Smartphone makers are vomiting a torrent of new phones, and we’re sick of it

stop releasing so many phones huawei mate 20 and pro side by 1

As the dust settled on Huawei’s Mate 20 event, we were left wondering about the death of the traditional release cycle for smartphones. The Chinese company unveiled three new phones in the shape of the Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, and the surprise Mate 20 X, all coming hot on the heels of the recently released Mate 20 Lite.

This wave of new flagships comes just six months after Huawei unveiled the P20, P20 Pro, and Porsche Design Mate RS. Sifting through these phones to decipher the differences is a confusing exercise. Has anyone taken the time to figure out who each model is supposed to be for? It doesn’t feel like it.

Scattergun approach

This new scattergun approach to smartphone release seems to be infecting much of the industry. And it’s joined by a growing tendency to update phones more frequently, immediately rolling out incremental improvements that would have previously been held over for an annual event.

LG has been releasing perplexingly small updates, going from LG V30 to V40 ThinQ, by way of the V30S ThinQ and V35 ThinQ, in just a year, during which it also found time to release the LG G7 ThinQ. We’re not convinced a slightly bigger screen, or a new camera, on their own are enough to merit a whole new model. It’s arguable where the excessive update threshold lies, but LG has definitely exceeded it.

Sony turned out the Xperia XZ2, XZ2 Compact, XZ2 Premium, and XZ3 all within six months. Except for the fact that the Compact is obviously smaller, the differences between these phones are minor and distinctly confusing.

Don’t even get us started on Huawei’s sub-brand, Honor, which has been churning out an enormous number of similar phones.

Samsung has long split the year into two big events, one for the Galaxy S in two sizes and one for the Note range. It has traditionally remained quiet about midrange and budget offerings, saving all its marketing focus for the big devices, but the recently announced quad-lens Galaxy A9 seems to be an exception that’s set to muddy the waters.

It’s not just the expensive end of the market that’s doing this — perhaps the worst offender over the last year is Motorola, now under Lenovo. We’ve seen the Moto E5, Moto E5 Play, Moto E5 Plus, Moto G6 Play, Moto G6, Moto G6 Plus, Moto Z3 Play, Moto Z3, and the Motorola One. It’s so much, we have a guide just to help you navigate all these phones. Rumors suggest we’ll be getting four new phones in the G range alone next year. The differences between these phones are not big enough to make them truly distinct.

Don’t even get us started on Huawei’s sub-brand, Honor, which has been churning out an enormous number of similar phones with minimal design or spec differences. Huawei recently overtook Apple to become the world’s second-largest smartphone seller, but it feels as though its pushing a winning strategy too far, adding more and more models without good reason.

Too much choice

For a while it was believed that more choice can only be good for consumers, but a famous jam-related experiment in 2000 challenged that supposition. Psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper from Columbia and Stanford universities, published a study showing that people were less likely to buy when presented with too much choice.

There’s a moment in your explanation of the differences between two popular phones where a person’s eyes glaze over.

Shoppers were more attracted to the big display table bearing 24 different jams than the display with six jams, but they proved around 10 times less likely to buy something when presented with more choice. The takeaway was that too much choice can paralyze people and make us anxious. Even when we do choose, there’s a lingering fear that we’ve chosen the wrong thing.

The idea that more options can have a detrimental impact on our ability to choose has been confirmed in lots of research over the last few years, but an interesting study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology in 2016 tried to break it down further. This comprehensive study analyzed prior research and identified four key situations when less choice boosts sales.

iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Two that leap out as immediately relevant for smartphones are “choice set complexity” and “decision task difficulty”, or in other words, when the product is complicated and it’s hard to compare.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Product Review

Google’s Pixel 3 is a hair away from pocket-sized perfection

Google’s Pixel 3 smartphone is the best Android phone you can buy. It doesn’t have the best looks or the best hardware, but you’ll be hard pressed to find better software and unique A.I. functionalities.

Motorola Moto G7: Here’s everything we know

The Moto G6 range is still relatively new to the market, but rumors have already started about the Moto G7, which is expected some time in 2019. Apparently, a G7 Power version will be joining the G7, G7 Play, and G7 Plus.
Product Review

Mediocre battery and a big notch slight Google's otherwise perfect Pixel phone

Google’s Pixel 3 XL has two big flaws: The gigantic notch on the front, and mediocre battery life. That being said, this is the best Android experience you can find in a smartphone today.
Product Review

It's so fast it has a clip-on fan. But the Asus ROG phone isn't just for gamers

Is a gaming smartphone only something a mobile gamer should consider buying? In the case of the Asus ROG Phone, the good news is the device is so capable, and a genuinely impressive all-rounder, that everyone should take a closer look…

T-Mobile's new Revvl 2, Revvl 2 Plus are now available for purchase

Last year, T-Mobile launched its own line of branded smartphones. As a follow-up to their predecessors, the carrier has unveiled the Revvl 2 and Revvl 2 Plus -- complete with a sleeker design. Here's everything you need to know.

How to take great photos with the Pixel 3, the best camera phone around

You’ve scored yourself a new Google Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL, and you want to take advantage of that incredible camera. We’ve got everything you need to know right here about how to snap the best photos with your Pixel 3.

Google's Wear OS update 'H' promises battery life improvements

Google has rebranded its Android Wear operating system to Wear OS. Removing the Android name may help people better understand Google-powered smartwatches, which also play nice with iOS devices. 
Smart Home

Huawei could soon take on Google and Amazon with a new digital assistant

According to a report from CNBC, Huawei is working on a new digital assistant that could try to take on the likes of Google and Amazon's Alexa. Huawei already has a digital assistant in China, but the new one will be aimed at markets…

Leak shows a third, budget Google Pixel 3 with a Snapdragon 670, headphone jack

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a third. A budget Pixel 3 device that boasts some of the best features of the other two has been leaked.

Use multiple phone numbers on one device with Verizon’s ‘My Numbers’ app

For those who have separate phone numbers and devices for your work and personal lives, Verizon wants to help you get more organized. With its new "My Numbers" app, you can use up to four additional phone numbers on a single smartphone.

Need a quick battery boost? Try one of our favorite portable chargers

Battery life still tops the polls when it comes to smartphone concerns. If it’s bugging you, then maybe it’s time to snag yourself a portable charger. Here are our picks of the best portable chargers.

Instagram tool accidentally exposes user passwords. Were you affected?

Instagram's Download Your Data tool accidentally exposed the passwords of a small number of users. Here is the explanation on what happened, and how to find out which Instagram accounts were compromised.

New iPad Pro’s durability in question after it fails YouTuber’s bend test

The new iPad Pro models failed a bend test that was carried out by popular YouTuber JerryRigEverything. The result raises questions about the durability of the tablets, especially since customers are also reporting bending issues.

How to use recovery mode to fix your Android phone or tablet

If you’re having a problem you can’t seem to resolve with your Android device, or maybe you want to update it or wipe the cache, recovery mode could be what you’re looking for. Here's how to use it.
1 of 2