The bustling, boring world of smartphones

Summary:The regular appearance of new smartphones has become rather boring, and that is evident in the scrambling we see OEMs doing to set their products apart from the crowd.

Smartphones are like opinions, everybody has one. That's the way it seems anyway with touch screens being tapped everywhere you look. The adoption of the smartphone has been happening at a rapid pace as they have hit the market by the gross over the past few years. The activity in the smartphone world has been hectic, with new phones being released seemingly every week. All of this movement drove the adoption of the smartphone to high levels, but it's having another effect. The smartphone world has become boring of late.

I love smartphones, don't get me wrong. Different platforms are vying for market share with different looks on the home screen, and a lot of companies are pushing really good phones at consumers. The problem is they are all basically the same. Nice displays, fast processors, and lots of apps. Smartphone makers have apparently hit the wall of design innovation, and phones for the most part look the same and do the same things, in the same way. It's boring.

Take the Android smartphone space, there are still lots of models being released all the time, but nothing to set any of them apart from the others. They are all great phones with a phenomenal amount of computing power inside, but even the OEMs have trouble convincing us that individual handsets can stand apart from the crowd.

You know companies are having a hard time making their latest and greatest phone stand out when one of the biggest players releases something like the Galaxy Note. Samsung produces a lot of Android phones, all more or less the same, and it took building a massive smartphone to stand apart. The Galaxy Note has been termed the "phablet", or cross between phone and tablet, due to the giant 5-inch screen. Samsung even threw in a stylus to try and set the Note apart from the field. It smacks of Samsung realizing how boring the space has become, thus the need to shake things up.

I'm not singling Android out here, just laying blame for the boredom at its feet. It seems like hundreds of Android phones have been released the past few years, thus the desensitizing of us to them. Now a new release seems like just another phone as we're a bit numb to the process.

This malaise may be hurting Microsoft's efforts with Windows Phone. While the platform is nice and much different from Android and iOS, the hardware is roughly the same as all the other handsets. That boredom is preventing consumers from taking a serious look at Windows Phone because there just doesn't seem to be anything special setting them apart from the crowd. And a big crowd of smartphones it is.

Hopefully some company will come along and produce something to catch us by surprise. Something radically different from all the other phones that rekindles the excitement we all felt about smartphones not that long ago. It's not clear what that might be, but a giant 5-inch phone doesn't seem to be it.

Of interest:

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Smartphones

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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