While there’s no question that the latest iPhone will be a commercial smash hit, generating Apple yet another giant pile of money, like the latest smartphones from Nokia and Google one thing is becoming abundantly clear, the days of revolutionary, paradigm-shifting mobile innovation are quickly fading in the rear-view mirror, lost until the smartphone is eventually replaced by whatever new gizmo or gadget we can dream up.
Having said goodbye to an era where every mobile improvement seemed cutting edge, its time to say hello to the much less interesting era of incremental progress, the sort of dot.dot upgrades that have already long plagued the mobile operating system sector.
Much like the modern PC market, while progress will continue in this new era, it won’t look like it did before, with smartphones leaving behind such radical improvements like touchscreen technology or the addition of a camera, to be replaced by refinements on these features that have now become part of the standard smartphone form factor. Simply put, hold on to your hats folks, when it comes to smartphones its time to lower your expectation, things are about to get a lot less interesting.
While I have no doubt that when Apple releases its next generation iPhone tomorrow it’ll sport some reasonably impressive technical specifications and have at least a few of the features that were sorely lacking from last year’s iPhone 4S, I’ll go out on a (very sturdy) limb and say its doubtful we’ll see any sort of paradigm shifting improvements from the phone. Sure it’ll sell great, but Apple could put a rotten piece of its namesake in a box, slap a lower-case ‘i’ on it, and still find a way to make money.
Instead, as I mentioned, progress will surely continue but it’ll be incremental tweaks on the dominant form factor: screens will get brighter and bigger, networks will get faster (and less reliable), the phone itself will continue to get lighter and thinner, but in the end it’ll still unmistakably be just a little better version of the iPhone 4S.
In regards to the iPhone 5 specifically, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see many of these feature:, a larger screen, a sleeker design, LTE capability, NFC for mobile payments included, but none of these things are revolutionary (in fact almost all are already old hat), but the simple fact is none of these things are remotely revolutionary, and even company’s most recent unique advancements (Siri for instance) have done little to truly set the iPhone apart from the crowd in recent years.
There’s no question we’ve seen this sort of market stagnation before. In fact, a quick look at the automotive market or the PC market and one can see what years of refinement as opposed to innovation gets you; the same old form factor, just a little different.
While I can’t blame companies for settling into a comfortable routine of steady incremental progress (it’s both easier and cheaper than paradigm shifting advancements), it has turned the once hotly anticipated release announcements into what we’ll likely see tomorrow, Apple mouthpieces excitedly telling us about the new (hear: standard) features on the next iPhone…I can hardly wait.