In a smartphone slump? Look beyond the slab factor

Some people are bored with today's standard smartphone form factor, but all tech seems to eventually find a similar form factor over time. While the base form may be similar, differentiation and innovation are still present.

In a smartphone slump? Look beyond the slab factor
Image: Sony

ZDNet's James Kendrick posted an article yesterday explaining why he thinks they have lost their identities and there is not much to set them apart. While nearly all smartphones today are indeed slabs of glass, plastic, and metal, my trials and testing with these slabs convince me they still offer vastly different experiences.

The HTC One was my favorite smartphone of 2013 and stood out because of the design and Sense user experiences. Even though it is a slab, you can immediately tell it is different from anything else when you hold it in your hand. The same holds true for this year's HTC One (M8) .

The Moto X is a slab too, but you won't find a more pocketable and comfortable Android smartphone available today. The iPhone 5s is also a slab, but is one of the smallest and most powerful smartphones available that provides a completely different experience than a Galaxy Note 3 .

I just purchased my own Sony Xperia Z2 because it is an amazing piece of superbly designed hardware that is waterproof and has a fantastic camera. I still swap SIMs with my Moto X and the difference between the two is like apples and bananas. You will never convince me that all slabs are alike and the slab is just the natural progression of technology that offers us the optimal smartphone experience.

The user interfaces on today's modern smartphones also still differentiate in many ways and while people all may be making calls, checking email, capturing memories, surfing the internet, and posting on social networks the way each platform, and on Android each manufacturer, handles these tasks is different enough to still make the smartphone world fresh and interesting to many people.

My wife doesn't like me to spend money on her phones and prefers to just accept hand-me-downs after I am done using a phone for a while. Over the last couple of years she has gone through a Lumia 900, HTC One Mini, and Lumia 925. She saw me working on my Samsung Galaxy S5 review and when I was done I popped her SIM into it to see what she thought of the latest and greatest smartphone. She immediately fell in love with the large display, Samsung TouchWiz UI that provided prompts and efficiencies that optimized her usage, and the camera experience and then told me she was not going to give me back the review unit. I just went and purchased a white Galaxy S5 for her last night and she couldn't be happier.

As mobile bloggers, many of us here on ZDNet get to test lots of phones, tablets, and computers so the experiences can become a bit routine and familiar. It is fun to watch "regular" people try new devices and get excited about those devices. iOS, Android, and Windows Phone may be similar in many regards, but when you watch people use these operating systems then you will see the way they use them is actually quite different and there still is plenty of innovation being made in the smartphone space.

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