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Have We Reached Peak Smartphone?

Posted In Smartphone reviews - By Techtiplib on Friday, May 26th, 2017 With No Comments »

For anyone with a passion for new innovative tech, it’s a familiar ritual.

Stage One: The News

It drips out slowly. First it’s rumours about what one of the big companies will be doing with their latest smartphone. Just a few hints, a few leaks, nothing too big – but it’s enough to whet the appetite.

Stage Two: The Launch

Microscope Capabilities

Image credit: Pixabay.com

Finally, the truth begins to emerge – were the leaks correct? You get the specs, the confirmations, the denials. You peruse through them, the catchy new interesting aspects of design, the incremental changes. You decide that though your current smartphone is working just fine, you’re due an upgrade.

Stage Three: Sale Day

It finally arrives; you’re not likely to forget, you’ve been anticipating this for days now. You might be savvy and head to DontPayFull.com to see if there’s any deals to be had to reduce the cost… or you just might not be able to wait for that long. You go and buy, finally cradling the new device in your hands, and exploring all of the features you have so been thinking of. The day a new phone goes on sale is even covered by media outlets as well as the fans of the products; it’s a veritable social event in the modern calendar.

Except…

Is it perhaps getting less exciting? Did you do all of the above the last time there was a new smartphone released – or did you more scan the specs, find yourself unimpressed, and decide to press your current device into action for that bit longer?

There might be a reason for that. Have we just become more savvy about how this business works, more willing to calm our excitement for a launch and wait and see? Are we bored of smartphones? Or – and the most likely of them all: is it possible that we have reached peak smartphone?

In 2007, Apple changed everything with the launch of the first iPhone. Not only did it take a number of their own products into obscurity (who has an iPod anymore?), but it also changed the way we would use the internet forever. Since then, brands like Samsung and HTC have surfed the same wave to the point where smartphones are ubiquitous.

If you look at the specs of the first iPhone on EveryMac.com, they’re not remotely impressive. In fact, the idea of using a phone with those specs today would seem laughable – the kind of thing you’d be able to buy for a song, made by a cheap manufacturer. That’s the price of a decade of progress.

However… that progress is slowing.

When was the last time there was a sudden, huge change in the way you use your smartphone?

A few attempts have been made. Apple tried to convince people that headphone jacks were a thing of the past, but it’s not changed much significantly. It’s not something Samsung are jumping on to replicate, anyway – suggesting the idea doesn’t have much traction. You could perhaps argue that fingerprint unlocking was a big innovation, but it didn’t change much – you could always unlock your phone before.

There have been innovations in hardware, but the simple fact remains that a smartphone is still not going to go a full day of moderate use without needing a recharge. The physical capacity of batteries is almost at its limit, meaning most of us now carry portable chargers. The Samsung S8 experiments with the idea of the buttonless smartphone and reviews have been positive, but it’s still not a massive change. And sure, there’s been changes and improvements to the way a phone works in terms of pixels on the screen and the volume… but it’s all much of a muchness. It’s not much to get excited about.

The truth is that the future innovations are more likely to be based around how we use smartphones, rather than what the device can actually do. The shift of innovation is more towards the way we interact with our phones, trying to bring about an AI that is more functional and useful than any other means of operating the phone. Somehow, this just isn’t quite as exciting. It also requires users to, generally, hand over a lot of personal data to make the AI work as well as it can – something a lot of tech savvy people just aren’t comfortable with.

Of course, a decade on from the first iPhone, this does beg the question: if we have reached peak smartphone, what’s the next life-changing innovation going to be?

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