DLNA technology for wireless video is poorly implemented, resulting in huge incompatibilities among devices, TV sets, Blu-ray players, and the like. It doesn't really work -- no wonder video streaming is an Apple-only phenomenon in practice.
The Android community -- as well as the lesser mobile platforms such as RIM's BlackBerry and Microsoft's Windows 8 and RT -- should standardize on the new Miracast technology for wireless video streaming (it's interoperable!) and pick one video-out port for all devices, either MicroHDMI or, better, the new SlimPort used in the Nexus 4 that includes MicroUSB compatibility so that you need just one port. That will create the assured compatibility for home-entertainment device makers to deliver an Apple-like experience for the majority of households that haven't become Apple strongholds.