There's no such thing as the perfect smartphone

The endless quest to build the perfect smartphone is futile. There is no such thing and never will be.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
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

Editorial standards