It’s been a couple of weeks now since I got back from the International Consumer Electronics Showcase in Las Vegas, and in that time I’ve been perusing through the roughly ten pounds of handouts and flyers I received there. What has befuddled me is not so much the things I have seen, but the things I didn’t see at that could take these inventions to the next level. There always seemed to be one thing missing from an otherwise perfect product.

So here is some of what I didn’t see, that I wish I had.

Chargers

There are solar chargers, wall chargers, portable chargers, portable chargers with prongs built in so you can charge the chargers from the wall, dual-usb car chargers, and more. However, there were no portable dual-USB car chargers.

To be clear, what I don’t see and can’t find is a portable charger that hangs out and charges off of your car battery, and when you need it, you can pop it out of the 12v outlet and take it with you to continue charging your phone. At the moment, the only way I can figure out how to do that is to run a  standard micro-USB car charger into a portable charger (in this case an old MyCharge Power Vault), and then run that power into the phone.

An advantages to this would be that when you’re out, and you need a quick charge for a meeting, grocery shopping, etc., you can just pop it out of the car and take it in with you. Circuitry in the charger could stop any drain when the thing is not in use, so you don’t risk wearing out your car battery if your ports don’t turn off when the car does.

There are plenty of portable chargers that look like they’d fit in a standard power socket in a car, so I don’t think battery capacity would be much of an issue.

You could add solar panels and prongs for the charger to charge in other methods if you wanted, but I think that would border on overkill.

A perfect portable music solution

This was the year of people bringing wireless Bluetooth portable music solutions to the table. All of them also called it innovative, when two booths down, another company had the same thing. There were wired, wireless, NFC-to-pair, waterproof, wall outlet charging, USB-charging, AM+FM, phone-charging off of battery, left, right, and subwoofer pairing designations, but there was not one that just did it all.

When I think of portable music, I think of bringing the tunes to someplace that does not have power, and probably playing them for a really long time. Most of the products I ran across had a lifetime of roughly eight hours, which means that on a multi-day camping trip, you’re pretty much dead on day one if you want to sit around the fire and listen to tunes.

One solution to this is larger internal rechargeable batteries, and another is using old school batteries for backup power. And another solution, perfect for the camping scenario, is a solar panel to charge during the day, and perhaps a crank at night. The speakers, on average, consume less than half an amp per hour of operation, so it’s not a huge power drain.

While listening to music streamed over Bluetooth is fine and dandy, sometimes you just want to listen to what’s on the radio. While several manufacturers made AM/FM/Bluetooth offerings (TDK being one very nice one), I didn’t see any portable music player with Sirius/XM, which is absurdly useful if you’re in the mountains and can only get one channel. With XM, you just need to be able to see the sky usually to get your channels.

While tap-to-pair is a neat option, I think most people who are going to be using this gear can figure that out.

Waterproof is a must if you’re taking things anywhere, as well as left/right/subwoofer management by the portable speaker as opposed to by the phone. I don’t think I should have to pair multiple devices to play music, or have to fight my jerk friends who have paired a device to play fart noises.

Currently, the most complete solution involves using a Voltaic solar charger, a Braven BRV-1 wireless speaker, my phone, and Sirius/XM Lynx receiver – and that’s a bit much and still doesn’t provide everything.

An agnostic phone

HTC produces phones that run Android and Windows. RIM has the Blackberry OS, and Apple has iOS. While I don’t much expect Apple would ever be willing to let loose its death grip on controlling the experience, I would expect that device manufacturers, and the end users, would benefit from the ability to choose which OS they want to run on their devices.

All the hardware is pretty much standard – all that has to be manufactured is a universal hardware abstraction layer, if it’s not already made, and then any OS should be able to work with any phone. Perhaps I’m simplifying it a bit, but it seems like the phone to own is one that you can do anything with. In the end, your phone is just a bunch of sensors, a screen, and some radios. There’s nothing particularly special about any of these rectangular devices other than the support and development.

It seems absurd to me that I would have to purchase a new phone and a contract just to switch operating systems.

Random questions

  • Why isn’t the back of your average tablet a solar panel?
  • Why does it take so long to charge a 2000mAh battery? Why can’t we just touch our phones to a charging point, and a couple of seconds later, we’re juiced?
  • With how little power the phones actually use, why do we not have alternate wind-up chargers or something that would give us something to fiddle with?
  • If everything in the phone is solid state, why don’t we have nearly indestructible thin phones?
  • Are we always going to be engaged in the battle to charge our cell phones?
  • Why did all the 3D phones come with such bad individual cameras, and why are there no flagship offerings any more?
  • Will companies wise up this year and stop making controllers that rely on a phone’s audio output and wrap around the phone, obscuring parts of the screen?
  • We’re carrying around more processor power and storage than the average computer from 2006, and it’s running on comparatively no power. Why aren’t data centers now the size of closets, and using less electricity than an average house?
  • Why is it every time we make something new, we lose something useful?
  • Is there any way that an idea database can be set up so that all of these companies and startups don’t invent the same thing? I saw hundreds of the same products invented by different companies.
  • While I admit my knowledge of the science behind audio reproduction is not particularly complete, why can’t my phone sound amazing when paired with a solid surface, like the Bass Egg?