In terms of innovation in the mobile phone industry, the last 15 years have been very good to us. We’ve gone from pull-out aerials, horrible displays and sliding keypad covers to video calling, touch screens and high-definition displays. Mobile phones have become lighter, faster and way more than just something you call your mom from. Phones are now must-have tools for business and social environments alike, and have ushered in the age of digital convergence for our generation.
While I am always happy with innovation, I do feel that the device manufacturers have recently hit a plateau in terms of technical innovation and are currently coming up with novelties that they’re passing off as great strides. Again, I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I no longer feel a sense of wonder when these new devices are launched and their so-called “innovations” are splashed all over billboard and TV ads for us to marvel at. To illustrate my point, here are three of the most ridiculous features currently being marketed to us as the second coming.
Apple — Siri
When I first saw the beautifully shot commercial of the guy sorting out his calendar for the next day, while enjoying a relaxing sunset run, by just talking to his iPhone, I was immediately excited with the possibilities that this new product would bring. A personal, digital assistant that was intelligent and understood human speech? Shut up and take my money! Wow, was I let down. To me, Siri is simply an upgrade to the wonderfully fashionable Bluetooth earpiece that was so popular among self-important executives and lazy bastards a few years back.
They’re douchebag alarms that not only point out people who love the sound of their own voices, but act as perfect examples of the heights that human laziness can soar to if left unbridled. Are you that busy looking important that you just can’t afford the time it takes to type an email or actually dial a number? More often than not, you waste more time trying to help Siri understand what you want her/him/it to do than actually getting anything done, so what’s the point? Deactivate Siri and save that battery of yours.
BlackBerry — Timeshift
I was first exposed to this wonderfully innovative feature while traveling for business a few weeks back. I had just entered the arrivals area when I was greeted by massive wall mounts featuring terribly taken and ill-timed photos, and their “time shifted” equivalents (which were professionally taken and beautifully Photoshopped). I think that this must take the cake as the most ridiculous feature I have ever seen being marketed for any product, ever.
What is BlackBerry trying to tell us? “Buy this phone now, so that your shitty-looking photos can be corrected” or “We know that you’re not that good at this, so let’s help you out a bit”. Seriously? Does BlackBerry think we’re so confused by mobile camera technology and how to retake photos that it bases a good chunk of its marketing strategy around it? Evidently so.
Samsung — Smart Scroll/Smart Pause
Unless Samsung is working on a longterm strategy to allow us to control our devices with nothing more than our thoughts, I don’t understand why the greater population would find these features beneficial at all. Yes, the technology behind eye-tracking and motion control is simply mind-blowing, but why focus all that energy and money into an attempt to change behavioral norms that are really so insignificant that we hardly acknowledge them?
To me, swiping up and down on the screen is just never going to be simplified or bettered, it just makes sense. And as for Smart Pause, unless you’ve got your hands tied up behind your back while watching YouTube videos, I just don’t see the point. How much effort does it take to just tap on the screen to pause? I’m all for efficiency, yes, but this is just taking it way too far.
To summarize this rant, I’m not being cynical and I am far from being in a bad mood, but this is just how I feel about the entire industry at this point in time. Yes, the technology is absolutely amazing, and the hours and capital invested into the research and development must be vast, I just feel that the current state of device competition is so stale that these guys just don’t know what to do anymore. It really feels like the giants are throwing stones at one another because they’ve run out of bullets. I suppose it could also be the fact that we’ve been so spoilt with innovation lately that we’ve become used to all these new bells and whistle. Maybe nothing amazes us anymore.
Another school of thought is that these features are simply there to keep the top end of the market entertained while the big money is invested in the development of low-cost models for the mass market, in an effort to grow overall marketshare. It makes complete business sense to do so, so why not? Either way, all I want is to be excited about smartphones again.
Main image: AshtonPal via Flickr