The most obvious advantage to consolidating your devices into a single gadget is convenience. You don't have to pack, unpack and manage multiple devices whenever you go on a trip. And if it's a device you always have with you, you never have to worry about missing the opportunity to capture a special moment because you left your camera behind.
Also, with a single device, you only have one battery to worry about. You don't need to remember if your digital camera has a full charge or if your GPS receiver is about to die. With one device, you know where you stand at any given time. And as a bonus, you only have to bring along one battery charger.
Another nice perk is that many of these devices allow you to accomplish tasks that traditionally would require several steps. For example, with a standard MP3 player, you would have to download content on a computer. Then, you would sync your MP3 player with your computer and transfer files. But now, with many smartphones, you can search for content, purchase it, download and install it without ever having to connect to another device.
So what are the downsides? A big one is that if you lose or break the device, you've lost everything. If you only carry a single device around, you have no redundancy. It's bad enough if one device fails you, but if you rely on that gadget to do everything you're really out of luck. And if a thief manages to steal your device, they get everything that comes with it. That could include sensitive files or other important information.
Another problem is that most devices do a few things really well and then aren't as good at performing other functions. While different devices may be converging toward a single form factor, each path has different strengths. For example, most cell phones don't have cameras that are as good as a high-end digital camera.
Finally, storage can be an issue. If you use one device to store images, applications, music, video and other files, you're going to run out of storage space pretty quickly. You might be able to extend that with smart cards or flash drives but storage on the device itself will run out fairly quickly.
We're not quite at the point where we can consolidate all our gadgets into one device and expect the best results. But at the rate technology evolves, it may not be long before we carry an all-in-one wonder gadget.
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Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Murphy, Chris. "Netbooks vs. Smartphones." InformationWeek. March 31, 2009. (April 13, 2009) http://www.informationweek.com/blog/main/archives/2009/03/netbooks_vs_sma.html
- Oppenheim, Richard. "Is That a Computer in Your Pocket?" Searcher. February 2009. Vol. 17, Issue 2. pp. 12-54.
- Scheck, Justin and Nick Wingfield. "In Challenge to Microsoft, PC Makers Test Laptops Running Google Software." Wall Street Journal. April 1, 2009. (April 13, 2009) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123852934905974845.html
- Wahl, Andrew. "Your next computer?" Canadian Business. Feb. 2009, Vol. 82, Issue 2. p. 28.