Yet an­other smart­phone

Has smart­phone in­no­va­tion — along with our in­ter­est in these dig­i­tal heroin dis­pensers — peaked?

Financial Mail - - PATTERN RECOGNITION - @shap­shak

As ex­pected ... I be­gan writ­ing about this month’s iphone Xs launch and re­alised that phrase summed up the past few years of Ap­ple prod­uct launches. The Steve Jobs years were marked not only by his show­man­ship but by his iron-clad in­sis­tence on se­crecy. No sup­plier would dare leak de­tails about up­com­ing prod­uct launches. When an iphone was mis­tak­enly left in a bar one year, it was thought to be a guer­rilla mar­ket­ing ploy be­cause there was no way Jobs would ever have tol­er­ated such an in­dis­cre­tion.

By the time the 2018 mod­els were un­veiled al­most all the specs, colours, screen sizes and other per­ti­nent in­for­ma­tion was known to Ap­ple ru­mour­mon­gers.

What does it mean? Has Ap­ple peaked? Has smart­phone in­no­va­tion peaked, or are we over it?

Per­haps, for some, those years of the “hype cy­cle”, as an­a­lysts Gart­ner call the tra­jec­tory of new tech­nol­ogy and its up­take by so­ci­ety, have made peo­ple weary. The rate of in­no­va­tion has slowed, not least be­cause the early years were so fre­netic and came off such a low base.

Also, the laws of physics limit how far things (es­pe­cially bat­ter­ies) can be minia­turised. For years smart­phone mak­ers from Ap­ple to Sam­sung to Huawei boasted about the thin­ness of their de­vices. Or how many megapix­els the cam­eras had. Or big­ger screens (led by Sam­sung’s Gal­axy range). Last year, they boasted about the death of the bezel (that black edge around the screen) which meant the Gal­axy S8 and the iphone X could have re­mark­ably large screens in a smaller frame.

It’s some­what un­fair to blame the man­u­fac­tur­ers for our malaise. Last year Ap­ple was sharply crit­i­cised for the $1,000 price tag of its top iphone X. But de­mand for the de­vice last quar­ter pushed Ap­ple’s mar­ket val­u­a­tion over $1-tril­lion last month.

Smart­phones are the de­fault de­vices we use in this mod­ern mo­bile age of su­per­fast wire­less broad­band. They’re also sym­bols of fash­ion, sta­tus and, well, de­sire. They are not just our on­ramp to the in­for­ma­tion su­per­high­way but our sports cars for the jour­ney. Ev­ery­one wants a Lam­borgh­ini, don’t they?

The ma­jor themes this year are slightly dif­fer­ent, though. Smart­phone mak­ers and Google, which makes An­droid, are crow­ing about how they will help us with our dig­i­tal ad­dic­tions — ironic con­sid­er­ing it’s their de­vices that got us hooked in the first place.

Note­wor­thy at this year’s iphone launch is the new in­ter­face. Jobs shocked the world in 2007 by hav­ing a sin­gle but­ton, which the iphone X dropped last year. The new way of nav­i­gat­ing around the phone is su­perb, in­tu­itive and a bold new step. Face ID, as Ap­ple calls it, isn’t prob­lem-free but it is mov­ing ahead. Sam­sung’s fac­ere­cog­ni­tion is, frankly, bet­ter.

Hap­pily, SA is now in an ear­lier re­lease sched­ule, so we get the new iphones to­mor­row, like many top-tier coun­tries.

Per­haps the hype cy­cle of new tech has made us weary, or is it that in­no­va­tion has slowed?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.