Let’s ignore the constant threat to privacy with today’s mobile devices (even the base Android platform I really don’t heavily trust, from a company whose profits rely on advertising/consumer intelligence).
I really believe there are some clear parallels between today’s smartphone platforms and yesteryear’s AOL. Both are really trying to make usage of a technology accessible and controlled, to an extent. Essentially, a controlled, walled-garden experience. But this means there are people in between you and what you want to do (carriers, the OS, apps), and they can do whatever you allow them to do, which is a lot. Since this technology is so new and complex, all three of those tiers pretty much do what they want without most people having any idea what they could even potentially do, let alone actually do.
Of course, in some clear ways, this experience is actually worse than AOL. At least with something like AOL, they had a controlled experience for most users. Smartphones (and even tablets) even have an unlimited range of apps and settings and junk on them. I imagine someday soon this will just be too frustrating an experience (much like PCs, only with less control) to sustain today’s manifestation of the market. The usefulness is being met, but there’s a lot of growing frustration with a small computer in your pocket.
The future may be further control, to be honest, but we’ll see!