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THOUGHT: Are we ready to say goodbye to the IrDA port?
Posted by Carlo Guerrero - on Wednesday, 20.09.06 - 19:44:10 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 12320x
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Some may find it funny. Some may find it sad. Some may not care at all. But now that we are faced with the reality that the IrDA port's life is nearing its end, should we just go with the flow and let the device manufacturer dictate what we should have or shouldn't have?

The closest rival of the IrDA port is Bluetooth. But even Bluetooth doesn't come close enough to the simplicity and robustness of the Infrared system of connecting devices. I'm sure a lot of you out there have experienced connecting two devices over both systems - Infrared and Bluetooth. While Bluetooth is definitely the more advanced of the two systems, it still pales in comparison in the ease of use and practicality of Infrared.

HTC announced their plans of dropping the IrDA port from their future devices as Peter Chou, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of HTC said "HTC is also removing some functions from its mobiles. The company has already phased infrared out of some of its latest mobile phones, and expects to continue to remove the function since it is no longer a necessity."

Does this mean that we will have to limit ourselves to beaming files and contacts via Bluetooth because HTC says so? I did an article on this a while back to highlight the failure of Bluetooth to function correctly in a given situation... a situation which may well be a common one now.

I also compared the time it takes to beam a contact from one device to another. With both Windows Mobile devices set to automatically receive beams, I sent a contact via Infrared and was successful in sending the particular contact in about 7 seconds. I then set both devices to have Bluetooth on and the recipient phone ready to accept beams and in discoverable mode. From the time I hit the send button to the time the recipient phone sounded a beep to confirm receipt of the business card, it took about 25 seconds. Provided that the unit doesn't have Infrared, it would probably shave off no more than 5 seconds from the total time. 20 seconds for Bluetooth is still too long compared to the 7 seconds it takes for an Infrared connection to transfer the business card.

Another problem, as stated in my previous article on Bluetooth and Infrared is the time it takes to find the recipient when you have more than a handful of active Bluetooth users in a given area. Bluetooth generally, has a range of about 10 meters. If you had more than 6 users in a given 10 meter radius area, it would take several seconds to first detect each of the active Bluetooth device, and process their friendly names. The more devices, the longer it takes, and the more confusing it gets. You will now have to sort out the detected devices before you send out your information. I know none of you would want to divulge your contact details to some anonymous Bluetooth user.

Infrared on the other hand has a far more limited range and is even made better by the concept of the devices requiring a line-of-sight in order to begin communication. This immediately isolates your recipient physically which is what you are after when beaming out a business card or a small file.

There is a difference between linking and beaming. Infrared is still the winner when it comes to beaming. While linking, as in the case of ActiveSync over Bluetooth, or wireless printing over Bluetooth, is still the domain of the newcomer (relatively) which is Bluetooth.

Bluetooth will remain a major part of mobile communications, killing it prematurely and replacing it with a faulty solution will be a burden which us mobile device users will have to suffer. Wait until Bluetooth matures to a more practical solution, and only then should we bid the IrDA port farewell.

Mabuhay! ~ Carlo

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