Plateau (v.): a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress.
As it currently stands, the smartphone industry is the perfect example of what it means to plateau. It’s stale and easy to predict, but it wasn’t always like this.
Realistically, when I look at most smartphones these days, I can immediately compare it to something similar in looks, performance, and often times both. Most smartphones have a flat, slab design. Sometimes you get a physical keyboard. Sometimes you get something "crazy" like edges, I guess, but even edges seem so gimmicky at this point in time. Most smartphones are fast with very little, if any, lag. Most smartphones have a more-than-sufficient camera. Most smartphones have a resolution so fine that you literally need a magnifying glass to find the individual pixels. Even most of the cheap smartphones are hard to dismiss these days.
Overall, the plateau isn’t a bad thing. Smartphones have just gotten to a point where they’re about as good as they’re going to get with today’s technology. Smartphones have definitely come a long way from when they first started, but I have to admit, it’s definitely not as exciting right now as it once was.
When smartphones were just taking off there was a lot of variation to choose from. These days you can pretty much expect each subsequent release of flagships to look similar to, or almost exactly like, its predecessor. You can expect them to be a little bit faster. You can (most of the time) expect the camera to get a little bit better. If you’re lucky, you’ll have more storage to work with. The resolution will be a little bit better, even though at this point it’s really hard to tell. The screen will probably get a little bit bigger. The material the phone is made out of might be different.
I was just looking back at my Galaxy S6 vs. HTC One M9 article that I wrote not too long ago, when I asked readers which one they thought would be more popular this year given that they always seem to go head-to-head each year. Although I’m still confident (probably now more than ever given the recent leaks regarding the M9) that the Galaxy S6 will end up coming out on top, the reasons that I gave to back up my prediction were so tedious, not to mention were all things that have already been done, or have needed to be fixed for a long time. Oh, metal. Neat. Less stuff on TouchWiz. Cool. That’s about as exciting as I predict it will get.
And, speaking of the One M9, if the aforementioned leaks are any indication of what we can expect to see on March 2nd, the M9 will be nearly identical to the M8 in terms of design. Again, not a bad thing, but it’s not breathtaking anymore, either. We’ve seen it before.
Next generation smartphones are simply tune-ups at this point in time for the most part, fixing the little things that weren’t perfect with the previous generation. The problem here isn’t that nothing is changing, though, because modern-day smartphones are pretty awesome, all things considered. It’s just a bit boring at this point, when you already know what to expect. There’s not many elements of surprise anymore. I miss that.
But, as with all plateaus, we can expect things to pick up again eventually. Hopefully there’s something crazy cool in the works that we will see within the next couple of years – maybe something similar to Parks and Recreation’s Gryzzl tablet or Gryzzl phone, which used holographic displays. That could be a neat concept.
Who knows? But until then, we’ll make do with the incremental improvements we get each year. I still love phones as much as I always have, but I’m not afraid to admit that I’m looking forward to when the industry is able to really show off some true innovation again.