What happened to big ideas in smartphones?

What happened to big ideas in smartphones

Soon after the big iPhone announcement last week, a friend and I met for dinner. He was an early adopter of a Motorola Droid, which has since departed this earth due to hardware issues that occurred conveniently after the warranty had concluded. He was now “rockin'” his wife’s old, purple Blackberry.

No man should have a purple phone. No professional woman, like his wife, should either. But that’s beside the point.

Recognizing that he is both out-of-date and hideously color-coordinated, my friend had decided on his next phone: the Nokia Lumia 900. But he wasn’t committed yet.

“Sell me on the iPhone 5,” he said, knowing that I am both a technology columnist of very little note and a member of the Church of Jobs. So I went through the specs. Since we knew the details months ago thanks to the numerous leaks Apple has in its outfit, I already had them memorized. As we were talking, it turns out the Nokia is similar in nearly every respect, as is the Samsung Galaxy S3.

Then I went to the tried-and-true “ease of use” argument that Apple devotees have been touting forever. But I was talking to someone who was nearly sold on a Windows phone. From my limited use of them, they are just as easy to use as an iPhone. Perhaps more so.

I ran out of steam. He was gracious enough to let me come up with my own conclusion: There’s nothing new under the sun. Cell phone technology hasn’t changed all that much since his purchase of the original Droid. Screen sizes are roughly the same (excluding the Samsung Note). Processors are, too. Features that one doesn’t have over the other are usually solved by a third-party app.

So what happened to all of the big ideas? Don’t tell me we have to wait for Zombie Steve to come back to get a better cell phone.

I went back to read some reviews of the original iPhone, trying to remember what features and designs got us excited back then. It’s hard to remember because those features are now ubiquitous, or so says a patent jury.

original iphone

The overall tenor of the reviews was that it seems the iPhone was a hit because it was the first to meld a bunch of features and functions together. It eliminated the need for multiple devices. People no longer had to carry a phone, an iPod, a camera, and (for some uses) a laptop anymore. We were experiencing what I call “device-creep” back in 2007. Our messenger bags were filled with these toys and then were suddenly made lighter by one device.

We have device-creep again.

It might not be quite as pronounced, but it’s there. And this time, it’s even more redundant because our devices, for the most part, all do the same thing.

I know quite a few people these days who own a phone, a tablet of some variety, and a laptop, including me. Granted, they rarely carry them all around at the same time, but they are all used in very specific environments. The phone is obviously for staying extremely mobile and on the move. The tablet is usually used in front of the TV or in bed. The laptop is for work and either stays docked on a desk or propped up at the most conspicuous table in Starbucks so that everyone can see the bright Apple logo. Wait, that’s just me…

The point is, the next big thing needs to eliminate this device-creep yet again.

I don’t know how it would work. That’s Jony Ive’s job, not mine. But somehow, whether it folds in on itself or stretches organically using the “rubberband electronics” idea as shown in the video DT published a couple of weeks ago, it changes its shape from something the size of our typical phone to a tablet to a tablet-with-keyboard. You can carry a laptop in your pocket!

Further off, I think the future of mobile technology will combine Google Glass with the input controls from Minority Report. People will be walking down the street wearing what amounts to a monocle gesturing into thin air. In other words, everyone will be that elderly person I avoid at the grocery store. But the Foldy Phone (TM) is something that is possible now with very little advancement of technology. We just need someone to realize the need and invest in a solution.

I don’t think people like that exist in our technology companies anymore. At least, not in the decision-making positions.

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


5G is the swift kick VR and AR gaming needs to come to fruition

There's a lot of hype surrounding augmented reality and virtual reality, but is it really the next big thing? We take a look at where the new mediums stand, as well as how 5G is poised to help them break into the mainstream.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X55 could bring blazing-fast 5G to laptops

While the Snapdragon X55 promises to bring fast data connectivity to the next generation of 5G smartphones, the modem also holds potential in transforming the way Always Connected PCs are used.

The name of Samsung's folding phone may have been revealed a day early

Samsung has been showcasing bendable display tech for a few years and now a folding smartphone might finally arrive. The Galaxy X, or perhaps the Galaxy Fold, may be the company's first example. Here's everything we know about it.

Need speed? Qualcomm unveils the Snapdragon X55, the world’s fastest 5G modem

Qualcomm is preparing for an even faster future: The silicon giant just unveiled a second generation 5G modem for smartphones, promising blistering download speeds as high as 7Gbps.
Product Review

Nokia’s 3.1 Plus is an affordable phone that’s crippled by its camera

The Nokia 3.1 Plus is HMD Global’s first smartphone to be sold by a U.S. carrier in-store. It’s only available on Cricket Wireless right now, which underlines its focus on affordability. Should you buy a phone this affordable?

This discounted smartwatch is a cheap Apple Watch or Fitbit Versa alternative

The Amazfit Bip isn't an Apple Watch or Fitbit Versa, but at the discounted price of $67, it's a very affordable alternative packed with useful features. With built-in GPS and 30-day battery life, this cheap smartwatch is a great option to…

Amazon cuts prices on the Apple Watch Series 3 for Presidents’ Day

The Apple Watch Series 3 is seeing the same price cut we saw during the Amazon sale just last week. So if you're hoping to pick up an Apple Watch for less than $250, this $50 discount from Amazon can make that happen for you.

Xbox's app lets you access your console while away from home. Here's how

Microsoft's Xbox allows you to access your profile information and launch media content directly from your mobile device. Check out our quick guide on how to connect your smartphone to an Xbox One.

It looks like Google may get rid of the back button in Android Q

Android Pie recently rolled out, but it's already time to look ahead to Android Q, the next version of Google's mobile OS. We've seen a number of rumors and leaks come out about the operating system -- here's everything we know so far.

Here are 20 portable tech gadgets you’ll want to use every day

If you're looking for portable tech to keep you charged up while on the go (or for some great small gift ideas), we've rounded up 20 must-have gadgets. You'll find everything from a mini gaming controller to a folding Bluetooth keyboard.

Need a new tablet? Here are the best iPad deals for February 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for December 2018.
Social Media

Instagram to make giving easier with a Stories donation sticker for fundraisers

Instagram is preparing to launch a donation feature within Stories that would allow users to raise cash for a range of nonprofit charities. The company confirmed it's aiming to launch the donation sticker later this year.

The Huawei P30 will zoom into view on March 26 in Paris

The Huawei P30 Pro will be announced on March 26, 2019. It has already started to leak ahead of this date, and expectations are high that the company will improve even further on the P20 Pro's camera.

First phone specs reveal premium is the path for Vivo spinoff Iqoo

A new smartphone brand has launched. It's called Iqoo, and it's a sub-brand of Vivo, the Chinese device manufacturer owned by BBK Electronics. Excitingly, details about its first phone are slowly being released.