The bustling, boring world of smartphones

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.

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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

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30 comments
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  • RE: The bustling, boring world of smartphones

    Why do phones have to be exciting? They're just tools. Maybe this "boring" phase will usher in an era of inexpensive unlocked phones that can be used with any carrier. And maybe I can get my power drill back from my neighbor.

    I can dream, can't I?
    R.L. Parson
    • RE: The bustling, boring world of smartphones

      @R.L. Parson Yes, and it would be nice if the carriers all used the same technology. CDMA here; GSM over there.. even if the phone is "un locked" there is a limit as to portability among carriers and that is where the tech is at the moment.
      hforman@...
      • RE: The bustling, boring world of smartphones

        @hforman@...
        No, actually most smartphones being released now have multiband radios that can do both GSM and CDMA.
        .DeusExMachina.
  • as an owner of the galaxy note ...

    ... for 2 months now, to me this is the most interesting phone there is by far. it's big, it's thin, it's fun, it's getting ICS in a week or two, it has a stylus (screw steve jobs, and you can quote me on that), it's powerful. i agree that all smartphones are boring, with the exception of the note. and i haven't even rooted it yet.
    malert
    • RE: The bustling, boring world of smartphones

      @malert so you don???t have a problem putting it in your pocket? You???d think that a 5 inch screen on a phone would be a bit much. Till someone comes out with a 7 inch screen on a phone...
      Joel-r
      • tradeoffs

        @Joel-r i put it in my back pocket and am careful when i sit down. ok i can't put it in my front pocket but i don't want to squint at a small screen when i use it - some people like that limitation for pocketability. not me, to each his own.

        besides, if i want to carry a phone in my front pocket i just slip the sim card in my hp veer and take that. doesn't happen often but i like the best of both worlds.
        malert
      • RE: The bustling, boring world of smartphones

        @Joel-r <br>I don't have problem putting it in my jean's pocket. <br>Actually it fits perfectly.<br>Seriuosly, have you even try it?

        Galaxy Note Pocket Test:
        http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=galaxy+note+jeans+pocket&oq=galaxy+note+jeans+pocket
        Samic
  • RE: The bustling, boring world of smartphones

    And to think, Apple gets bashed because it only releases a new model about once a year.

    And maybe, just maybe, the Android OEMs could get updates out the door in a more timely manner if they weren't devoting all their time and energy to releasing a new model every week. You can only differentiate your product so much via hardware and skins (and crapware nobody wants in the first place). There's a real opportunity for an Android OEM who takes on the view that we're not going to focus so much on the next sale as we are about the sales we made yesterday. By providing support and customer service for existing customers, the next sale will take care of itself.
    TroyMcClure
    • What a concept!

      Selling service instead of hyping the latest model and the latest bells and whistles! SPLENDID

      (It'll never catch on...)
      mlashinsky@...
  • Agreed. Non-Apple smartphones are boring

    Apple created this whole market, Apple dominates this market, Apple has the best app store.

    Going out on a limb here; the next phase in mobile computing will be driven by Apple.
    HollywoodDog
    • RE: The bustling, boring world of smartphones

      @HollywoodDog

      Agreed, it seems Apple is the only one that really gets it. All the non-Apple gear that's out on the market is either a copy or some weird twist on what Apple does, which to me, never quite feels or operates quite right or as expected. Plus the cool factor, with things like Siri.
      gtdworak
    • RE: The bustling, boring world of smartphones

      Lol! What?! Apple's iphone 4s NOT boring?!!! when compared to the competition Apple is by far the most boring!!! That includes iphone's hardware AND its software!...and what makes you think Apple will lead the next phase in mobile computing when its products are always the last to have the latest tech?! Seriously, what does iphone 4s have to offer that even low-end Android phones don't? I honestly can't think of anything. On the contrary, i can think of more than a few things low-end Android phones are capable of that iphone 4s can't do!
      trob6969
    • RE: The bustling, boring world of smartphones

      @HollywoodDog Sorry, I have to halfway disagree with you. The iPhone in all iterations since the first have been almost identical, same form, same layout, yes the software has gotten better but its not really offering anything Android doesn't. It may very well be however that APPLE will drive the next phase in mobile computing, but only if they come up with something like another form factor. Touchscreen, keyboard, touchscreen+keyboard, tracball, backside trackpad, all these have been fairly well done all over the place. I may very well upgrade from my 3GS this fall to whatever iPhone I get (I hate having to pay for apps twice, and some of my apps are actually paid on android and winmo7, thats on the developers locking me into the platform though, not the platform itself). But I'm not going to really get excited about another smartphone until someone does something brilliant with form factor.
      Vartra
  • Someone had to say it.

    I am always amazed when I hear the tech community get excited over yet another "new" Android phone. But really, it's not that much different from the previous phone that was released just a few weeks/month ago. <br><br>It's this constant race by Android manufacturers to out manufacture their Android competitors. They don't care much about their current customer base. At least not as much as they care about keeping pace with the other Android OEMs in pushing out the next ho-hum device. From the ever increasing screen size on a device that's supposed to be a mobile phone you slip comfortably in your pocket, to the 3D camera gimmicks that was all the rage a year ago. These companies will try anything just to push consumers to purchasing the next phone. It's like the cut-throat PC model, no innovation just copy whatever the next guy is doing, gimmicky feature and all. And push it to carriers, their true customer base. <br><br>HTC is said to be slowing down on releases and will focus on quality, so maybe there's hope for one.
    dave95.
  • RE: The bustling, boring world of smartphones

    I can understand your arguments about android phones. They are dull and boring and all look the same and only the hardware matters on them.

    [i]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.[/i]
    Did you really say that with a straight face? For Microsoft Windows Phone 7 it isn't so much about the hardware as it is about the user experience with the OS. That is what separates it from every other phone. Its been proven to get tasks done more quickly than the others. Tiles and integrated services make it what it is and why people want it.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Too passive

      @Loverock Davidson-
      It's becoming sad and pathetic to watch Microsoft employees come on to the forums and act like beaming chipmunks about how everyone wants Windows Phone, when all available evidence is that the customers -- remember them? -- don't like it for some reason. I don't know why they don't like it, I only know that after a year in the field, the product is doing poorly. MSFT's annual report tells us that Ballmer forfeited half his bonus because of poor performance in penetrating the mobile market.

      I'd like to think there is an advertising and promotion strategy behind this product that is more advanced than laying off half the marketing staff and then sending guys into the forums to pretend everything is wonderful. Microsoft is a big company with a lot of money. They say Windows Phone is a great product. When do they put their money where their mouth is?
      Robert Hahn
      • A bit over the top

        I have to agree that Loverock Davidson's response was a bit over the top, though I do agree that WP7 is the only OS that is doing anything exciting. And I don't work for MS, I just like WP7, which is probably the same for Loverock Davidson.

        I also agree about putting their money where their mouth is. I have twice heard that MS was putting lots of money behind WP7, but I have yet to see where any of that money is going. I don't see many ads for WP7. I don't see them being promoted in the Phone Carrier stores. And don't anyone say that is up to the carriers. MS used to spend money to ensure that Windows and Office dominated store shelves at places like CompUSA (remember them?). They could buy display space in carrier stores. They could devote some of those dollars to a commission bonus paid to salesmen who sell Windows Phone. I don't even see any promotions for Windows Phone on the carrier's websites, though I have to admit that $29.99 for the HTC Trophy is a pretty sweet deal on a smartphone. I paid more than that for mine.
        AudeKhatru
  • Well

    Nokia had great design with its communicators like the E7. It is quite unfortunate that Nokia has not released yet a successor to the E7 especially a Windows Phone based one.
    Btw if Nokia manages to build a 7" tablet with the E7 design it would greatly interested me even though Tablets are not really appealing to me.
    timiteh
  • RE: The bustling, boring world of smartphones

    The Motorola Razr Maxx is a good step forward. Thin, tough, long battery life, good looks. This is what it is going to be like for a while, small innovations that make smartphones better for the user. It seems the largest single complaint of 4G smartphomes was battery life, Motorola solved that problem. Hopefully this is the approach manufacturers will take with new releases. Instead of just a newer faster phone every month.
    tgschmidt
    • RE: The bustling, boring world of smartphones

      @tgschmidt Agreed. If Motorola has truly solved the battery life issue with the Maxx, then that's exciting to me.
      krisoccer