When the original iPhone released, it made waves. Gone were the days of phones staying in your pocket or sitting your desk doing nothing most of the day; now your phone could be your computer away from your actual computer. Needless to say, the world was excited.
Nowadays, that kind of excitement is sparse, if not entirely gone. When’s the last time you felt excited by the prospect of a phone launch? Sure, the iPhone X was a neat upgrade from the original design and yes, the Samsung Note series has captivated many professionals due to the beefy specs and stylus capabilities, but those aren’t game-changing. In truth, there hasn’t been much of a reason to get excited for the newest flagship phone coming out. Slightly better specs and small screen improvements don’t scream upgrade as much as they whimper it. Due to this, our excitement has stagnated. But why can’t phone manufacturers recreate the magic of the iPhone launch? Better question: why aren’t phones receiving more major upgrades per year instead of a few minor upgrades?
Limitations of Technology
The evolution of technology has sped up considerably the past few decades, but there is still a limit to how much we know and what we can do. For example, it wasn’t until recently that computer processors experienced a modest leap in performance; new processors only offered slight upgrades to their year-old counterparts. The only reason processors experienced a major leap in performance is due to AMD shrinking the transistor size on their Ryzen 3000 series.
This past decade, phones have evolved from big, simple flip phones to thin, advanced smartphones, capable of doing most things a computer can do, barring advanced activities like graphic design, of course. However, this evolution has, as of now, stagnated. Besides incremental updates to battery life or speeds, manufacturers lack any considerable advancements to innovate in a meaningful way, at least not successfully.
For example, take Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, the world’s first foldable smartphone, was set to release earlier this year, but manufacturing defects/errors led to the phone being delayed indefinitely. The technology is not there to produce an error-free Fold, so why release one?
Major Upgrades Disguised as Minor Upgrades
Another issue is defining a “major” upgrade. Some would say a major upgrade concerns a major part of the phone, such as the screen. So, for some, the Samsung S10, which used a hole-punch camera instead of a bezel, is a major upgrade. However, others would say a major upgrade brings complete changes to how the phone operates: a new OS, form factor, functions and vice versa.
But there is tons of innovation going on in the smartphone industry, just not what many consider major, though others would disagree. When the iPhone X introduced face recognition as it’s main form of security, you could consider that a form of innovation on Apple’s part.
Augmented reality has also become quite famous the past couple years if the popularity of Pokémon Go is anything to go by. This popularity is not lost on phone manufacturers. Samsung’s new Note 10+ uses AR to create a virtual 3D recreation of any real-world item on your phone. It doesn’t sound like much, but these minor upgrades are seen as major by some. Even if you aren’t one of these people, these minor upgrades are sure to lead to major upgrades later one.
For example, Siri used to be a gimmick, but now people use Siri for literally everything. One of my friends doesn’t even use his phone app, he asks Siri to call someone. And while Siri isn’t my cup of tea, unless it can automatically turn my VPN on or off per my request, I respect how it’s been built upon through the years and the advancements to AI it’s helped bring to interest to. All in all, our excitement for the latest smartphones may be at an all-time low, but that’s only because we’re in the stagnant phase of technology. The evolution of technology is a circle, and soon we’ll be back experiencing the innovation period.