An under-recognized advantage of Android is that it frees manufacturers from the need to be all things to all people. A niche company can cobble together a phone with abilities no one on Main Street has the slightest interest in, yet be able to provide the same connectivity, utilities and games that everyone expects in a smartphone.
We are already seeing this in public health, where specialty phones test water quality and other environmental factors. There are limits on how far you can go in this direction with an app and the phone's camera. But a mobile phone is in essence a small computer with the abiliy to crunch data, operate other devices and geo-locate any function.
I'd love a compact phone that had a descent optical zoom lens, a broadcast quality microphone and a handwriting-recognition touchpad. But imagine what our reporters might do with devices in their pockets that could determine speed like a radar, measure noise levels like an audiometer or at least survive a flood?
Next week I will be at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Among the 60,000 participants should be at least a few with specialty phones. I'll keep my eyes out.