New smartphones look like older ones, get over it

New smartphones look like older ones, get over it

Summary: Newly announced and rumored smartphone hardware all look like basic incremental updates to existing hardware. I don't think this is really a bad thing and believe innovation comes in the software and what you can do with that hardware.

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Is there room for innovation in smartphone hardware or is it the OS that makes a device compelling?

Samsung announced the Note II and ATIV S last week, we see rumors of new Nokia Lumia devices and rumors of the new iPhone and all of these devices look essentially the same as previous models with slight tweaks. I see a lot of folks crying about this on Twitter, I have been known to squawk about it too, but honestly what are people looking for in innovative smartphone design? Consumers seem to prefer large touchscreen devices and there is only so much you can do with a display, a bezel, and a back with a camera. IMHO, the real innovation and excitement comes from what the OS provides and how it makes your life better.

Of all the manufacturers, I think Nokia is taking the most innovative approach by pushing camera technology and also making polycarbonate devices in various colors. Samsung has started adding more colors to the Galaxy S III line as well and is innovating in their Android software. HTC's One X is a very well designed device and I hope to see it used with their next Windows Phone device. Yes, I do believe we will see an HTC Windows Phone 8 device that looks just about like the One X so get over it. Phone hardware is unlikely to change much until things such as battery and display technology make major leaps.

The rumored next iPhone looks to simply be a longer iPhone 4S and I sure hope Apple has more up its sleave than that. Brian Hall seemed to have the same thoughts as me and posted a very detailed article on the rumored new iPhone and the design. I am actually relying on it as I am interested in trying out a new iPhone again, but I think it is going to take more than a longer display to get me to buy one. Android and Windows Phone are more exciting mobile platforms for me personally.

I am not a smartphone designer, but I am curious to hear if you readers have ideas for innovations in hardware. Are you satisfied with slight hardware improvements with new operating systems or do you want to see more?

Topics: Mobility, Android, Apple, HTC, iPhone, Nokia, Samsung, Windows

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18 comments
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  • I totally agree with you regarding Nokia designs

    While Apple and the rest are all happy making clones of Samsung's popular but aging F700 design, Nokia is the only (mainstream) cell phone manufacturer that is putting real effort into fresh new exciting design. Don't get me wrong, one can see why Apple would want to sell boring phones for the same reason McDonalds wants to sell boring hamburgers. Selling to the lowest common denominator has its profit advantages. For consumers who demand a bit more, I'm glad we have Nokia. I'm looking forward to going back to Nokia.
    toddbottom3
    • To a Degree

      The 900 was unique (well, maybe the 800 was, or the MeeGo design the 800 was based on ;-) Right now, there are some people complaining that the coming 920 looks too much like the 900. Can't please everyone, I suppose.
      WebSiteManager
    • that dumb phone

      F700? that's the one you're referring to? the one that was pre-announced (look up the definition) a month before the iphone but was unveiled after the iphone was actually announced? is that the one?
      oneleft
    • I'm gathering you're one of the

      Resident Trolls. I've tried Nokia's cheap feeling "Plastic" junk, and it's almost as bad as the crap OS. I wouldn't be surprised to find the Nokia Junk phones being given away from the "Free Cellphone" vans, as the phones have a certain "disposable feel" to them. I'm sure they'd go over big in the "Projects", or is that Undocumented housing communities?
      Troll Hunter J
      • Wow racism as well as abuse

        I've also tried clunky iPhones with that ancient UI carefully smothered in covers in case anyone drops one. Too heavy, too thick and much too retro for my taste. Also tried the stuttering Android phones with the same unfortunate UI that are stuck with another OS version that never gets updated.

        I'll take a slim, sculptured high impact plastic body any day with a real OS and a modern UI.
        Tony_McS
        • cant we all get along

          seriously people. why get so worked up over someones cell phone choice, fact is any high end smarthphone released in 2012 regardless of its platform will match each other in performance android doesnt stutter anymore nokia is up to date with the times with its new os and apple works just fine. There wasn't much wrong with it and apple knows it.
          Emmanuel Umukoro
  • technological improvements

    There are technological improvements in hardware across all mobile platforms platforms. A well desinged phone is a must for success. An example of bad design are LG and Acer windows phones. Samsung and Nokia phones seems very attractive.
    owllnet
  • An innovation I'd be willing to pay a lot for

    would be decent battery life. There really is not point having a fancy screen and lots of incorporated gadgets if I have to recharge the device every couple of hours. It's one of the reasons I've resisted buying a smartphone. Why downgrade from a week-long battery life (on my aged Nokia) to a day-old battery life on a smartphone?
    intman
  • Physical QWERTY

    It would seem to me that a mainstream Physical QWERTY keyboard would go over well. Maybe a Samsung Galaxy SQIII or something. Model it slightly after the Nokia E7 (keep it relatively thin and make screen size about 4"). There are enoughy ex RIM and Nokia users who love their keyboards. Keep it relatively cheap and see if the texting generation (and anyone who emails a lot) will go for it.
    jkohut
    • At least they are - were thinking about it

      check out this link

      http://www.wpcentral.com/leaked-photos-cancelled-nokia-%E2%80%9Clauta%E2%80%9D-rm-742-n9-successor-prototype
      calfee20
  • Ya, but havnt you heard the big news? Wireless charging won't save Nokia.

    Apparently.

    http://www.zdnet.com/why-wireless-charging-wont-save-nokia-7000003673/

    Ha. Horrible news eh.

    I guess Nokia should be told they had better not rely on wireless to "save" them.
    Cayble
  • I want a flip phone!

    Someone should reinvent the flip phone for the smartphone era. Samsung could take cues from the Nintendo DS (without copying it natch) But wouldn't that be great?
    paulhknight
    • there is already one out there and discontinued

      RIM tried this with the BlackBerry Style. It had horrible battery life and browsing was just a pain with the awkward screen. Since most new smartphones will be LTE, don't expect a decent flip smartphone with similar battery life to a Razr HD or Razor Maxx HD. You'll be plugging in a flip smartphone more often than you do any of HTC's smartphones.
      theNewDanger
  • Smartphone at the Limit

    I think it possible that the smartphone has reached its limit. How much more can you do with one? Of course, the hardware will change some, faster processors, more memory, etc. and different designs will come out, but can we expect anymore from our smartphones. Heck, we've reached the point where the carriers look on them as a way to less us data. The talking and even the texting aren't really important anymore, they basically give us that for free...okay, well not actually free, but just a small fee for all the talk and text you want (if Verizon is your example, and it is mine), but then they soak you for the data.

    I pay about $155 a month for three phones. 700 minutes of talk, unlimited texting and 150mb of data for my wife and unlimited for myself. I bought that just two and a half years ago, and it is still $30 a month. Just last year, when my wife got her smartphone, we could have gotten 2GB for that same $30. Under the new share plan, $30 only gets you 1GB. Verizon has figured out that our smartphones are more data device than phone.

    So, where can the smartphone go? Maybe the Galaxy note is the wave of the future. A bigger screen, but still fits in your pocket. Not a phablet, because it isn't really a phone, though it does make calls, just more of a tablet that can make calls and fits in your pocket.
    AudeKhatru
  • Give me someething fresh

    why make your Flagship phone look like the $20 Nokia....show some fresh ideas..stop being lazy
    Tom Pajak
  • Windows Pone looks revolutionary but ....

    Windows Pone looks revolutionary which is a good thing but .... it looks so flat/ugly that I couldn't stand to look at it every time I pick up my phone
    pluizebol
  • If you believe this article then you are a tool

    to Apples marketing of 'evolution' over innovation. Disclaimer, I own apple and microsoft stock. When they told you innovation was in, you believed it. Now evolution is in? Wow. Apples marketing is amazing, but innovation still exists. We saw big new features with the last galaxy 3, edge to edge screens are going to be here soon, nokia's awesome physically floating lens, wireless charging, NFC, and most of all Windows Phone 8 which is easier to use than android or apples OS, brings an amazing/easy to use ecosystem, and most importantly it is importantly faster to use and gives you more info on the go with its live tiles.

    Apples phone is light and thin which is a huge feat unto itself. Thanks to their dominance of the high end phone market, they dictate the rules to pathetic articles like this one. The rule this year is 'evolutionary phones'.
    wormywyrm
  • It's not just the physical designs that haven't changed.

    The software hasn't changed much, either, in terms of functionality.

    Apple's latest innovation there was what? Panoramic pictures? Well, that's great, but Android has apps that let you do that, too. Maps software with "flyover" views? Well, that's great, if the maps are accurate, but what are flyover views useful for? So that you can recognize areas from a plane?

    How about putting something [i]useful[/i] into the hardware, like the projected keyboard that was rumored to be included in the iPhone 5?
    bhartman36