The thinking behind such considerations is this. With incredibly high speed wireless networks and how applications could live and prosper in the cloud, there would be no need for expensive smartphones with incredibly fast processors. Uh huh. That’s the argument.
Door #3, Monte
Remember with netbooks were all the rage and how Apple was doomed to a niche in history if it didn’t come out with a Mac netbook? Instead, cheap-assed netbooks died and the Mac prospered. Remember when iPhone was considered too expensive and would never catch on? A decade later the high end iPhone is three times the price of the original and about 100 times better.
So, how is it that 5G wireless networks and cloud computing will combine to drive down the price of smartphones and kill off plus $1,000 iPhones? AT&T’sMazin Gilbert thinks it is possible:
Can my $1,000 mobile phone be $10 or $20 dollars, where all the intelligence is really sitting at the edge? It’s absolutely possible.
OK, possible. Probably? Likely? In my lifetime? Uh, probably not, therefore, closer to impossible than possible. Aaron Pressman:
Some phones running Google’s Android software rely on cloud servers to perform tasks like image recognition of photos and transcription of voice mail messages.
Apps that use the cloud for various and sundry tasks are nothing new.
Apple does some of the exact same thing but in a different way; a way more local and centric to a powerful device vs. a cloud system that absolutely positively cannot be made sufficiently powerful to handle 1-billion smartphone customers at the same time.
Apple has so far gone in the other direction, putting increasingly powerful chips in its iPhone line to perform such machine learning and artificial intelligence tasks completely on the device. In the newest iPhone XS, Apple included what it calls a neural engine on the A12 Bionic chip to perform AI tasks even more quickly.
Wouldn’t we all want iPhone Xs Max capabilities in a $20 smartphone? You can’t even get a $20 stupid phone today, so how would it be possible for a handheld device to have a couple of cameras that work like iPhone Xs and Xs Max, ultra high resolution displays, and batteries, and everything else– and require massive amounts of local computing power?
Cloud computing is not all that Pressman thinks it’s cracked up to be:
Current 4G LTE networks have a relatively long lag between when a phone sends data or a request to a server and when the server sends back an answer. And the relatively small number and geographic dispersal of massive cloud data centers run by companies like Amazon and Google further slows the flow of information from phone to cloud and back again.
What about 5G and even faster cloud computing systems? Surely, that’ll do the trick, right?
With 5G and AT&T’s plan to build thousands of smaller, dispersed cloud data centers, however, the lag, known in the industry as latency, will be greatly reduced, Gilbert explained. “The intelligence now is following you,” he said. “The intelligence is getting distributed.”
Following me? It’s in my hand already. Distributed? Apple’s distributed intelligence is distributed already to a billion customers.
It could be many years before the wireless networks are able to handle such tasks.
Duh. Don’t sell your iPhone Xs Max while waiting for a $20 smartphone that can do as much because it is not likely to happen. Not in my lifetime. Not likely in your life time.
Unless… unless someone can get the price of OLED-like quality displays down to $1.50; unless someone can get the price of high end smartphone cameras down to $1.25; not unless someone can get all the components that make up a $1,000-ish iPhone, and the manufacturing costs, down to about $12 so they can make a profit and stay in business.
Can you imagine the power requirements of a data center or distributed data centers that have the collective power of 1-billion iPhones? Me neither. I’m going with what’s behind Door #3, Monte, which ain’t what cloud computing or 5G wireless networks that can do what an iPhone Xs Max does today.