The iPod killer

The iPod killer

One gadget that does it all is just around the corner.

If Apple announced a next-generation iPod that made you a macchiato and then automatically uploaded a video of you drinking it to YouTube while noting the experience on Twitter, would you be terribly surprised? There isn't much iPods don't do, to the point where one is tempted to ask what they'll think of next. Well, it's just possible that whatever that happens to be, it could well kill off iPods as we all know and love them. The days of the ubiquitous iPod, the most popular portable digital music player by a streak, are seriously numbered.

Leading the charge to kill it stone cold dead is none other than Apple's own iPhone. As electronics become faster and smarter, we're storming towards an age when, instead of needing a portable music player, a personal digital assistant and a phone with a decent camera, we'll get it all in just one gadget.

Consider this. A $199 iPod Nano records eight hours of video, complete with sound, and you get twice that with the $249 version. If you just want music, the cheapest Nano stores up to 260 hours' worth. But you can't phone people with it, or send them texts.

With an iPhone you can. And you can take still photographs and video with autofocus. You can command functions with your voice, get directions for where you're heading, record voice messages and access the internet. It will store up to 10 hours of video or 30 hours of audio. And then there's the staggering number of applications you can access.

Of course, it costs more - anything from $879 to $1040 from an Apple store without a plan. This is a lot more than an iPod. Now can you guess why Apple is so keen to get you into one?

So what's coming? Weather forecasts will be provided and some devices, linked wirelessly to outside sensors, will tell you what it's like outside the house right now. Traffic reports, too. You'll be able to book and pay for air travel and use the phone as your boarding pass. Hotel, restaurant and concert bookings will go down the same route.

Accelerometers are already being built into some smartphones, making them responsive to their orientation.

You'll do your banking on these things and they'll be able to replace your credit cards. This is called M-commerce and it's expected to be popular in Europe within four years. It's already being used in a handful of countries.

Nokia is experimenting with heart monitors and sensors to keep tabs on glucose and oxygen levels in your blood. This information may even be integrated with the records kept by your doctor.

So who's going to need a home computer? Smartphones are likely to become the repository of scary amounts of data, including your emails, personal documents, finances and photographs. Scary because of the security implications.

Indeed, some smartphones have already been hacked.

Computer experts who got into the smartphone of a reporter at New Scientist magazine were able to revive a string of embarrassing and highly personal text messages that pre-dated her current phone. They were stored on the SIM card. The experts further told her the route she took to work each day, with departure and arrival times, and they picked the days she had deviated from it thanks to a program she'd downloaded to keep track of her cycling. And with a bit of informed guessing they picked out the banking PINs stored secretly on her phone.

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Tags ipodconsumer electronics

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