A cloud. On a phone.

“The Cloud” is great isn’t it. For storing stuff and processing stuff and making stuff scalable. “Stuff” has never had it so good. Most of the world seems to be putting its “stuff” into the cloud. A lot of applications now process “stuff” in the cloud. At this rate the computer will soon be moving towards the dumb terminals of the 1970’s and 80’s. Which in some weird way brings me to my point. You see, our mobile phones are already doing a lot of processing of stuff in the cloud and it’s becoming a rather large nuisance; for me anyway.

A few months ago I had to start using an Android phone (for those who don’t know, I’m waiting for the Nokia 1020 before I upgrade and I’ve recently lost the use of the Nokia 900 I had) and I made good use of the Google Navigation app. Whilst it lacked a few of the features I was used to on the Nokia Drive app it did at least do the navigation bit to a high enough standard that I arrived at my destination.

A short time ago Google decided to spruce up its products and confuse the bejeebers out of everybody by ditching the navigation app and integrating it with the Google Maps app. “Fair enough”, I hear you all mutter. “Nothing wrong with that”, someone in the back murmurs. “I’m off to read something more interesting, like the Daily Mail website”, says another. And you’d all be quite right (except the Daily Mail reader) if it weren’t for the fact that the new app no longer allows you to use the application offline. This wonderful cloud, the all-giving wonders of the highly almighty cloud, needs to be there for the app to even begin to think about aiding you with useful navigation. And, when you’re in the middle of a super-fast bit of 3G coverage who could care whether it needs the cloud or a connection to a server in Outer Mongolia (which is, technically, still the cloud, but I digress). When you’re in the middle of flippin’ Cornwall access to the cloud is via a piece of string and a fisherman named Bob, who is only at home on a Tuesday. (Theoretically this would have been better than what was available. And the fact you can’t access the internet every minute of every day is part of the appeal of disappearing to Cornwall for a weekend.)

As you can imagine, with a lack of access to the cloud there were very little navigation options other than to use the old fashioned printed AA map, which we did. And we got home. As you can tell. That doesn’t stop it annoying me though, our reliance on all things cloud is going to have some pain points and this is one of them. If we rely on every little bit of processing happening in the cloud and our computers and phones turn into dumb terminals how long is it before even doing the most basic of tasks relies on a 4G connection.

Untitled-1Not having access to the internet is going to become a bigger and bigger concern as more and more of the applications we use rely on cloud processing. Getting data from the cloud is completely understandable, but actually using the power of the cloud to process the data to provide navigation routes – a function that most of us now use on our mobile phones as opposed to purchasing stand-alone GPS units – is a bit of a worry. Sure, the cloud is much more powerful than a 1ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU but once you take in the fact that the latest and greatest TomTom SatNav only uses a 500mhz ARMII processor you have to begin to wonder why we need the cloud at this stage.

Maybe there should be warnings as you drive through areas of no connection. You’d best hope your navigation app doesn’t crash whilst you’re in it.

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