Revisiting the Pomegranate phone: Are we in the future yet?

pomegranate-header

Do you remember that phone that went viral a few years ago? The Pomegranate? Everybody considered it their dream phone and some people even thought it was real and wanted to pre-order it. It featured a coffee brewer, built-in shaver, built-in harmonica, built-in projector, global voice translator, and all the regular features of a smartphone of its time like music, Internet, and GPS.

It’s not a real device, of course. It was a remarkably well done marketing campaign for Nova Scotia’s tourism scene. Clicking anything that might lead you to a purchase such as “Release Date” or “I’ve Seen Enough” on the website brought up a message that read “Someday you’ll be able to get everything you want in one device. Today you can get everything you want in one place.” and then redirected you to a page about Nova Scotia. Clever.

You’ll notice that the Pomegranate never mentions a single thing about apps or an app marketplace. That’s because the campaign was launched before the App Store revolution. Fast forward a few years ahead and you reach 2012. Even by today’s standards and with the hundreds of thousands of apps available, the Pomegranate still looks like a Jetson’s device.

You might be surprised just how far we’ve come with mobile technology, however. Quite a few of the features in the Pomegranate that were considered remarkable or flat-out impossible a few years ago are now a reality. I thought it’d be fun to take a look at this in depth to see if we really are living in the future.

Voice Translator

Check that one off the list. We got it. Most recently, I’ve seen it advertised in commercials as one of the flagship features in Motorola’s Droid Razr M. Albeit, the Pomegranate showcases the feature as useful in international business meetings instead of Motorola’s tactic of randomly trying to talk to your dog in Spanish, but you get the picture. It’s done with the help of Google Translate in Android Jelly Bean, by the way. Plus, even if you don’t have the Droid Razr M or Android Jelly Bean, there are still plenty of third-party translation apps that at least try to mimic this functionality.

Projector

Believe it or not, this has been made a reality too. It’s not exactly a critically acclaimed device, but the Samsung Galaxy Beam does sport a built-in projector that can display content on your wall up to 50 inches in size. Samsung managed to cram a projector into a device that’s only 12.55 mm thin — a true accomplishment. The need for a projector in a mobile device is dependent upon each person — most people have absolutely no use for one — but nonetheless, the once futuristic technology is here.

Harmonica

Well, this is one tool — if you can even call it one — that hasn’t made it in to any phone to my knowledge, but no one really needs one. It was just in the concept Pomegranate presumably because it was easy to fit in a device with that type of slim, pocketable form factor. Although a physical harmonica as we know it isn’t integrated into the hardware of any phone, there are numerous apps that can replace much of the functionality. The one that comes to mind is Smule’s Ocarina app, which lets users blow into the mic of the iPhone to create musical sound.

Coffee

Yet another feature that isn’t in any smartphone, but I’m willing to bet a lot of Americans in particular would appreciate the ability to brew a nice cup of coffee right from their phones. It doesn’t look like we’re heading in that direction, but what has changed significantly since the Pomegranate concept was released is mobile payment technology. Starbucks integrates with Passbook in iOS 6 to get some coffee with just the swipe of your device and places like Dunkin’ Donuts have apps across multiple platforms with similar features. (Starbucks also has its own app.) So while we haven’t quite developed technology to brew coffee from a phone, we have been able to reduce the time it takes to buy a cup.

Shaver

Yeah, sorry. There isn’t a phone with a shaver built in and there aren’t any apps to replicate it. Try not to lose too much sleep over this one.

And Much More

It’s amazing to look back and see just how far we’ve come, isn’t it? The Pomegranate concept continues to seem less like a mere concept and more like a possibility. Plus, we’ve already completely replicated some of its features like the voice translator and projector.

Don’t forget one other important component of smartphones today: apps. To say that apps have changed the way we use our phones would be the understatement of the century. Nobody could have predicted how they would take over our lives in such a short amount of time, not even the people who envisioned the Pomegranate, hence the lack of any third-party apps on the device at all.

One might even argue that when factoring in apps, we are ahead of the Pomegranate technologically. I sure would. While the Pomegranate does give the impression of being a phone of the future, I bet had someone dreamed up an App Store with hundreds of thousands of possibilities in the palm of your hand in the early to mid-2000s, people would have drooled over that too. Now, we take it for granted.

Back to top ▴