The death of this revolution has been greatly exaggerated

There's been plenty of teeth gnashing and naysaying about the pace of innovation in mobile devices lately. Here's a little reality check.
Written by Jason Hiner, Editor in Chief
Tim Cook at the Apple Store
Image: James Martin/CNET

The only thing tech writers love more than naming a new product as the killer of another product is actually declaring the death of something.

One of the latest targets has been mobile innovation itself.

The pace of progress in smartphones and tablets has been decried as slow, boring, and full of copycats.

So, let me get this straight, today's smartphones and tablets aren't innovative enough or flashy enough or powerful enough for you? Here are 8 reasons why we need a little more perspective.

1. Mobile data has hit 50 Mbps--50 megs, people!

In the US alone, Verizon and AT&T both have over 300 million people covered with 4G LTE, which can reach 50 Mbps. When the first iPhone was released 8 years ago, it was mired in 2G at about 100 Kbps. So we're talking about 500 times faster. Our phones are now running speeds higher than what many of us get on our broadband connections at home. That kind of bandwidth has unlocked all kinds of new possibilities--from being able to download and view presentations to playing videos to streaming music to enabling powerful cloud applications.

2. We have 4K video cameras in our pockets

Many high-end devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S6, the Nexus 6, and iPhone 6s can now shoot video in ultra high definition 4K. While most people don't have TVs or playback devices that can handle 4K yet--the new Apple TV still can't handle it, although Amazon's new Fire TV can--the ability to shoot in 4K means that we can shoot video, crop it and still have amazing high definition clips. It also means that everything we shoot today will look magnificent in the future when 4K is everywhere. For example, take a look at this 4K clip shot on a Samsung Galaxy S6.

3. Our phones are finally electronic wallets

Mobile payments are now possible at millions of locations. We have to give Apple a nod here. Although the company was years behind Google and others, Apple Pay made the process simpler, faster, and more secure, especially aided by its fingerprint scanner (more on that in a moment). As a result, Android Pay is now following suit--as an update to Google Wallet--and it's likely to bring a similar experience across the Android fleet.

4. We can charge our phones without plugging them in

Wireless inductive charging has been around for years, but it has often involved replacing backplates or slapping on ugly add-ons. The Nexus 4, 5, 6, and 7 have all included built-in wireless charging (using the Qi standard). Meanwhile, other manufacturers like Duracell and Powermat have been using a competing standard called PMA. Samsung tried to leapfrog this silly standards war by simply integrating both into the Galaxy S6. There also some awesome wireless charging stations now, like the ones from Tylt and Samsung.

5. We can get an 8-hour battery charge in 15 minutes

While not all phones have wireless charging built in yet, many of them have something that is arguably even more valuable--fast charging. Devices like the Moto X Pure Edition have spurned wireless charging in favor of fast charging. Motorola says the device can get 8 hours of battery life out of a 15-minute charge, and that's pretty accurate in our tests. The catalyst behind much of this is Qualcomm's Quick Charge technology. Now all we need is wireless fast charging, right? Samsung has it coming (albeit, limited to the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge+).

6. Biometrics have arrived

Apple brought fingerprint scanners to its devices with the Touch ID feature starting with the iPhone 5s, and has since brought it to its tablets and phablets, too. By putting the scanner in the home button, Apple has made the technology easy to use and integrate. Meanwhile, Google brought facial recognition to Android in the form of its Face Unlock feature in Android 4.0 and has been improving it ever since.

7. Our devices are getting smarter about authentication

Beyond biometric authentication, the Android "Smart Lock" feature can use a number of other methods to recognize you and keep you from having to re-authenticate constantly. You can activate "On-body detection" (it tells if you've got the phone in your hand or in your pocket), "Trusted voice" (voice recognition), "Trusted devices" (use Bluetooth to authenticate when connected to your smartwatch or your car, for example), and "Trusted places" (you can use use GPS to designate a safe place; but think carefully before turning on this one).

8. We're about to have infinite auto-synced cloud storage

A new device, the Nextbit Robin, uses a smart method of cloud storage to give its Android-powered smartphone virtually unlimited storage. Basically, it takes the stuff you don't use often and automatically moves it to the cloud, and then silently re-downloads it in the background when you go back and use it. The new Apple TV reportedly does a similar kind of cloud storage automation. Look for other devices to adopt this model.

The Revolution lives

If you don't call this a revolution--even if it's just the latest evolution of the revolution--then I'd like to call Doc Brown to send you back to 1990 so that you can play with a Windows 3.0 computer and see how much innovation you can wring out of that sucker.

Whether you're carrying an Android or an Apple device, you can do a staggering number of amazing things from a mobile device today.

The revolution is alive and well.

ZDNet's Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. As a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the US.

Previously on the Monday Morning Opener:

Editorial standards