It’s been 22 years since the first smartphone launch. Yes, you read that right, 22 years! If you are wondering, which was the first smartphone ever to come into existence, then spoiler alert, it was not all that great. No offense to IBM, it was indeed a remarkable device given the time at which it was launched. Launching a touchscreen device in 1994 was not everyone’s cup of tea after all. Named as Simon Personal Communicator, this device was launched back in 1994, and this stylus-equipped device holds the crown of being the first ever smartphone to be owned by at least 50,000 people worldwide.
This was not all that popular since it didn’t have much to offer as a ‘smartphone.’ However, Google will tell you something different, if you search for ‘world’s first smartphone.’ Ericsson R380 was technically the first smartphone running Symbian, and it was the first device to be marketed as a smartphone. We have indeed come a long way, haven’t we? And it took me a decade after that, to realize that.
The first piece of technology that I ever owned, which I could rightfully call a smartphone, was the Samsung Galaxy Pop. It was one of the first few bunch of smartphones that was running Android. Back then Sammy was selling some of the best Android smartphones for a good budget pricing. These devices were selling like hot cakes, and it was not surprising since that’s what people wanted. No one was ready to break their bank and buy a sub 50,000 INR smartphone.
Even then, Apple’s iPhones were considered to be the ‘Big Boy Toys.’ Yes, the Galaxy Pop was not the best phone at that time when compared to iPhones and what not. Back then, Android was also not all that great. With its slow and heavy interface, it was hated by many. But it was a step in the right direction and here we are today. Probably the majority of you people reading this article, are doing so, on a smartphone.
So where are we going with this? What’s the way forward and what to expect next? To answer all these questions, we need to take a moment and acknowledge what we have right now. As a matter of fact, before even thinking about what is to come next, we really need to know if we are ready for it. The short answer to it is, a big NO! We are not ready for what’s coming next in the world of smartphones. Why, so you may ask now.
Well, let’s take the current year i.e. 2016 as a reference and see what we have in the market. Typically, if you are to purchase a smartphone in 2016, then it not all that simple. Yes, you may have a specific requirement, but smartphone manufacturers would probably have a dozen smartphones that matches your requirement. This goes to say the wide variety of offering that we have today. And Herbert Spencer’s ‘Survival of the fittest’ phrase doesn’t really apply to smartphones.
Now coming back to the question of ‘Why aren’t we ready?’ Let’s dive into the real deal now and see if there’s any room or actually need for something new. We have everything in a smartphone now, like literally. We are living in an era, where we can talk to our devices to get some basic work done. I could totally be dictating all this content right now, and my smartphone would be doing all the work for me.
That’s the world in which we are living now. What else can you ask for? In fact, let’s talk about the current scenario. I am not a professional, and I am not going to advise anyone to do as I say. Your opinions may completely differ from mine and it’s totally fine. But this is what I feel about the current offerings in the market.
Smartphones – Same old hardware, packaged in a shining new armor
Talking about the new smartphone offerings in the market, one thing which even a novice will spot is the fact that, all the manufacturers are running the race for either the best-looking smartphone or the best performing smartphone. So something called as ‘User Experience’ is missing here, isn’t it? But for the most part, these are completely fine. I mean, who doesn’t want a good looking smartphone or a mini super-computer in their pockets. But what’s the point? And you know what the worst part is? These yearly hardware upgrades which give an opportunity to the companies to host an event, and brag about their sales figures (Yes, I am looking at you Apple. But congrats on the 1 Billion iPhone sales).
In the end, the only upgrade we end up getting is thinner phones than last year or ‘10-20 percent’ in the performance boost. Yes, of course, some people may debate that these slow developments will eventually lead to a better device overall. Then why not wait until you have developed a ‘better device’ and not provoke us consumers with your shining new armor to buy these, every damn year! Another trend that’s currently going on, unfortunately, is making devices thinner! We now officially have smartphones that are only 5.5mm in thickness.
If you don’t own one of that, then stop playing yourself and take out a scale and see yourself. It’s really thin. What’s the result? A beautiful piece of hardware from the outside. Yes, it looks good only on the outside. You dig deep inside only to realize that it may not be the best device for you. It is not easy to make such breath-taking thin devices, but my question is, is it really worth it? Is it worth sacrificing your battery life to such a form factor? At the same time, by the name of bringing changes to these devices, companies have now decided to change the way we use them. Some of the best features that we saw like an IR Blaster to control the home appliances like TV, AC, etc. is now being removed from many devices.
And don’t forget another trend of removing the dedicated headphone jack. One of the phones which I use currently doesn’t come with one and trust me it is a pain. So,
‘Dear Manufacturer, we want these smartphones to make our lives easier. Hence, please stop removing features and make it more complicated for us than it currently is. And if you end up doing so, then you better have a proper explanation for it. Simply claiming you have the ‘Courage’ to do so, is not so professional’.
Wearable devices – A change that comes with a price
A typical smart watch with basic functionalities is retailing for about 15,000 INR today. Whereas on the hand, basic analog watches from some of the most trusted brands are retailing for as low as 200-500 INR. It is not even fair to compare both of them here regarding pricing. It is not completely dead, as you can see from the below graph. But the point here is, India as a market is yet to welcome these products with its open arms. So what’s the point of keep launching these new products and its multiple variants year after year?
When you try to analyze the whole situation as to why the movement is so slow for wearable devices in the market like India, it will not take much time for you to conclude saying that the companies should focus more on marketing these products. How many TV ads have you seen for these wearable devices as compared to a smartphone? Not many right? In fact, not even one. So does that mean the manufacturers are not willing to focus on the sales of these devices in markets like India?
And it’s not just about TV ads. There are almost zero promotions for these products. If not for certain brands like Fitbit, etc. in India, an average consumer might not even know that such a product exists. Again, I am no expert in the field of marketing, but it doesn’t require a degree to understand this basic fact. Even today, if I am using my smart watch to check my notification in public, I get stared at like I am some foreign entity using some product from the future.
A step in the Future
It would be unfair if I keep nit-picking only the downside of the story. So let’s talk about how the smartphones and other sub-products have changed the way we live our lives. I’ve had the privilege of using/testing some of the best smartphones and wearable devices that are available in the market today. It is safe to say that these new devices are some of the finest piece of technology available on the earth today. As far as smartphones are concerned, it is true that they have changed a lot. But the change is not just bad. In many cases, we have seen these devices evolve for good. They now come with more and more new features that make us want to stay hungry for more.
We are also introduced to some very neat features like an ability to unlock the smartphone using biometric data ques. Fingerprint scanner now works better than ever. It is as quick as placing your finger on the scanner and start using the device already. And if that’s not enough, Iris scanner is the new gig. Press the button, wait for the device to read your eyes, and you are good to go. We are talking about some serious security here. This is certainly as good as it gets and we can’t argue more.
Moreover, the wearable tech like smart watches, now allows us to use the devices around us with better efficiency. With the availability of these smart watches etc. you don’t even need a smartphone near you to perform actions like turning on the lights, taking or initiating a voice call, etc. Simply tap a button on the watch and voila! Perfect to impress your buddies when you throw a house party right? Especially the year 2016 has seen some of the best wearable techs as well. From VR to AR, fitness bands to smart T-shirts; name something which is not available.
If you are buying a smart watch, chances are you will be using it for than a couple of years. And from a personal experience, these smart watches or fitness bands or any of the wearable for that matter, doesn’t need any yearly upgrade. Go for the best one that suits you best and stick to it until it needs a replacement. It always doesn’t have to be an expensive one. There are a handful of manufacturers that are now offering smartphones as well as wearable devices for way cheaper than you can imagine. Some of the Chinese manufacturers like Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi are doing an exceptional job. We have now officially moved from ‘No Chinese products’ to ‘go for Chinese brands’ first for better offerings for the price. The below-given graph will tell you the same story here.
This brings me to the most important discussion here. Now that we have ranted so much about the existence of the smartphones in the market and how they are evolving let’s wind this up and see what we want in Future. Well, the concept of ideal smartphones has been there for a long time now. So far the best portrayal of the same that I’ve seen is a video by Marques Brownlee, where he talks about an article by Droid Life on the perfect smartphone. You can check out the video below. It’s an old video, but it will give you an idea of what we are talking about here.