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July 21, 2008

Invisible handsets. Invisible services. Indispensable tools.

INTERNATIONAL – With location-based services (LBS) stealing so many online column inches recently, one aspect that I think has dodged discussion is the hardware – most of the limelight has been shone on the warranted significance of Nokia’s recent acquisitions of NAVTEQ, Trolltech and Plazes, alongside the tangible releases of pioneering new LBS apps such as Nokia Chat .

However, the hardware associated with this new breed of contextually aware interaction has been less of a talking point. Perhaps because many GPS-enabled handsets with faster HSDPA online capabilities and all the trimmings required for LBS to succeed are already here in the shape of many Nseries devices and a few rogue outsiders such as the new Nokia 6220 classic. And it’s the 6220 classic in particular that triggered my thinking as to why it’s important not to forget the hardware’s role in the evolution and adoption of these new services.

The 6220 classic landed on my desk this morning, looking smart but unashamedly unremarkable. But this unassuming non-Nseries handset has all the talents of a top-end device, and one that’s ready to exploit the emerging throng of context-aware services. It’s a handset that doesn’t trumpet its A-GPS talents, high-speed data connectivity or high-res 5-megapixel camera – those features are just there, and not included as showpiece technical trinkets. They feel standard, subtle and as integrated and unassuming as the calculator application. The 6220 classic doesn’t feel elite or special, it feels normal, comfortable and accessible. It feels mainstream, in a very good way. With this in mind, can location-based services truly become equally mainstream until they become unremarkable as sending a text message – until the hardware has blended into the background as a faceless facilitator, surely only then can a service become indispensable and second nature.

Of course, in the meantime some serious pioneering will take place, but can rapid evolution of services really emerge until we’re truly able to forget about the remarkable functionality buried within our phones? Let me know what you think by posting a comment below.

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