You knew this day was coming, right? Technology changes. The smartphone as we know it will be replaced. By something. Some day. Why? Technologist Steve Ranger says so.
My basic argument is that the end is near for the smartphone, in a number of ways. The shape, size, and design is mostly settled, and while smartphone companies are still cramming more technology into these devices, consumers are showing very little interest in that. We’re pretty happy with the handsets we have and there’s no new must-have feature on the horizon.
So, let’s change it all and do something else. Uh huh. If consumers are showing very little interest then how is it that Apple, Samsung, and other smartphone manufacturers still sell many hundreds of millions of new smartphones every year?
We’ve been reading about how the PC is dead and we’re living in the post-PC era already, yet I use my Mac more than my iPhone, and I get a new Mac every x-number of years and the Mac is selling at record numbers.
Consumers are also benefiting from a hyper-competitive smartphone market that’s becoming saturated and commoditised, all of which means we can buy cheap but extremely powerful handsets. A $200 smartphone can do pretty much the same things as a $1,000 one.
Yes, and a $10,000 Kia can do pretty much the same things as a $75,000 Lexus or BMW or, well… insert your own list of many far more expensive brands here… Just as we humans do not all buy the same vehicle, or the same clothing, or eat all the same foods, we’re not likely to all suddenly switch to a $200 smartphone because they all do the same things.
They don’t. There is brand differentiation, functionality differences, and people have long been willing to pay for those differences.
This is great for us, but less great for the smartphone companies — particularly the big brands wanting to charge a premium for flagship handsets. To be clear, we will still use our smartphones, and will for years to come.
And yet, those big brands, Apple and Samsung, respectively, take home almost all of the smartphone industry’s profits every year. The real question should be, ‘Why do those other manufacturers still sell smartphones?‘
Technology changes. Technology companies are moving the industry forward in whatever direction they can control or influence, but the change is a constant; just as the search for the next great thing is a constant– for those companies that can afford it.
Whether you like it or not, the economics of the smartphone market mean the tech giants are already searching for the Next Big Thing.
The economics of the smartphone market have little to do with such search and future changes. It’s the nature of the industry.
And if the smartphone is to become just one device among many, what does that do to the business models of some of the world’s largest tech companies, where the rising profits demanded by investors can only be generated by knowing more and more about us?
Oh, I don’t know. Maybe those large technology companies will build some of those devices that work among many.
So, is the smartphone dead already? Is it dying? If so, when? If so, how? What will replace it?
You see, I struggle with the idea that the smartphone is the complete and final incarnation of the gadget that we will carry around with us.
Just because it is right now, there’s no reason why it should be forever. Predicting the future is always fraught with risk — but predicting the end of history has an even worse track record.
Duh. Yet, that’s exactly what you did, Steve. You predicted the future (smartphones will die) but offered no timeline or schedule or events.
What could take the place of smartphones? The large screen means, like the personal computer, a smartphone of sorts will be around for a long, long time. I like the idea of smartglasses, but that’s not exactly a new idea and until the technology reaches such miniaturization, not likely to take my Mac or my iPhone from my cold dead hands.