It's the end of the specs race as we know it

It's the end of the specs race as we know it

Many of you have known this for a long time. Despite the occasional hiccup, like the egg-frying potential of the Snapdragon 810, high-end smartphones these days are of such high performance that the 'specs war' as we know it is pretty much over. And I couldn't be happier. Here's why.

Of course, I'll still look forward to the first devices to ship with the Snapdragon 820 and 5 GB of RAM. I'm still saddened by the fact that Samsung insists on clearing recent apps out of memory on the Note 5, even with 4 GB of RAM, resulting in slower multi-tasking. But we're so spoiled for specs that it sometimes feels as though no phone is fast enough, responsive enough, or stable enough.

samsung galaxy note 5 s pen 2
Even with 4 GB of RAM, Samsung insists on killing apps in the Note 5's cache. / © ANDROIDPIT

We have to admit that things have never been better. Not only in that obvious “technology is as good as it has ever been” way, because of course, technology tomorrow is always going to be better than it was yesterday. But our smartphones have already progressed to such a standard that they have replaced the need for many other gadgets.

No one carries pocket digital cameras anymore, for example – and some phones are basically equivalent to DSLR quality.

We've also got some pretty impressive speakers, at least on some phones. We barely even need a tablet or laptop for most of our daily communications anymore. They've replaced the need for GPS and nav systems in our car, iPods are a thing of the past and streaming and data speeds are spectacular (especially if you live in South Korea). Everything just keeps getting better for less money.

Smartphones have replaced iPods, pocket cameras and GPS systems already. / © ANDROIDPIT

“But my battery still can't make it through the day,” I hear you say. This is actually one of the good things about the specs race being at an end. Rather than simply bumping display resolution up a bit, squeezing a few more GHz out of a processor or adding another new feature nobody needs, manufacturers are focusing on the core areas: camera, battery, stability, updates.

This is good for all of us. Cameras were the first speed bump to fall. Stability and faster update schedules are the order of the day. But battery tech is the holy grail of smartphone developments. Samsung has its two-day battery in the works and we've written previously about developments in mobile battery technology. Heck, the iPhone has recently been equipped with a week-long battery in a lab somewhere.

baterias extraibles androidpit
Glass backs, removable batteries and back buttons: what's useful and what's for show? / © ANDROIDPIT

So how do manufacturers cope with a specs sheet that increasingly looks identical to everyone else's? If OnePlus or Xiaomi can put out a phone with a specs sheet nearly identical to a flagship that costs double the price, how does everyone differentiate their products in order to stand out? With increasingly meaningless physical differences, that's how.

Think about the OnePlus 2's audio slider switch. Is that really that important? Wouldn't NFC and turbo charging have been better inclusions? Yes, but those aren't sexy external features. The same can be said for LG's rear-key button setup. You can justify it with ergonomics, but is that really more important than the fact it creates an instantly recognizable phone?

AndroidPIT OnePlus 2 alert slider
This is useful, but microSD, NFC, wireless and turbo charging is better. / © ANDROIDPIT

I could say the same about Samsung's Edge displays. While many people are drooling over them I see little more than an expensive product differentiator that offers very marginal benefits over a flat screen. What the Edge display does do however is introduce a highly unique look to an otherwise very familiar phone.

As one industry insider commented to me: “We're at a tipping point where there doesn't have to be a functional reason for a design decision... it just has to stand out. In other words, there is no (cost-effective) breakthrough technology in the near future when it comes to mobiles.”

samsung galaxy s6 edge plus side
I may not think the Edge features are worth the money, but it sure is recognizable. / © ANDROIDPIT

I feel this to be totally true. The specs war has ended in a ceasefire. Ostentation of the court is the ruling order of the day, with frills and extras and relatively unnecessary features tacked on simply in order to stand out from the cookie-cutter pack. And perhaps this is OK.

If more attention is paid to system stability, display quality, camera performance and above all, battery management, then we're all going to benefit. But the days of the great leaps in smartphone technology are pretty much at an end. Expect to see more wacky-but-pointless design in years to come, but decreasingly serious advancements.

Where do think smartphones specs will go in future? Just how powerful do we need our phones to be?

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  • Heyy thn wht we do for fingerprint feature ...
    Em nexus 5 user ...n i don't know how to downgrade latest version of android this is 6.0 plzz gudie me clearly thnks in advance

  • This is a good point. Will the next specs race be smart watches?

  • Great article. Nailed it to the point thts wht really matters but this sounds like a very far far far far far into the future and a hole lot of empty pockets in the process before this thought ever becomes a reality pls .

  • "Expect to see more wacky-but-pointless design in years to come"

    I'm looking forward to this. I love having diverse designs throughout Android.

  • Kyle Aug 27, 2015 Link to comment

    Dfuq is samsung doing with killing the apps?! what theeeeeeeeeeeee, thanks btw now i aint buying that shit. with 4 gigs of ram, they still do that? ima wait for the nexus

  • week long battery?! =o

  • Luka Aug 26, 2015 Link to comment

    I'd love that S6 had 4 gigs of RAM. They'll probably use that as an excuse for not bringing Android N, but that's far away ( but I can't forget S3 not having KitKat, yet running Lollipop on CM, and Marshmallow hasn't yet been confirmed for S5)
    But I hope that OEMs and Google would pay more attention to updates and security, along with battery life, because CPUs, displays and cameras are ridiculously good and something like SD 820 really sounds crazy, but is it really necessary? I don't know who would need 5GB of RAM. They're better off investing in a PC or a laptop. As an S6 user I can say that this is the best smartphone experience I could imagine with absolutely ZERO lag. But I'd like a better battery and not having to worry for updates for 2 years. So I think that's where OEMs should focus.

    • Yes, S6 would have been the best phone to date. If it had removable battery, microsd card slot and as much software features as the S5. I srsly hope Sammy will fix their shit next year! Loving my S5, hating the S6 (which i wanna love but just can't, same with Note 5) :'(

  • I would rather have a audio slider instead of nfc or quick charge. I have nexus 5 for about 1,5 year and never used nfc in that time. Quick charge can be nice but I can life without it since I charge my phone when I sleep.

    The thing that I really want is more software customisation options to let the phone look and behave the way I like and of course better battery technology.

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