There's no such thing as the perfect smartphone

There's no such thing as the perfect smartphone

Summary: The endless quest to build the perfect smartphone is futile. There is no such thing and never will be.

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Perfection is a myth

"If they'd only put this feature into this phone it would be the perfect device."

That's a sentiment I've heard many times. So many people are trying to find the perfect phone but choices always seem to fall short in some way. The desire to finally get that perfect smartphone in hand is a driving force for many, and every OEM is constantly striving to produce that one perfect device.

I don't mean to burst everyone's bubble but there is no such thing as the perfect mobile phone and there never will be. Fact is, mobile technology and the devices that use it are highly personal things and that means they will never appeal to everyone.

Ask 10 people to describe their perfect phone and odds are you'll get 10 different answers. What is required and desired by one can be downright repugnant to another. Mobile devices are very personal in nature and that varies from one person to another.

Mobile devices are very personal

This is particularly true when it comes to smartphones. What is essential for one user is often irrelevant and even a deal-breaker to others. That 6-inch screen that some folks pine over is too big for some and too small for others. That high-powered super camera that makes many drool is totally unimportant to other folks.

"There is no truth to "if you build it they will come" in the phone business. It's more like "if you build it some folks might drop by".

Nowhere is the old adage "one man's garbage is another man's treasure" more apropos than in mobile tech. The sleek aluminum casing that reflects the twinkle in the eyes of some is too slippery, sharp, or shiny to others. There are those who prefer simple plastic materials and find the high-grade aluminum to be a negative.

That's why phone makers have such a hard time designing new models. They know that every new feature that excites some prospective buyers will probably turn off many others. There simply is no such thing as a universal whiz-bang design feature, and that is the case with software as much as hardware. There is no truth to "if you build it they will come". It's more like "if you build it some folks might drop by".

Apple has been able to mitigate the fickle nature of buyers because it was first to market with the iPhone, and it grew a huge user base early on. That only lasts for so long and it's having a harder time of things now as witnessed by its losing market share to Android. Prospective iPhone buyers are more willing to jump to other platforms/vendors because they want features only found elsewhere. Even so, that single design and feature set, the perfect mobile device, doesn't exist. Some iPhone deserters are buying big Android phones, others small ones. 

When you think of Android fragmentation you most likely think of how most devices aren't guaranteed to get OS updates regularly, if at all. That's true but the biggest fragmentation in the Android mobile device space is in hardware.

You might call all of the different handsets running Android a choice, but it's also fragmentation of the platform. So many OEMs are making Android phones, in so many sizes, with so many diferent features/capabilites, that in essence the platform is fragmented.

That's due to the fact that the perfect smartphone doesn't exist and never will. OEMs are trying different things, many different things, to build that perfect phone. They hope their latest and greatest phone will hit the mark with enough buyers to be a big hit. They release each new model with their fingers crossed. Sometimes they hit the mark and other times they miss it entirely.

The biggest flops in the smartphone segment are not necessarily because they are bad products. It's because they didn't get the right features to match up with what big numbers of shoppers wanted. They didn't line up the right "perfect device" features with enough of the buying public.

It's a tough game and I don't envy the players. They can do all the right things to make the best product possible, but fail. Ask a few million people what their perfect mobile device looks like and you'll get a billion different feature combinations. That's what keeps phone maker executives up at night.

Perhaps a better strategy for OEMs would be to forget trying to build the perfect phone for lots of buyers. Instead, build a solid phone that has one new feature that's never been done before and show the masses why they want it. Instead of trying to satisfy a long checklist, include one compelling item that buyers can only get from your product. Then market the heck out of it.

Nobody said this would be easy so you'd better roll up your sleeves and get to innovating. Get that big, expensive group of designers and engineers busy coming up with that totally new design and/or feature. Give the buying public something refreshingly new and breathtaking. Then show them why they want it, no matter how many other items on that capricious "perfect" phone checklist were missed.

See also:

Why I'm using my smartphone less and less each day

Smartphones: Size matters

10 tips for better battery life for Android phones

How to buy a smartphone: A guide for newbies

Top Android apps for summer

The smartphonification of today's youth

Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Smartphones, Tablets

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17 comments
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  • It's a balance issue...not lack of innovation or new features...

    The perfect device needs lots of software, unlimited data, cutting edge hardware, and good security all at low/no cost. The problem is software designers want revenue and won't make apps if they can't get paid, while consumers have an idea what certain apps are worth and want many free. Price them too high and you have no one buying apps, to low you have no one writing apps, make them add supported you loose security, make them secure you lose functionality. The compromise is that devices can be secure, have lots of features, be low cost, or have good hardware design; but not all those things...
    Socratesfoot
  • "There's no such thing as the perfect smartphone"

    Oh, yes there is, James. Just ask toddy!
    Userama
    • Re: Just ask toddy!

      Toddy knows: Any non-apple phone is the best.
      danbi
  • nothing is perfect

    except GOD..
    smartshuaib
    • Isn't that why....

      ...Persian rug weavers wove an imperfection into a rug? Maybe that's why phone makers include "imperfections" in their phones---although sometimes they seem to get carried away......
      Userama
  • No such thing as a perfect device, either.

    "There's no such thing as the perfect smartphone"

    No such thing as a perfect device, either. Different form factors work for different things. ZDNet's hailing one form factor as the replacement for all the others is a myth.
    CobraA1
  • As an owner of all three major platforms...

    ...Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 8 I've found each has their strengths and each has the weaknesses. There is no better platform...just different. It's all personal preference. I've settled on Android as my primary phone. Others prefer iOS while others prefer Windows 8.

    Same goes for computing platforms.
    ye
  • Basic rule of thumb

    If it came off a mass assembly line, it's not a perfect for anyone.

    If you want a perfect anything, it needs to be custom made.
    Michael Kelly
    • Perfection has a shelf life

      It will typically last Only about 2 minutes after the next custom made widget has been crafted. The problem is not the manufacturer, the problem is the consumer. We are all so fickle, and completely human that we are unable to be entirely satisfied. My iPhone does everything I ask it to do, until that time that I don't feel like spending on the next app to fulfill a perceived need.

      The truth is the same with all technology. What disturbs me the most is when manufacturers believe the can create perfection and choice is narrowed. I won't buy, this is the case with many tech products, built too specific with limited capabilities, with the intent to manipulate the market and diversify revenue streams. It's all about the money.
      Kenneth Pennuto
  • Need & Want had a boxing match. Who won?

    Neither. Have beat them both as usual.
    TaxNerd
  • First Define Perfect

    If someone can define the perfect device to the last detail, then it can be built. Perfection for any device can never be defined or agreed upon, therefore it can never be built.
    DKFlorida
  • Perfect in the eye of the beholder

    In the era of NSA/FBI/Big Marketing tracking & spying the perfect smartphone is OFF and DEAD.
    greywolf7
  • No perfect smartphone, but maybe a "best fit"

    There's no perfect smartphone, but there might be a "best fit" device for the individual user.

    For some people, that device might be a nokia lumia (or another windows phone), for others it might be an Apple iPhone or an Android device. People are different, with different needs.
    Smalahove
  • As the saying goes

    "Perfect is the enemy of good"
    danbi
  • My Perfect Windows Phone 8.1

    My perfect Windows 8.1 Phone would start off as a "Ruggedized" Windows Phone....
    water-dust drop "proof" phone. Not needing a "rugged case" for protection.
    Must have:
    1. Quad core processor with up to 64 GB
    2. 4.7-5" screen size.
    3. Removable/replaceable battery.
    4. Micro SD card slot for expansion.
    5. Gen 3 Gorilla Glass.
    6. Windows 8.1

    Please note Phone Manufacturers!!!
    Altoid666
  • Indeed

    This is why it was pretty clear to me that Android would ultimately win the smartphone race. Apple had an early start on the "consumer revolution" in smartphones. But they make one iPhone per year, and even looking at all three currently on sale (5, 4S, 4), there's not much difference. Certainly nothing significant in form and function.

    Android allows a little of the wild west into the mobile industry. That's the same kind of thing that made the personal computer industry exciting in the 70s and 80s -- you never knew what was coming next. When that all settled down, Windows had one, the basic beige PC box, more or less, had won -- PCs became boring. Eventually sales suffered -- the PC I bought a few years back is probably "good enough".

    Diversity is even more important on mobile devices. For one, we really are trying to stuff enough of a desktop PC into our pockets to be useful. But we're doing things in mobile we never did on the desktop -- the smartphone is a functional tool in the field: camera, MP3 player/radio, bar-code scanner, satnav, all-purpose communicator, tour guide, social secretary, instant GameBoy for those waits in line, etc. Everyone's got different apps, different uses ... just as we did when the PC went from a cool toy to a cool tool. So no, no single device could possibly work for each person.

    And at the end of the day, the platform with the most diversity is the likely winner.... every time.
    Hazydave
  • bloatware apps destoy the perfect phone

    useless uninstallable apps are the down fall of most phones and some so bad they crash in price
    Magnus Thunderson