It is Time to Dial Back on Smartphone Innovation


Apple has launched its Apple iPhone 5S and 5C and, as expected, did not usher in a new era in smartphone innovation. While the new Apple offerings will leave a portion of the tech community underwhelmed, I think Apple got it right. With the iPhone 5S, Apple focuses on the basics. Apple made the phone a bit faster, gave it a bit more endurance, improved the camera, created a more convenient way to unlock the phone, with a nod to future-proofing with a 64-bit processor and a dedicated low-powered processor sensors. Basically, an improved model of last year’s model. Nothing earth shattering, but each new feature is something every user can appreciate.

The Apple iPhone launch is a breath of fresh air after months of seeing a lot of “innovations” of questionable value. Sure, many will find HTC’s Boom Sound a compelling feature. But given the limits of battery technology, maybe it might have been best to use the additional space to pack a few hundred more milliamperes. Similarly, the Active Displays and Touchless Control on the Motorola Moto X are useful. But it is a bit ahead of its time, bleeding valuable battery life.

GSM Arena’s 39 hour endurance rating for the Moto X, and 48 hour endurance rating for the HTC One are far behind the 62 hour rating for the LG G2, and the 69 hour rating of the Samsung Galaxy S4. The Moto X and HTC could have been released with less of a WOW factor, but with more battery life.

Sony’s water and dust resistant phones with shatter-resistant displays are cool. But the thin shatterproof layer is placed on the scratch resistant display. The problem is, the shatterproof layer is not very scratch resistant. Might be best to just dial back to scratch resistant, and let shatter resistant technology mature.

The modern smartphone is maturing. Like all technology reaching maturity, expect innovation to slow down. The reason is that, you will only get substantial innovation if something is wrong with the product in the first place. Today’s smartphones are pretty good. Forcing innovation, for the sake of innovation, is a bad idea. Focus should be on fixing the remaining shortcomings.

Instead, focus on giving users two to three days of battery life in real world use. Improve red-eye reduction technology in the still camera. Bring us Optical Image Stabilization for the video camera. Never mind if it has been done by Nokia and HTC. Integrate fingerprint scanning. So what if it Motorola and Apple implemented it first? Improve on it. Put it somewhere better, like on the side where a thumb or finger might naturally rest when picking up the phone.

Perhaps it is time for consumers and pundits to stop focusing on innovation. Manufacturers should consolidate and focus making a more perfect, though less innovative devices. Let innovation naturally come at its own pace. Really, it is up for you to decide, manufacturers will build what you demand.

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