Into the World of Smartphones and Beyond – A close look at what we have Vs. what we need

by Karthik Iyer 5

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. [quote align=’left’] We are not ready for what’s coming next in the world of smartphones [/quote]

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

apple-iphone-7-plus

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). [quote align=’right’] all the manufacturers are running the race for either the best-looking smartphone or the best-performing smartphone [/quote]

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

Huawei Watch (10)

[quote align=’left’] the wearable market in India clocked just over 400,000 units in the first quarter of 2016 [/quote]My first question here, before starting this part is, take a minute and acknowledge the fact and realize how many of you actually use a wearable device? This includes all the smart watches, fitness bands, VR Headset, etc. Well, let us look into some numbers to find out what’s going on. As per the data provided by International Data Corporation, the wearable market in India clocked just over 400,000 units in the first quarter of 2016. And the most important thing to note here is, most of this is largely driven by fitness bands with 87.7 percent market share. So it is now crystal clear that wearable as a product category is yet to flourish in markets like India. The adoption rate is slow, but the consumers are not the ones to be blamed here.

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?

picture1

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

Samsung Galaxy S7 - Right Edge

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.

[quote align=’right’] From edge-to-edge display to Augmented Reality, we have seen everything [/quote]From edge-to-edge display to Augmented Reality, we have seen everything. Now its just a matter of time that we see those crazy sci-fi techs used by Tony Stark. Yes, that day is not that far. Don’t judge me with the Iron Man reference, but here’s the deal; We already have the ability to interact with our devices with features like Google Now, Cortana and Siri. With these features, we can now ask our smartphones to turn on the lights in the living room or ask it to keep an eye on the baby in the next room as well. What else could you ask for?

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.

[quote align=’left’] if people are not getting used to this, then is there any point in keep launching these new variants every year? [/quote]This year we have seen some of the best looking smart watches as well. In fact, more analog timepiece brands like Fossil, Tag Heuer, etc. have come up with their smart watch offerings. All this only goes to say how efficient this whole industry is becoming. And if people are not getting used to this, then is there any point in keep launching these new variants every year? I believe no, so correct me if I am wrong here. And its not that all that we are discussing here today are expensive or something which no one can afford. Yes, indeed as mentioned earlier, they are expensive but here’s what you have to consider.

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.

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[quote align=’right’] We want to go back to the days where the cords were cut off from the headphones, but we are not yet ready to enter an era where there is no headphone jack itself [/quote]With that out of the way now, it is safe to say that things are getting stable in the smartphone market. But we just need something that solves the purpose, instead of 1000s of smartphones and wearable devices which technically does the same job. We want to go back to the days where the cords were cut off from the headphones, but we are not yet ready to enter an era where there is no headphone jack itself. This is something that each one of us should take into consideration. We don’t know what is waiting for us in future. Although we seem to have experienced everything, there is still is a wide uncharted territory waiting to be explored. We never expected the current smartphones to take shape as they are right now, so we definitely cannot predict the future path on this as well.

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.

[quote align=’left’] we need smartphones that makes our lives that much easier than what it currently is [/quote]So when you talk about an ideal smartphone, we can discuss for days and weeks on the nitty-gritty of this. But just to sum it up, we need smartphones that makes our lives that much easier than what it currently is. At least make devices that are safe to use. I am sure no one wants to use a smartphone with a thought, back in our mind about the possibility of the smartphone exploding in your hands. No, that’s the last thing in this world, which anyone would ask for. We as consumers are just fine with what the manufacturers have to offer unless it becomes worse and takes away the whole point of using a smartphone or other wearable device. New technological innovations are cool and all, but too much of something is not good after all. So give it thought and take some time to analyze the whole situation. Thank you for taking some time and reading this article. Be sure to Share this and let us know what’s your take on this.

Karthik Iyer

Karthik is a Computer Science Graduate and a Tech Aficionado who has always found himself fascinated or playing around with all the latest and the best from the world of smartphones and beyond. When he is not working on any smartphone or covering the latest scoop, you can often find playing his favorite PS4 titles.

  • Dhilipan

    Wow…really thought provoking article….but innovations never stop.. flexible screen, flexible battery, project-able devices..AI…AI can totally change the current scenario…

  • Rightly said about the current scenario Karthik!

    The wearable products especially Smart watches & fitness bands need to flourish in India! But if a good fitness band costs above 10k INR, then at what price a good smart watch can be availed! Yes, obviously with more marketing companies can sell more of these devices. But I feel Fitness bands are more important to have than a smart phone as fitness is more important than being smart! And there should be fitness bands fully functional on its own and not dependent on smart phones and also priced reasonably!

    I’m someone, would like to make request to my favourite manufacturing companies for all devices; smart watch, smart phone & fitness band, even for a PC, on how I want them to be, what features I want in them! But that’s not possible at least as of now! 🙂

  • Vishal Giri

    great article!!

  • Rohit Kavathekar

    A well detailed Article which describes all the information about smart phones like which is first smartphone? up to what we want or which technology we want in upcoming smartphone.
    A Very Nice Article Team. Hat’s off! Must Read For Everyone.

  • Nitin Bansal

    Dear team, it is really a great article. I really enjoyed it. Thanks a lot for it.