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Google wants to kill your phone

Mike Elgan | July 3, 2017
Every smartphone is both a phone and a computer. Google is working to get rid of the phone part.


Google is working hard to make phones obsolete.

The company wouldn't admit this. And they don't want me to say it. They still have to make nice with mobile phone carriers who support and sell Android phones.

In getting rid of the phone as we know it, Google is both on the right side of history and also on your company's side. The post-phone world is a world with higher-quality voice communication, better security and telephony services that work better than today's communication apps.


What's a smartphone, anyway?

Everybody's talking about the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, which first shipped on June 29, 2007. That's as good a place as any to dissect the smartphone and what it really is.

When the late Apple CEO and founder, Steve Jobs, introduced the iPhone on stage, he said it was really three revolutionary products: iPod, mobile phone and internet communications device.

Jobs' weird description of the iPhone is comprehensible only if you recall that at the time Apple had never mentioned the coming App Store. (Jobs also made other less-than-accurate claims, such as that iPhone ran on OS X.)

Now we see smartphones clearly. Jobs' "iPod" and "internet communicator" are just apps. Currently there are thousands of apps on the Apple App Store that play music and enable communications over the internet. Overall, there are more than 2.2 million apps on the app store that do all kinds of things.

A smartphone isn't three things, it's two things: a "phone" and a "computer." The "phone" part uses mobile carriers' voice networks to handle calls and text messages. The "computer" part has an operating system, apps and the ability to connect to the internet via either a mobile broadband data network or via Wi-Fi.

Just as the "computer" part of smartphones has consumed the digital camera, media player, radio, ebook reader, calculator, voice recorder, scanner, GPS, compass, flashlight, portable game player, alarm clock, timer, address book and dozens of other things, it will also devour the "phone" part of your smartphone.

The supremacy of the "computer" part of the phone over the "phone" part is most easily seen in the world of messaging apps, which are in most respects vastly better than text messaging. And, in any event, SMS and MMS messages now travel easily over Wi-Fi and don't need the voice network anymore.

The sole remaining justification for the continued existence of the "phone" part of a smartphone is that the voice network is generally more reliable and higher quality than internet-based phone options.

But it's only a matter of time before Internet-based calls are better than voice network calls. Google is trying to accelerate this process.


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