Multitasking on the Bicycle

As a tech-savvy person I used to carry a lot of gadgets when going on a bicycle ride for fun: A mobile phone, a photo camera, a paper map, a GPS, an MP3 player and a PDA to surf the Internet and to check my e-mail. Yes, I know what you want to say now, that was a couple of years ago (but not too many ago when you think about it) and today, all these devices have shrunken into a single smartphone.

It's a strange feeling, my backpack is now almost empty with only my N95, the sun glasses, the door key and some money in it. And who knows, the door key and the money might just be included in the mobile phone in a couple of years as well with an RFID chip for mobile payment and a Bluetooth solution to open my apartment door.

It's amazing how many things the phone now does simultaneously while being in my pocket:

  • It runs the MP3 and podcast player so I am entertained while enjoying the ride
  • The camera application is always ready and while I take a picture, all other applications keep running in the background
  • Nokia Sports Tracker runs in the background and uses the GPS chip to record the trip and upload my position in real time to the Internet. Once back home the program looks for pictures I have taken during the ride and the songs I have listened to and uploads them as well. For example, here's the data from the bike trip I reflect on in this post.
  • I've uploaded some of the pictures I have taken in full resolution to Flickr with the help of Shozu on the phone, which also accesses the GPS information to geo-tag the pictures. To save cost, I've configured Shozu to only upload the pictures when it detects my Wi-Fi network at home. No manual intervention necessary.
  • In the pictures you might have noticed a little camouflaged box. That's a geocache which I found with the help of a Geocaching application using the GPS chip in the phone. An interesting and healthy hide and seek game and sometimes motivation not to stay at home sticking my nose into books or working on new projects.
  • In case I get lost, I can fire up Nokia Maps which also uses the GPS chip. Note that all programs can access the location data simultaneously. Very nice!
  • Needless to say that my e-mail program (Profimail) was also running in the background to alert me of incoming mail.
  • And for the quick information fix, Opera Mini is by default always lingerning in the background. Very helpful to get quick information from Wikipedia, often replacing the tourist guide on paper.
  • And everyone of course takes for granted that incoming voice calls and text messages are also treated. That's two separate tasks running in the background as well.

With all of these things running, the impact on the battery is quite significant. After four or five hours the battery is empty. So for longer trips, that spare battery adds a couple of grams to the weight of the backpack. Acceptable I would say.

So what else could be improved in the future? While the N95 8GB already has quite a big screen, I think I am ready now for the higher resolution and size of the screen of the N97. Hello Nokia, how long do we still have to wait? Also, the touch screen should be great for some applications like the built in web browser, which in itself can still be improved. There are still some pages I don't go to on the mobile because they take too long to load because the processor is not powerful enough to render them as quickly as on the PC. A higher capacity battery at the same size and weight of today would obviously also be good. On the software side I am waiting for that geo-info application that lets me take a picture of something, combines it with the GPS coordinates, goes to the Internet and comes back with a Wikipedia entry on it. Nokia's CTO has mused about such a program in the past but so far I haven't seen one.

So, what's missing for you when you take your smartphone for a walk or a bike ride?