The last smartphone I was really excited about was the BlackBerry Z10. But it’s probably not what you think. It wasn’t exactly the device I was anticipating per se, but the new OS. Being a longtime BlackBerry user, (I used other OSes along side, but I have always had at least one BlackBerry in my pocket…at all times) the thought of shifting from an OS and device which I could still use well enough with my eyes shut, to something totally new and far removed from the norm of the legacy BlackBerry OS, iOS and android that I had gotten used to, to something that was trying to change the status quo was exciting. Will it be any good? Will it the change be too harsh? Will it be intuitive? etc. Such questions fed the anticipation.
The OS and hardware came a lot later than expected thanks to multiple delays on BlackBerry’s part and the delays only made the anticipation heighten because we were being peppered with leaks, including this exclusive we got, which eventually became one of the biggest stories on Techsuplex–almost all the top technology outlets, from CNET, to CrackBerry to Engadget and loads more linked in to that post.
Each leak seemed to tease a bit more than the last, making the anticipation even higher. So the stakes were high, and I honestly didn’t expect BlackBerry to get any sort of cohesive experience on the first try, but somehow, even with the shortcomings, of which there were a bunch, they delivered an experience that was different, yet usable.
After the launch, I got the Z10, which I loved (you can read my review here), the other BlackBerry 10 devices seem to come in quick succession, the Q10, Q5 and Z30. (The Z3 hasn’t made it through my hands yet) and with each cycle, OS updates, fine tuning the device adding little nuggets here and there, smoothening things up…all making for an exciting OS.
To a lesser extent, Windows Phone too had the same effect on me, lesser because I had a horrible first experience with Windows Phone (The desire HD7) and I think I’m still scarred. The living with the Lumia series brought me back a bit but I have deliberately stayed away (think detox) and I will be taking the plunge again soon with Windows Phone 8.1, which as an OS, is a lot more wholesome).
The Z30 is my daily driver now (and probably the longest daily driver I have had in a bit) and I think it’s an awesome device, one of the most fun ones I have used and even though there have been many great devices since the Z30, none of them have really excited me to those levels per se, The question though, is why?
I think the reason is that we have gotten to a saturation point of sorts. We are getting to the point where hardware is much less of a differentiator than it used to be; want the coolest camera? Every hardware maker can order the same camera sensors on the iPhone 5s from sony. Processors? Every OEM can get the top of the line chip from Qualcomm, Displays? LG, Samsung and a bunch of other companies will, for the right price, offer you as many pixels as is possible right now to squeeze into whatever display size you want and whether your eyes will notice the difference without a cursory glance at the spec sheet is another story. Or you think fingerprint scanners on smartphones are so cutting edge that they are a differentiator? Sorry to burst your bubble, but the Motorola Atrix had that so long ago that Joshua Topolsky (co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Verge) was still at Engadget when he reviewed it.
Even with software, the differences aren’t so much except for a few specialised needs (e.g. banking services, health services, etc), there is almost nothing you can’t do on all the major smartphone OSes today. They obviously each have their own strengths and weaknesses, but at the basic level, they will do almost everything you need of a smartphone today. Every other thing is either marketed down your throat or appeals to your personal taste. It’s either you like the build and apps and cool factor of an iPhone, or you like how vibrant a Samsung display is, the custom software and how light the hardware is, or you like the build of a HTC or the sturdy and colorful Nokias or the Keyboard or equally sturdy build of a BlackBerry. Or maybe what you like best is the cost of a Tecno. It’s personal taste (which can be moulded via marketing) that’s the major selling point for most devices right now.
So asides marketing (and trust me, some of the Ohs and Ahs you read as reviews are basically marketing), what’s left as differentiators?
We’ll pick it up from here in part Two.