Connected: Magic in phones amazes

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Do you ever stop to think about the magic that you carry around in your pocket? Or do you take it for granted?

Whether you carry a smartphone -- and no matter which one it is -- or you carry a plain, old feature phone, it's amazing how much imagination, attention to detail and hard work went into making your experience as good as it is.

That magic starts at the system level. The whole concept of a cellular system was revolutionary. Before cellular, we used CB radio, while only a few professions carried special phones in their cars and trucks. Then somebody had the bright idea that a phone call should be able to jump from tower to tower to maintain a connection as it travels.

It took no time to catch on -- but a long time before the collection of cell towers was large enough to be able to have nearly constant connections in so many areas. Then, when we were finally all looking, they started to carry data so we can make them even more useful than simple phone calls.

These days, a cell tower is often not even a tower -- it can be that apartment building up the street with cellular equipment on the roof. As local municipalities cracked down on unsightly cell towers, imagination kicked in again. No reason to build unsightly cell towers, when we can mess up the look of buildings instead. But they bring magic to our pockets.

More recently, we're lucky enough to be able to use Siri and other products that save us stress and make it easier to use the magic devices in our pockets. But Siri didn't happen overnight either. It took a meticulous product design effort. It wasn't even easy for Apple to patent Siri. The company's patent application was rejected nine times before it finally made the grade on the 10th try.

No wonder Apple, Motorola (now part of Google), Samsung, and other cellular device companies are so focused on getting and leveraging their portfolios of patents. They not only make a lot of money; they are also expensive and time consuming to obtain.

The fight is over more than real technology. They fight over screen size and shape, the way you move your fingers when you operate the controls, and other methods and processes that you use in everyday life with other devices. I think I'll invent a toaster that lets me swipe my fingers in a certain pattern to tell it to make my Pop Tart soft but not burned. Then, I'll patent it and keep others from doing the same thing without paying me a few shekels. I'll become a shekel-aire.

Over the next few months, these magic pocket devices will also make it possible for me to share with you the news of other magic devices that make your cell phones even smarter, more fun and more fashionable than before. That's fun for me, too.

I only wish they could make a device that has a screen that doesn't shatter when you drop it. That would be truly magical.


Follow David Radin on Twitter @dradin or learn more at


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