"If it is always necessary to tell the truth to the customers, there is no possible business", to quote the great Marcel Pagnol. There is much to be said about this timeless phrase, but it is clear that it makes sense if applied to the field of technology. If we told users that the vast majority of innovations that we present as extraordinary are in fact useless, even laughable, would they still be willing to spend their money frivolously?
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It is a broad subject that can be addressed in many ways and, in any case, we will not know the answer. What is certain, however, is the lack of major innovation on the market. There was a time when the goal was to surprise users with new features - useful, practical new things. Today, we find a series of novelty features, most of the time 'borrowed' from competing models.
Let's take Android or iOS smartphones for example: what can we do today on our smartphones that we couldn't do in the recent past? Of course, everything is faster thanks to better components - we have seen an evolution in terms of ease of use and even security. In terms of real innovation, or "game changers" as my American colleagues say, there is nothing new. 5G? It is aimed at the future of connected devices rather than at the future of smartphones. Artificial Intelligence? Same thing, with the exception of AI photography developments that do have their benefits.
Unlocking your device has evolved from using a simple code to fingerprint readers and facial recognition. We save two seconds when we unlock our device, which is a big deal, but it is true that in many cases safety is increased (my colleague Steffen will probably not agree with this given his experience), although this is debatable. If we cannot talk about real innovation, it is true that smartphone cameras have also evolved in some aspects and now produce great results (usually on flagships only, of course). A real innovation that we have seen happen a few years ago is the online payment system: an innovation that is directly linked to trade and business.
In general, this is what it is all about: trade. The objective is commercial, in one way or another. Whether it is a technological "novelty" to motivate a purchase or a gimmick to make it a faster sell, we come back to the same point. Having evolutions instead of innovations is starting to become a problem: if we have to get our wallets out, we want to see revolutions and not smartphones that have more RAM or processors so powerful that we don't know what to do with them.
While doing some research on the AndroidPIT website, I discovered an article published by a former editor in 2011. These are 5 innovations, considered at the time as futuristic. It is important to note that it took until 2018 to see a concrete project of a folding screen - an innovation that has been promised to us for so many years now, thanks to Royole and Samsung. This is an interesting innovation (as long as it is practical and functional and not a semi innovation that cannot even be carried in your pocket because it's so thick): such a screen would ideally make it possible to easily transport a device with a large screen and use it on the go.
Another enticing innovation that stirs rumours every year: a truly long-lasting battery. Autonomy is still one of the main problems of smartphones (if not the main one). Naive users such as us might think that its development should be a priority, but so many others are willing to shell out $1000 for a smartphone with minor improvements, such as a better camera, 1 more GB of RAM, etc., so why complicate their lives?
This is where part of the problem lies. As long as there is demand for this type of supply, there will be supply. It is obvious that real innovation requires a lot of effort, but seeing so many manufacturers introduce us to simple evolutions or generally useless changes under the term "innovation" is beginning to hurt our eyes. Changing materials, adding light effects on the backs of devices, putting more RAM or power, proposing different ways of doing things that already exist... There only are so many ways to hide behind "technological progress".
Who is to blame? Manufacturers, because they take advantage of the situation? Consumers, because they get manipulated and ask for more? It's a vicious circle, but who cares? Brainwashing through advertising campaigns of all kinds ensures that the situation does not change, and the way brands alienate their users (who often allow it) ensures that they identify with a brand and no longer with a device or technology.
Without going too far into the subject (the help of a sociologist might be necessary at that point), people no longer seem to have any perspective and rush into the depths of marketing traps. Companies, on the other hand, are obviously rubbing their hands (between discourses on digital well-being), since they can maximize their profits without having to be too creative. Innovations are minimal and prices are soaring, yet smartphones at high prices are selling well. Isn't that a problem?
Certainly, it seems that the general tendency among consumers is to favor brands that offer lower prices (Xiaomi, Honor, OPPO...), rather than traditional brands that are plunging head-first into a high-end/luxury strategy, a fact confirmed by a recent study (which indicates a general decline in smartphone sales over the year).
Manufacturers, if you want to change this trend, you will have to put technology back at the center of smartphones and use words only when you mean them: what you currently call innovation is in fact far from it.
What do you think? Is there still hope for innovation in the the smartphone market?