Talk about Newsnight

Paul Mason's Idle Scrawl

When Am I Going To Get a Mobile That Does Everything

  • Paul Mason
  • 30 Aug 06, 11:33 AM

This question has been bugging me ever since so much paint came off my SonyEricsson P900 that I decided to upgrade this year to the new model. I have blagged a P990 (which is launched in the UK 1 September) and been trying it out. The problem is, though it's got Wifi and a better camera, it's clear we are years away from a smart mobile device that can replace wallet, keys, ID card, credit card etc. But, as my research has shown me, only a few years. Here's why:

1) High spec mobiles have started to ship with Wifi.
2) A lot of basic phones will ship with a technology called Near Field Communications: its basically an Oyster card and a card reader on your handset. Phillips estimates there will be 500m mobiles a year produced with this by 2010.
3) In Tokyo they are already rolling out WiMax: a powerful public version of Wifi. In theory that means you can use your mobile handset to go on the internet, make an internet phone call, and bypass your mobile network.
4) The people I've been speaking to map out a future for the mobile that sees ever more devices being slotted in under the cover - a GPS satnav, Wimax, even a tv receiver. Its just a question of a few more rounds of silicon development.

What fascinates me is the unplanned changes in human behaviour that have been happening, basically in the last five years, as mobiles have become cheaper, smarter and more pervasive. At Manchester City FC on Saturday, where I saw the launch of the first Near Field Communications trial, using mobiles as season tickets (I kid you not) the really interesting thing was how pervasive mobiles were in the crowd and its behaviour: they seem to have become the primary bonding device between lads and dads. Basically at a footyt match now everybody is texting, taking pictures and the natural extension is to use the moby as a form of payment and ID.

That's just one of the ways mobile is developing: tune in tonight to see me tell the story of the disrputive future of the mobile industry. Oh, and because I kept banging on about the new psychological impacts of smartphones my producer made me write it all as a pastiche of the Woody Allen's movie Annie Hall. Decide for yourself it it works. I am not giving up my day job.

Click here to watch the report

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 02:22 PM on 30 Aug 2006,
  • matt wrote:

Paul, this almost reads like an Alex Jones internet conspiracy nightmare !

now if they can only get our mobiles to transmit our thoughts out to eschellon via wifi ?

perhaps sound blaster weapons integrated into the gear too ?


  • 2.
  • At 03:07 PM on 30 Aug 2006,
  • Paul Mason wrote:

And another thing - what if they had had mobiles in Middle Earth? Frodo would have been able to give Gandalf and his mates a running commentary on progress towards Mordor, Cate Blanchett would not have needed to communicate with Elrond via that kind of mind merge that only pointy-eared people can do. Then again, Sauron would have probably mounted a massive denial of service attack on the Human-Elvish-Dwarf alliance. And guess which character I look like every time the BBC bosses remind me I have to give the P990 back at the end of the week?

  • 3.
  • At 06:41 PM on 30 Aug 2006,
  • Peter Walker wrote:

Frodo with a phone, the Valkyrie text messaging not really.

I suspect that if your P990 do all its stuff on a train, the metro, in fact anywhere where mobile telephony, a DAB wireless,camera, email access, gsp mapping would actually be useful you would be glad to hand the permanent intrusion back to the BBC.
Be grateful for the wonderful symmetry that says mobile phones with all the gadgets work best in countries where gadgets and land lines are of little use and worst in countries like ours where the landline structures work well.

Take away the balance and behold BABEL...

Did you see an aritlce in The Economist recently, which came to a similar conclusion? The article was "celebrating" the 25th anniversary of the PC, but suggested that the PC is on the way out, to be replaced by portable computers - ie, mobile phones.

The future is indeed bright.

  • 5.
  • At 11:17 PM on 30 Aug 2006,
  • Jane Shepherd wrote:

Just seen your piece about mobiles. It seems just a bit sad that people are so dependent on their mobiles. Last night I was out for a meal with a friend and the couple on the next table didn't talk to each other - they talked on their mobiles to other people. My mobile was a ridiculously cheap £4.99 (well £14.99 with a £10 airtime voucher) and it's FAB. It does everything I want it to do. Why would I want to watch a film on my mobile? I've got a telly. By the way it's brilliant to hear a great Lancashire accent on Newsnight. There are far too many posh-people-from-London all over our airwaves if you ask me.

  • 6.
  • At 11:29 PM on 30 Aug 2006,
  • Dan Stewart wrote:

Oh dear! - Do you not know what everyone else knows? - Companies deliberately smother innovation.. They will keep drip feeding rubbish. They already have 30-gigabyte TV phones! They just want to make a few more hundreds of millions of pounds...
- And I bet you just bought the five bladed razer as well, eh?

  • 7.
  • At 11:35 PM on 30 Aug 2006,
  • Dan Stewart wrote:

Perhaps one could have a Euthanasia button.. - Blasts all the radio-active masts in your direction and fries you dead... Good idea, no?

  • 8.
  • At 11:40 PM on 30 Aug 2006,
  • Dave Stone wrote:

Interesting thought provoking article about how mobiles look to become increasingly part of our lives and consequently change the way we interact and do things.

But what is the timeline and which year will these opportunities and technologies take place? Can anyone give a practical answer??

  • 9.
  • At 11:46 PM on 30 Aug 2006,
  • Brian Gilbert wrote:

I cannot understand this obsession with mobile phones. On a train (despite signs saying do not use phones here) there is constant chat "keeping in touch" by people who seem unable to sit and relax. Women keep talking on them about nothing in particular when trying to pay their bills at checkouts, almost ignoring the sales staff - I have to take this message. Car drivers use them even through it is illegal to hold them. At sports fixtures they are used to capture and send photographs, one person was using his about every 15 mins. The are just a pests or smart toys for everyone. Making a fortune for network suppliers and phones suppliers and debts for users. Why do we keep having new models except to produce revenue?

I did a quick survey of a few users and asked then was the call essential – no but we must keep in touch. What would have happened if you had not made the call – nothing? If you got any information would you use it – no it was just a chat. If someone came from outer space they would think that people on earth had a funny object on hands and head. What did we do before mobile phones, made decisions ourselves and were better organised. Let’s get back to basics and save money.

  • 10.
  • At 12:07 AM on 31 Aug 2006,
  • Henrietta wrote:

Have a look at - I use their wifi mobile phone and am using wifi hotspots around the country to talk for free; I understand that although this is already available it officially launches in early September. I think that it is FANTASTIC. There are around 70 hotspots in my home town and hundreds in London. In fact I gather that the City will shortly be completely covered giving one the ability to connect to the internet or make internet calls literally anywhere. Maybe you should give it a go. You might be happier than you thought to return your P990!

  • 11.
  • At 02:21 AM on 31 Aug 2006,
  • ANB wrote:

Thanks to Henrietta for her unsolicited comments about Mobiboo - we really do believe that the future is mobile wifi telephony, but it is always good to have so many agreeing with our advance towards more reasonable telephony costs either at home or more importantly when travelling anywhere in the world with WiFi. Free or low cost telephony without roaming charges is just the start at - go on Paul try it!

  • 12.
  • At 06:26 AM on 31 Aug 2006,
  • Alex Coley wrote:

When will you catch up with the times? Your comment of "The people I've been speaking to map out a future for the mobile that sees ever more devices being slotted in under the cover - a GPS satnav, Wimax, even a tv receiver" shows your poor research. That time has been here for almost 2 years. I do hope that just because you've seen "Nokia" plastered everywhere you dont actualy beleive they are the only solution? Because they are all quite a way behind the times! For further research for yourself may i surgest the following url's: (they have a nice piece about yourself), (one of the largest gobal mobile phone manufactures), This just a tiny few of the masses of information available. And just before you say "Well this kind of phone isnt available to the general public" I can tell you that all the major mobile phone shops in the country sell this kind of thing. Google this lot next time you get a chance; HTC Hermes, Orange SPV M3100, T-Mobile Vario II, Vodafone v1605. and this is all the same phone, theres so many more if you actualy try...

  • 13.
  • At 09:26 AM on 31 Aug 2006,
  • Paul Savage wrote:

The thing i don't understand is that if Wifi can be set up by anyone does that mean in the block of flats i live in there could already be 30 telecom masts?

People have fought legal battles with the big communication companies, local councils and even the European courts (eg. about the siting of masts and now apparently anyone can go into their local electronics shop buy their own mast and in a completely untrained capacity go and set it up.

Surely this is completely unregulated and has the potential to be very dangerous?

How can i stop my neighbour locating 20 masts on the other side of my bedroom wall and how would i know in the first place?

It appears that because it now costs 5p a minute to call someone we should replace our licensed and regulated mobile networks with a DIY version. I don't want free telephoney - if you can't afford 5p/min to call me don't:

i already seem to get enough calls offering a free upgrade/to change my energy provider/double glazing!!!!!

  • 14.
  • At 02:01 PM on 31 Aug 2006,
  • Des wrote:

The appear to have upset someone, who claims that the BBC stated that "There is no place for Microsoft in the future of mobile phones"

Would the BBC like to comment?

  • 15.
  • At 04:00 PM on 31 Aug 2006,
  • Gwyn wrote:

Following on from Des's comment, I'd like to hear what the BBC has to say about Windows-based mobile phones...

Hmm, this whole thing seems to me to be the wrong way to go in society. Everyone just seems power and money crazy and thats what its all about.

People seem alot more ignorant and shout alot more when using there computers, playing games ect, i wonder what would happen if everyone had that at the hands, all of the time :- (

Oh and has anyone forgot that microwave radiation aids the cause of tumors..

"The study into a link with brain tumors was carried out by Lennart Hardell, professor of oncology at Orebro University in Sweden, who compared 1,617 patients diagnosed with brain tumors between 1997 and last year with the same number of healthy people.

He found that people who used cell phones were two and a half times more likely to have a temporal brain tumor on the side of the head where they held their phone."
- ""

"If Mobile Phones Were a Type of Food, They Simply Would Not be Licensed"

I dont mean to scare people away, or scare anybody, im just taking things i have heard, but i did hear them from very, smart men from scientific backgrounds.

I just beleve that everyone should be awear of the risks, and it should be promoted ALOT more.

  • 17.
  • At 06:16 AM on 01 Sep 2006,
  • El wrote:

This is why i brought my Nokia N80 :D
Its genuinly good for your productivity and fun too. Love taking pictures pictures and having them uploaded to Flickr. While i also check 'all' my email accounts on the go.

Nokia N93 is a hot piece of kit too. Overall i think we will see Symbian devices get bigger and more popular as the technology and software grows.

The Nokia N93 can be plugged into a tv and used as a sort of pc. If you have a wireless keyboard, even better!

  • 18.
  • At 10:10 AM on 01 Sep 2006,
  • Jack Moxley wrote:

With all the furore of the non-sensical undeserverd version upgrade of the web (2.0). People have missed out on the one aspect of our lives that deserves the new number.

Although to confuse the marketers, who completly misunderstood what version numbers are actualy for, I shall start calling it 'Phone 2.1'.

  • 19.
  • At 01:10 PM on 01 Sep 2006,
  • David Stephens wrote:

What exactly is driving demand for these phones?

My guess would be the mobile telcos looking for more ways of increasing the average revenue per customer.

Any gadget or gizmo that will get the customer spending - be it to play a game, listen to music or browse the web.

Companies want to offer broadband, tv and entertainment(home and mobile) telephony (fixed and mobile) And find new ways to get people to pay for what they are used to getting for "free".

Something satellite tv and cable operators have managed quite well.

Wise consumers will avoid all the marketing hype and ask what do they really want from their mobile?

Is it value for money to pay 25p to view the average webpage? If you had a counter in the corner of the screen that showed the cost you'd be horrified.

Just 10 minutes surfing would pay for a home broadband connection for the month.

Wifi and Wimax might give the mobile telcos a run for their money but mobile internet access is unregulated and available at a sensible price.

Once that happens we can get true peer to peer communications going and cut out all the expensive middle men from the equation.

But that won't happen for a while because there are far to many people with vested interests that think they are going to make their fortune out of it.

Time will tell....

  • 20.
  • At 01:22 PM on 01 Sep 2006,
  • Tina Jenkins wrote:

Had to laugh at Mobiboo are they trying to reinvent the Rabbit phone from the late '80s?

(For the youngsters reading this Rabbit was a home cordless phone which would also work outside IF you were within 20 metres of a Rabbit hotspot.)

It didn't take off.

Nothing changes :-)

What a farce! Your football club access on the mobile, even your ID? So when it is stolen! You are a non person, unable to watch the game, also lost as the sat nav is gone too. Locked out of your home as the keys were on it, and penniless as the money was electronic on the stolen phone. All in one, lost in one!

Only fools will subject themselves to any ID card, most will be destroying them! Is this another wheeze to force people to subjugate themselves to Big Brother, like adding the ID database data requirement to passports?

I can see children and the show off media types wanting this super phone nonsense, but it is hardly for grown ups.

Just because we can do something is not a reason to do it! Technology is looking for suckers to keep spending on pointless gadgets. A basic mobile phone was of real use, mobile web surfing is not, not on any screen under 19 inches, and a full size keyboard, and proper mouse.

  • 22.
  • At 04:47 PM on 08 Sep 2006,
  • Christian wrote:

I don't think having your football ticket, money and possibly some ID data on your phone is any more risky than having it in your wallet. Both are carried around in your pocket and equally easy to lose or get stolen.

Right now if you lose your wallet you'd be, as the previous poster put it, "a non person" all the same. I fail to see how substituting a wallet with a phone is any worse.

If anything, the mobile is (potentially) a much safer place to keep these things. At least it can be locked by the user with a password, fingerprint scanner or facial recognition (all of which are in use in Japan) - a wallet cannot. A phone can also have all it's data remotely deleted by the network operator if necessary, so even if a thief unlocks the phone he/she won't find anything useful on it.

If you took things a step further and added the ability for a network to remotely disable a device completely (so that it essentially becomes nothing more than a paper-weight) there'd be little incentive for thieves to steal phones: They couldn't sell them because they don't work and they can't get any sensitive data off them either. It may not be an easy thing to implement technically, but at least it's a possibility. The same can't be said for a wallet!

I'm not saying a phone that takes over wallet functions is or ever will be totally secure, but I think writing the idea off as a "farce" is a just being short-sighted.

  • 23.
  • At 08:26 PM on 24 Oct 2006,
  • Shon wrote:

I currently use an M3100 and I've just been able to receive vital work documents sent to me via email, edit them via Word/Excel on the mobile, then send them back. I'm also able to read this article and write THIS VERY POST on it. All done whilst I'm on a 3 hour train journey back from London, on a system no bigger than the palm of my hand...hardly pointless.

Oh, and thanks to the wonder that is WiFi none of this costs me a penny above my basic monthly mobile bill (£25 p/m in case there are any cynics out there!). If any idiot constantly connects to the net using GPRS they deserve all their bills.

It seems to me that every person prepared to berate such systems either have no use for them or have never even bothered to try them out.

  • 24.
  • At 01:47 PM on 27 Nov 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Re postings 23-31: What happened to moderation of postings here?

David Stephens wrote: "What exactly is driving demand for these phones?"

A report last week said males believe that "features" on their phones as essential for "pulling" females. Much cheaper than features on a car. I just dread to think the number of men who try to demonstrate these features whilst on dates. Of course, what it probably means is that a man compares the features on his phone to those of other men, and needs to feel his are better or else he has no confidence. And the lesser features on "girl's" phones make them impossible for any man to consider, and nicely reinforce the contempt men have for women, technically. The phone companies sure have got men's number, and more and more of their money.

  • 25.
  • At 06:55 PM on 27 Nov 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Hmm, moderation is slow here too, when it isn't passing SPAM through. What's with that?

One fly in the ointment is the very small number of individuals who are extra-sensitive to microwave radiation and react with ill-health symptoms.
We now have over 300 electro-sensitives registered with us and it is time the industry recognised this problem and devoted some of their vast resources to understanding and dealing with it.
It may only be a tiny number but why should their lives be turned upside down by invasive microwaves without recognition and support as they get in Sweden where 280,000 are acknowledged and assisted.
Rod Read

  • 27.
  • At 02:37 PM on 27 Feb 2007,
  • Peter grimsey wrote:

i had an affair with a fluffy cute innocent pie and mash potatoe

  • 28.
  • At 02:40 PM on 27 Feb 2007,
  • Peter grimsey wrote:

i had an affair with a fluffy cute innocent pie and mash potatoe

  • 29.
  • At 02:42 PM on 27 Feb 2007,
  • Peter grimsey wrote:

i had an affair with a fluffy cute innocent pie and mash potatoe

  • 30.
  • At 02:42 PM on 27 Feb 2007,
  • Peter grimsey wrote:

i had an affair with a fluffy cute innocent pie and mash potatoe

  • 31.
  • At 08:37 AM on 25 Aug 2007,
  • Lesley Hudson wrote:

I am british, lived the past 16yrs in the USA and lived the last year in Ireland and soon to be moving back home to the good old UK.
I used Voip in the US and here In Ireland I am currently using Blue Face for my Voip and Clearwire for my WiMax Internet.
I refuse to pay Landline and per min. tel.calls. any more, it seems obvious to me that the big guys dont want wimax as so much has been invested in 3G that they would lose a bundle, not to mention line rental fees and per min. charges.
If we are going to move forward Wimax is the way.
I want my wimax but cant easily get it in the UK, come on people!!!!

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