Has smartphone technology hit the wall?

Rapid advancement as we've seen in smartphones leads us to expect such advances to continue, but I believe it is slowing down. I'm having a hard time trying to determine what the Next Big Thing in smartphones might be.

If you follow the smartphone world like I do, you have no doubt found the past 2-3 years to be exciting. Smartphones and the technology behind them have grown by leaps and bounds on both the hardware and software fronts. We've seen phones arrive that have full computing power coupled with gigabytes of storage for apps and media. We've seen smartphone software evolve at a rapid clip, bringing always-connected capabilities that were not possible just a short time ago. Rapid evolution as we've seen in smartphones conditions us to expect such advances to continue, but eventually it must slow down. I believe it might be doing so now, as I'm having a hard time trying to determine what the Next Big Thing in smartphones might be.

Don't misunderstand me, I still find smartphones to be wonderful gadgets. The HTC Thunderbolt I'm currently testing is a marvelous piece of technology in every way. But when I ignore the 4G connectivity which sets it apart from most of the phones on the market, I find it to be largely just another smartphone. It's faster than the rest, and it is wonderfully full-featured, but 4G capability aside it's really just another smartphone in a crowded playing field of good phones.

This has me wondering what might be the next big advancement in the smartphone space. The rapid evolution of Android has fueled the segment recently, but it seems to have slowed down with Google's focus on the Honeycomb tablet genre just coming into play. I don't really see anything pushing the limits on the smartphone front from Google with Android.

Apple will surely release the iPhone 5 or equivalent at some point this year, but there's not anything leaking out about something totally new to the genre coming with it. The folks in Cupertino always find a way to surprise us, but I can't imagine what they might bring to the smartphone that is truly innovative.

HP has already shown us what webOS 3.0 brings to the smartphone, and while I was impressed with the time I spent with the Pre 3 there wasn't anything truly new. It does have great synergy with the HP TouchPad, and that does excite me, but on the smartphone side of things it seems to be business as usual.

Perhaps we've hit the wall as far as smartphone technology advances is concerned. There doesn't seem to be anything coming in the near future that takes the genre to the next level. There are lots of cool phones coming, but they seem to be more of the same to me. I don't see the Next Big Thing, even in whispered rumors, and that leaves me wondering if it's coming any time soon.

What do you think will be the Next Big Thing in smartphones? Or do you believe smartphone technology has hit the wall? Sound off in the TalkBack.

See related coverage: