Phone Technology Plateauing

The launch of the new iPhone demonstrates that handsets have reached a stable point. This occurred in desktop computers around five years ago, and laptops are heading the same direction.

Nokia E71 Smart Phone

Until a few years ago you purchased a new computer because the hardware made everything faster and better, essentially the machine became more useful. Handsets have seen a similar type of growth. When they were first released they could make calls. Then text messaging was added. Other functions followed: music playing, calendar, to-do list, full address book, camera, video playback, Wi-fi, Bluetooth, GPS, touch screen, compass, gyroscope. Now we have the iPhone (with HTC handsets close behind) that offers all this, along with clearer screens, voice activation that actual works, applications to make use of the hardware and many other minor tweaks.

There is most certainly more to come, but I suspect that very little of it will offer any vast improvements on how the phone is used. Battery life will continue to increase, voice recognition will start to work in more noisy surroundings, the screens will be brighter and more efficient. None of this will fundamentally change the way the phone is used in much the same way that a computer upgrade today will not offer a vastly improved user experience.

Upgrading a smart phone is now is a matter of aesthetics rather than what new things it can offer the user. Manufactures could prove me wrong (and I know there’s micro projectors and virtual keyboards to come), but I suspect the reasons to change a your phone every year or two have now significantly finished.