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iPhone 6 lesson: The next big thing in hardware will have to wait

Samsung vs. Apple vs. Nokia, HTC and Motorola. Who cares? All the hardware looks alike. The smartphone battle is won with ecosystems, cloud and sheer marketing.

Apple is selling iPhone 6 and 6 Plus devices by the millions and new countries will be added to the distribution list soon. Surely, the latest iPhone will create a super product upgrade cycle as all of those people holding out for a larger screen jump on the Apple bandwagon.

But in the wild, I've been caught at least handful of times glancing at the iPhone 6 and thinking the device is a Galaxy S5, maybe even an S4. The iPhone 6 Plus is more comparable to the Galaxy Note 4 or even the latest Nokia Phablet.

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Now I don't begrudge Apple anything. God bless Tim Cook and the gang for arriving late to the large-screen phone party and raking in dough. The upgrade cycle from the iPhone 4s will be massive .

However, I'm left with a nagging concern that the hardware innovation is gone. Yes, we're competing on screen sizes. As many folks have noted, the latest iPhone owes a lot to Samsung's screen-of-all sizes approach.

The Onion put it best when it compared the iPhone to Samsung's Galaxy line.

iphone vs. samsung
Credit: The Onion


On a more serious note, consider CNET's iPhone 6 Plus, Galaxy Note 4 and LG G3 comparison. Or how about the iPhone 6 vs. Galaxy S5 comparison. Let's toss in Ed Bott's Nokia phablet review for good measure.

phablet-hero-small-620x416
Image: MobileDeviceSize.com

The point: These devices are all starting to look alike. We're competing on incremental hardware upgrades and screen sizes. The rest of these devices are very similar and the average bear wouldn't notice the difference. Let's hear it for commodity hardware plays.

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I realize Apple wasn't planning on complaints about iPhone 6 Plus devices that bend. But hey at least that's something original on the hardware front.

The reality is that hardware innovation is hard to pull off. The battle is really won on ecosystems, apps and the cloud. Android is obviously Google. If all of your contacts and life is tied into Google's ecosystem it's hard to leave Android. Apple has iOS and loyal following and is learning the cloud game. Hardware won't be a gating factor for whatever device choice you make. 

In the end, both Android and iOS annoy me in different ways as do Google and Apple. I love them both. And occasionally hate both of them. How you make a call between the two depends on how you rank the features that matter to you---say camera quality, contacts, maps etc. Rest assured that hardware innovation won't be the gating factor for which way you go when buying a smartphone. For the most part, all of these devices---with the exception of BlackBerry's somewhat quirky Passport ---are starting to look like they've been separated from birth.