Newt Gingrich is puzzled about what to call the device in his hand. Personally, I’d call it an iPhone in a Mophie case. But what starts out as a video of a politician and author apparently confused by modern technology turns into a cogent and thoughtful call to a conversation about how technology can change our lives.
Mr. Gingrich starts by challenging the idea that the device in his hand is not a cell phone:
“If it’s taking pictures, it’s not a cell phone.”
“If it has a McDonald’s app to tell you where McDonald’s is based on your GPS, it’s not a cell phone.”
I’d challenge that it is, in fact, a smart phone, to differentiate it from a cellular telephone whose primary purpose is to make voice calls. But Gingrich isn’t playing a game where he’s building on distrust of technology, he’s asking us to consider how these devices, with the power of a modern laptop, is going to change our lives.
“…its real power is networking.”
“Its real potential triggers a world of opportunity.”
More and more people are purchasing smartphones, upgrading from cell phones because they’re available free with a contract (both cheaper Android phones and the iPhone 4—and when Apple reveals the next iteration, the 4s will become the cheap, “free” iPhone). And as more people upgrade, it seems fewer people are using their phones as, well, phones.
My plan, for example, gives me unlimited voice calls and text messages, but restricts data (the reverse of the last plan I have). And my younger friends complain loudly about people who a.) call., or worse b.) leave voice messages in lieu of texting. The “phone” part of the cell phone is becoming a vestigial tail, suitable only for emergencies and old folks. Who needs a phone number when you have Skype?
So, as the old function of a cell phone loses value, will voice calling disappear? Is the future of mobile networking an iPod touch with a 4G data plan? And what, then, do we call these devices?