Smartphones Are Still Pretty Dumb
I’m driving down the highway on my way to work when the brake lights appear in front of me. As the traffic slows to a crawl, I start to wonder why my phone didn’t know about the backup, alert me and offer an alternative route based on calculations of traffic conditions, lights, stop signs etc. I also wonder why my phone isn’t smart enough to connect the fact that at my current and projected speed I’m going to be late for my meeting and ask me if I want to send a message telling someone how late I’m going to be? If there are already apps or ways to do this and make my phone act more like a real “intelligent” assistant I’d like to know about them but, in any case, here are some more reasons why I think my smartphone is still pretty dumb.

Intelligent Reminders

I’d like to be able to ask my phone to remind me about things and then have it anticipate the need to remind me about them. For example, if I told my phone to, “remind me not to take this shortcut for the next two months while they are working on the road,” I’d like my phone to remind me about that if it looked like I was heading for that route.

Make Adjustments
for My Setting

Why can’t my phone adjust the ring for my situation automatically? If I’m at the library or the opera I’d like a soft ring or no ring at all, if I’m out walking on a busy street I want the ring to be as loud as possible. Why can’t my phone know that I’m on an airplane which is about to take off and turn itself off? My phone should know where I am, sense the conditions and make adjustments automatically.

Phone Should Match My Mood

My phone should analyze my calls, who I talk to, when and for how long and then when I ask it to go into “minimal distraction” mode, it knows which calls to send directly to voicemail and which to let through. My phone should get to know me and help make my life easier.

Should be Simpler

I wish my phone was better at synching everyday data with other devices. It doesn’t look to me like address and calendars can be synchronized without the odd duplication or omission. I know some phones do this better than others and who knows, maybe the “cloud” will make synchronization simple and error-free.

A Smartphone Shouldn’t Be
an Answering Machine

I want to be able to have a natural conversation with my phone to answer questions, get advice, receive suggestions, etc. In other words, I want my smartphone to be an answer machine not an answering machine.
In Short…a Truly Smart Phone
In a world of smart cars, smart homes, smart offices, smart TVs and smart everything else, what I want is an assistant in my phone able to help me manage my time, my appointments and my life in a way that anticipates my needs and provides answers to questions and solutions to problems. I’d like to be able to do something as simple as tell my phone to call me back in 30 minutes and make sure I wake up from a nap. I want a phone to remind me about dates, shows to watch on TV, movies that just came out, things to eat at restaurants, foods that are in season, all based on things my phone knows I like. I want to be able to have a conversation with my phone – ask it questions and get back the right answers.
About Andrew
Andrew Eisner is Retrevo's resident gadget enthusiast and former Executive Producer at PC World Magazine. Andrew is well versed in technology products, having helped establish Ziff Davis' premiere test lab, where he led a team testing the latest high tech gear.

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What a Really Good Read!

What a neat and interesting post!


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#6. Smartphone won't get me

#6. Smartphone won't get me coffee. Or pick up my dry cleaning. Or ...oh the list can go on....


Fantastic article. The

Fantastic article. The consumers of today will not be the creators of tomorrow...and hence their inability to predict future changes. This article is clearly offensive to people who have "invested" their hard earned money in overpriced and inferior technology that is marketed as being "smart," which Mr. Andrew eloquently and critically examines. His suggestions are very reasonable and should be expected by consumers of today but instead his suggestions are being dismissed as idealistic and unreasonable. What nonsense. In all likelihood many of their friends and relatives had their jobs replaced by computers in the past 30 years and yet they make the foolish assumption that a "secretary" cannot be replaced by a "smartphone," as though technology has its proper place in society that cannot and will not disrupt the "natural order" of things. Technology is unstoppable. By 2020, mobile technology will have so thoroughly disrupted the "natural order" that entire product categories, careers, and nations will be altered beyond recognition. Mr. Andrew is clearly ready for that cataclysmic change as he is already changeling the natural order with his demands for even smarter technology. The rest of you will be caught be surprise when your children no longer go to you for advice or knowledge because their "phones" (portable life management tools) are much more relevant to them than you will ever be. That's the future. Are you ready for it?

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Ridiculous article

This is the most ridiculous article. Can't believe they would let this guy write such crap! Sure, there are things that smartphones could do better, but they do a pretty fantastic job. There is room for improvement in all technology. All the stuff pointed out in this article sounds like it comes from a someone that is seriously lazy and has nothing better to do with his time. This will be the last Retrevo article I ever read. I am heading to the unsubscribe link!!

Smartphones Are Still Pretty Dumb

As a writer stated earlier, my phone does about 5 of the items you listed. So, I have to ask, are you using an iPhone.. Becasue it's the only one I know of that has to be sync using a computer connection. Android is done over the air, Automatically . Yea, you must have an iPhone.


As I read the article I was thinking exactly the same thing..he must be using a iphone, because my Galaxy SII does most of the things he wants his phone to do!

"I want to be able to have a natural conversation with my phone"

Your phone isn't nearly as dumb as you are, Andrew. Honestly, Retrevo should not hire morons who have no understanding of technology and its capabilities.

Ouch that hurts!

Please provide some specific places where it appeared to you that I don't understand technology because I think I have a pretty good understanding. 

Is this a serious article?

I read this article and had a few chuckles; then I read most of the comments and was surprised. I really think this was written in a "tongue in cheek" style, wasn't it? I may have gotten it wrong, but most of the comments seemed to take this way too seriously, in my opinion. I am sure that most people,including the author, know about all of the apps that are available for just about all smartphones. I felt that the author was making a point about our overwhelming need to find gadgets to do things for us, and was poking a bit of fun at himself and all the rest of us who rely too much on our techno toys.

This article was serious

Even though I tend to write with a certain amount of cynicism I was dead serious about the desire to be able to have a conversation with an "agent" in my phone. I'm aware of some apps that come close to this but I'd be interesting in learning about more. Tell me some you had in mind. 

If the smart phone could do

If the smart phone could do all of that, think of all of the executive assistants and secretaries that will be on the unemployment line.

Smartphones are still pretty dumb

Smartphone = wrong tool
Wife = right tool

There's room for improvement

There's definitely room for added smarts in smart phones, but aside from location sensitive and time triggers, simpler syncing and ambient volume adjustment there's some things that computers just aren't that good at yet. Mood sensitivity might be possible -- It might take a lot of processing power -- but it's just not that necessary when you could just disconnect by either turning off or silencing your phone yourself. As far as message priority -- that would be fairly simple, but really a list is all you need and you could scan it yourself much better than a computer.

A lot of people are slamming you thinking that you just don't want to think for yourself, but I see where you're coming from. Smart phones and computers should be intelligent enough to do all this but as some have said for a "life manager" app to be made would require a lot of thought and skill to put together. It would have to be highly customizable and very adaptive. I can think of some of the necessary systems that would have to be built off the top of my head, but to really integrate all of them would be the key and would require a lot of thought and testing and re-evaluation and more thought and testing. It sounds like a good idea for an app -- or an app suite, but you're going to have to pitch it to people with the cash to develop it, or program it yourself.

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Well, it could be some kind

Well, it could be some kind of science fiction mode in your post but, who knows for the future? Ten years ago nobody could imagine all the hi-tech stuff that is surrounding us at this date, and in ten years more are tons of imagination or reality to live for (or enjoy for).


My smart phone can do most of those things you listed

Im not sure what smart phone your using, but im on an android phone and can do most of the things you listed. For intelligent reminders use an app called "locale", i've used it to set my phone to vibrate when i get within a certain distance of my work.

You could also you locale for "make adjustments for my settings"

Synching: I dont know how your synching your stuff, but my laptop (mac), phone (android), and gmail accounts all sync perfectly with each other (mail, contacts, calendar, tasks) and i've never had any problems with duplicates. Most software today has built-in duplication prevention or system that allows you to resolve/combine duplicates if they do occur.

So currently my phone can do about 3 or 5 things you listed.


think before u speak

I am with you. I am wondering myself what kind of device he has. I know these apps are available! What a coocamunga! This makes me not want to read his blogs anymore.

It is better that the

It is better that the smartphones now are dumb, as you say it, so that it will not tell you that you are too dumb or lazy to do your responsibilities. Smartphones are not humans, it is just a tool that makes human's life easy and manageable. I bet you better want your mother scolds you about your stupidity than your smart phone do that to you, huh?

Be careful

You ask for this stuff without even coming close to properly describing the requirements. What if I am a pilot? Do I want to not have my cell phone working on my private aircraft just because it detects that I on a an air field? The special cases alone would kill each and every one of these requests. Machines have been able to "recognize my voice" for decades but why are we not talking to all of our stuff by now? Simple because there has yet to be a solution that fits EVERYONE'S needs. We get better every year but not there yet. Each request you put forth in your wish list would have literally thousands of requirements to make it work so that everyone can have their wish list fulfilled. Lastly that "answer machine" request, seriously while you are at it why don't you just through in a new item to you list: The phone that reads your mind and says what ever you are thinking. Over all this list reads like a Dilbert comic. Have you even ever met an engineer?



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Check out Cookie's Home Tab Scheduler

OK, I know Windows Mobile is on it's way out, but at least it's an honorable death. It syncs easily and flawlessly and was getting pretty good at natural speech recognition and response. It also has the Intelligent Reminders and My Settings Adjustments that you want thanks to an app developed by a team at XDA Developers Forums called Cookie's Home Tab Scheduler. It can pop up reminders, change nearly every setting in the phone, and even change part or all of your home screen layout, and it does any combination of this based on a schedule, your location, or by selecting a shortcut. Best part is that it manages all of this without any battery life impact, and if setup to automatically disable unneeded services will actually extend battery life.


I haven't pushed the sync button since I got my phone (I don't even know where it is), it syncs with all of my devices (and all of my other devices sync automatically also) - two iPhones, iPad, MacBook Pro, ASUS notebook, two desktops. It's not difficult.


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You are pointing out one of

You are pointing out one of the problems with apps - they are too specialized. Over time we will see larger apps with more integrated features, like we say office suites take over for word processors.



dumb smart phones

why can't andrew just get smart like he wants his fone to be? give up the toys. use your brain (and post-its).

You left something out...

Okay, you want to write an article about ways in which smart phones aren't so smart. You use a humorous approach and write a cute piece. Is it really that politically incorrect to mention what is really wrong with smart phones and tablet pcs? Like you can't change the battery, so when it fails to charge you have to spend another $600 to replace what is now a useless paper weight? In the early sixties when the new transistor radios came out, you could replace the battery, so how is it that technology has taken this giant step backward? It is simple. So called smart phones and tablet pcs are made to wear out so they can soak you for the price of a replacement - we aren't talking rocket science here. Hercule Poirot need not be consulted in this case. The Japanese made better cars and exposed the truth that American automobile manufacturers have been bilking the public with built in obsolescence. Now the "buying public" is allowing the same evils to be perpetuated by Microsoft and Apple in the way they make operating systems obsolete, thus turning your perfectly good, working computer into useless junk. And everybody and his brother is making electronic devices where you can't change the battery. There is nothing smart or stupid about a telephone, my friend. The question of intelligence or the lack thereof, is a problem between the ears of the consumer.


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Not allowing the battery to

Not allowing the battery to be taken out of phones, while may seem like a step backward to you, really isn't. Think about this, people want a device to be small, do everything (look at the article), and have a sufficient amount of battery life. This means that batteries in the device have to be as large as possible so that you can squeeze out as much power as possible (note Apple's choice to not allow interchangeable batteries for their laptops). Fact of the matter is, consumers ask for the world (I am a mobile developer, trust me, I experience it first-hand) but there are stringent trade-offs that need to be made, and this is especially the case in the mobile arena.


You might want to take a

You might want to take a look at the Toshiba Thrive Android tablet. This great tablet gives you expandability choices and let's you switch out the battery! I agree with you on the American companies vs foreign companies.

Love that one

I'm totally with you on this article...Hey when you find that assistant...please let us all know LOL

Love that one

I'm totally with you on this article...Hey when you find that assistant...please let us all know LOL

Make Adjustments for My Setting

Naw, I wouldn't want that. What if I'm in a movie theater where I'm supposed to be in a quiet audience, but sounds of booming, crashing and music thunders out from the movie. How would my phone supposed to know what to adjust to? I would prefer to be smart enough to turn off the ringer myself.

In short...you want your

In short...you want your phone to think for you. I understand that technology should act and react with us, but come on dude, you want it to filter you calls and tell you which messages you should answer first?? That's a little overboard. Do you want it to tell you when to eat, who to talk to, what movie to see next?


Next thing we know, you'll want it not only to tell you what foods you like, but for it to eat them for you as well. Say, would it even vaporize that slow car (doing only 120 mph) in the left lane ahead of you? JMS