Smartphone innovation just ain't what it used to be
In the past year, I've become the schizoid mobile phone user I used to detest. I bought an EVO 3D, got bored after a few months because it felt too much like the EVO it replaced. I then 'experimented' with a less app friendly device, a Blackberry Bold from AT&T for about 2 months before crying uncle and buying a Nexus S off contract, only to get frustrated waiting for ICS, which I traded for a Galaxy Nexus, which left me feeling deja vu all over again.
I threw in the towel and bought an iPhone 4S expecting my world to be rocked. While I don't have anything particularly negative to say about the 4S, I didn't find myself endlessly toying with it as I would any new device which was new and exciting (to me).
Watching the Google Glass demo from Google I/O exposed the frustration I've had over the last year with all the devices I've owned: smartphone innovation is dead baby.
Sure, we're going to see smartphones with better battery life, with better displays, with more powerful specs. The software will get better too.
But for all the use cases a smartphone meets, I can't think of any reason why the smartphone itself will undergo any radical changes. The candybar slab just works. I don't think anyone, even the best at Apple, can find a form factor radically different or fundamentally better at allowing us to be more productive and more mobile. It's the end of the line for the smartphone, the same way a desktop PC from 1998 doesn't look radically different than a desktop PC from 2012. And even if it did look radically different, a la Mac Mini or whatever, it won't make a difference or cause a new way of innovation and use cases for the smartphone.
While it makes me sad to think the next smartphone I buy will be as exciting as going from one version of Windows to another, I find myself hoping I'm correct.
If smartphones are already or soon to be commodity purchases, I'm betting the off-contract costs of smartphones will crumble. I don't see a future for the latest Galaxy whatever or Nexus whatever sold from Google Play costing more than $399. That is the new ceiling IMO. And you'll be able to get serviceable devices which work just fine that cost $199, $249.
Also, it seems the software giants realize this. The next innovation explosion is the ecosystem we will carry around us. The smart watches, the glasses, the personal communicators out of star trek,. the pico projectors built into rings we wear. I would bet $2.85 in 5 years a smartphone is the hub we carry around with us that all these new devices interact with.
And that is exciting. Getting tech outside of the smartphone will open up a flood of innovation and make the discussion go beyond who has the best LCD display or thinnest form factor.
I'm curious what others think.