Have smartphones hit an innovation plateau??

Discussion in 'Smartphones' started by Virinder, Jan 13, 2013.

  1. Virinder

    Virinder Mobile Deity

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    There have been many rumored designs on upcoming smartphones, like the HTC M7 and the Galaxy S4, but many of these rumors don't seem to introduce anything earth shattering or revolutionary to the mobile market. The increase to 1080p screens and the addition of higher megapixel cameras in phones aren't really innovative, and the water resistance & dust-proof capabilities of the new Xperia Z don't seem all that either. The IPhone used to be revolutionary with each upgrade, but with the passing of Steve Jobs, it has simply become evolutionary in terms of trying to keep up with every one else.

    The Samsung Galaxy S3 did have a few revolutionary features, such as NFC, but is the Galaxy S4 really going to be innovative? A possible eight-core (dual quad-core) processor with ARM's BIG.little architecture using a Cortex A-15 for large tasks and a Cortex A-7 for smaller tasks seems to imply more innovation under the engine, than design innovations that change how we use a smartphone.,,

    Some say that notebooks seem to have plateaued around 2008, and then came the netbook/tablet phenomena....are smartphones close to hitting a similar plateau? I guess the addition of NFC in phones makes mobile payments possible, but now that the mobile phone has replaced the MP3 player, digital camera, and even the PC (in terms of internet usage), what is the next step for the smartphone?
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2013
  2. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

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    Better dictation software (Siri and the like) so people can use phones for drafting documents, further replacing the PC for some people.
     
  3. jigwashere

    jigwashere Life is a circus!

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    Built in pico projectors?
     
  4. Mi An

    Mi An Nexus Refugee

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    What were these past revolutionary iphone upgrades? I must have missed them. Innovation is pretty rare, not just at Apple, but anywhere. Palm was innovative in the mid 90s. RIM was innovative just a tad later. There's been very little big picture mobile innovation since, and most of it has come from smaller entities or chipset makers working on mostly invisible stuff that most people couldn't name. Most of tech is evolutionary. And that's good.

    There have been a number of advances in user-end multitasking elsewhere. Samsung has multiwindow, LG has QSlide, and cornerstone has been opensourced, if (hopefully only temporarily) abandoned. Refining something we've been doing in desktop computing for decades isn't really revolutionary either, but is is the next big change I'm looking forward to. I've got more cores on my tablet than my desktop and I'd like to be able to put them to good use.
     
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  5. Virinder

    Virinder Mobile Deity

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    I'd disagree, and while I'm no Apple fanboy (though I'd probably buy one if Amazon sold them), I'd say that the IPhone was revolutionary as it changed the mobile market and made every manufacturer out there compete with them. How about integrating a camera so good that it makes me want to forego buying an actual point-and-shoot? Or, how about creating a sleek aluminum unibody design that went away from the flip phone trend of years past. Sure, Blackberry was similar, but it was really the IPhone that went away from having a solid QWERTY keyboard to on-screen keyboard buttons. Or at least they sold the majority of consumers on the idea.

    As for revolutionary tech, there are still strides that phone manufacturers can make like a laser keyboard or an IPico projector, but these 2013 models don't seem like they are aiming to be all that innovative at all. Which makes me ask...have we hit the plateau? Software innovation is good, and I'm curious to see what Key Lime Pie will bring, but design innovations seem to have hit a wall in 2012. NFC was one design innovation I mentioned for 2012. Maybe 2013 will be the year of the laser keyboard....
     
  6. Mi An

    Mi An Nexus Refugee

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    I seem to recall Nokia beat Apple on having great cameras integrated, but all the same that still sounds evolutionary. A sleek aluminum unibody is innovative? "Having a good sense of design" doesn't seem like an element of innovation. Apple certainly didn't make a new form factor to move away from flip phones, tons of other companies did, mostly borrowing from and adapting the old PDA designs ever so slightly.

    Taking something that already exists and making it mass-market compatible, repackaging it, refining it and even combining it with another existing technology is not technologically innovative. It's cool and necessary, but not innovative. Apple is a great company and a big deal, but innovative means something specific. It means making something new. And they didn't do that. They made something old feel better and then put some impressive marketing muscle behind it. Innovative is not just another word for "successful". Indeed, lots of innovators get left in the dust when someone tweaks their idea a little and implements it better.

    Projected keyboards have existed since the PDA days, few were ever interested in them. Samsung already has a pico projector phone. It's a fairly niche item.

    I answer your question that yes, we have hit a large-scale innovation plateau, we just hit it a long, long time ago. Since then we've been gradually adding little refinements, not making new stuff. The 2013 models are no less innovative than the 2012 models or the 2011s before them. Do we really need a paradigm change just now? I'd say we have the techs we need, now it's just a matter of making more usable products out of them.
     
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  7. Virinder

    Virinder Mobile Deity

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    Last edited: Jan 13, 2013
  8. Drillbit

    Drillbit Mobile Deity

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    I think the big ideas are used up, but there are still lots of rooms in both the material sciences and in the design of the system chipsets. Both play to the advantage of Samsung as they excel in both. Samsung scored over 5000 patents this year, number 2 only behind IBM globally in patent approvals, and a lot of it has to do with material sciences and electronics. So screens are going to get better, chips will be faster and we will see more clever plastics, longer lasting batteries, unbreakable glass and super light alloys.

    The plateau I mentioned for notebooks happens to include a performance one. Any Core2Duo notebook of the Windows Vista era still has enough processing power to meet and surpass today's low end net and notebooks, especially in terms of Javascript performance from today's popular browsers. And they are still significantly faster than the current cutting edge generation of ARM based mobile devices (iPad 4, Nexus 10 and so on). The only thing is that these notebooks are only low in memory, as they are often equipped 1 to 2Gb off the box, but add that to at least 4Gb, and they will eat any web scenario alive.

    I think smartphones have plateaued because with current state of operating systems, even something with a lowly dual core, which is the low end nowadays, seems pretty quick. Today's low end is pretty much the high end the year before. With the performance, and better storage, the current generation of mobile devices are going to last much longer in user duties and market circulation, providing at least you are in the dual core era. The only thing that is going to limit them in life is attrition from breakage and the gradually diminishing life of their sealed, non removable batteries, but those with removable batteries are going to live longer as long as there are stock of replaceable batteries for them.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2013
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  9. Mi An

    Mi An Nexus Refugee

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    This is how I see it. Just because something is merely evolving doesn't mean it never leaves anyone behind. A faster CPU and GPU are iterative by definition (though some of the smaller often nameless underlying techs are innovative), but as they keep inching forward you eventually find yourself with a huge gap, and software begins to demand higher minimums to run.
     
  10. NamelessPlayer

    NamelessPlayer Mobile Deity

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    After NFC becomes mainstream to the point of not making me miss IrDA beaming at all, I can't think of many other things that would make smartphones more revolutionary than evolutionary...at least in hardware terms. Maybe pico-projected screens, but I'd rather have a standalone device for that.

    (Before you remind me of laser keyboards, the very thought of those makes me cringe, just mashing my fingers against a flat surface with no proper tactile feedback or cushioning. Give me a proper physical keyboard any day, preferably a mechanical keyboard!)

    I still think the bulk of development needs to be done on the software side of things. Modern smartphones have all these neat sensors and other features, along with gobs of processing power in a pocket-size package that we would have only dreamed of years ago, but people still need to find out new ways to actually make use of all that hardware. After all, hardware is nothing without software. (Just ask all the people here who still do PIM on Palm OS or Windows Mobile devices because the current iOS and Android offerings are several steps back in many ways.)
     
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