Three years ago, I came to the conclusion that smartphones had gotten boring, and while some argued at the time that my position was premature, I think time has vindicated that position.
In fact, for the past few years, I have responded to inquiries about smartphone recommendations (except in a few cases, where the intending user is specific about certain features or use-cases) with “buy whatever you can afford, they pretty much do the same thing.”
Think about it, if you wrote the names of all the smartphones from last year on small bits of paper and randomly picked one, would you really be missing anything? Regardless of what device you picked, you’ll get one with a decent display, a decent enough battery, a relatively serviceable OS, and okay performance. Ultimately, it’ll be something usable, unlike a few years ago when such a choice might mean that you could pick a device that was totally and utterly useless to you in your day-to-day life.
In the second part of my post about reaching the saturation point with regards to smartphones, I argued that at the time, what was left to differentiate smartphones were the battery life, content and services and how well they (smartphones) integrate into our everyday lives.
Looking back now, even those aren’t such big differentiators anymore, battery life? Pretty much every device is in the “serviceable” spectrum. Content? You may nitpick about Apple’s ecosystem or Google’s but the differences aren’t really that glaring. iTunes or Google Play? Apple Music or Google Play Music? Chrome or Safari? Siri or Google Assistant? Google Maps or Apple Maps? You can live with either choice or a mix and match of both (as some of these services are now cross platform) and you won’t be missing anything major.
Integration with our everyday life is pretty much what’s left and at this point, I can’t say the ecosystem in that regard has developed to the point where any platform has a clear advantage.
That said, I’m excited about smartphones again, especially with the new flagship devices across board. I feel like they are beginning to open new frontiers of differentiation.
For instance, mobile photography has gone from a box to be ticked—fancy instagram-able photos— to an actual push that may disrupt DSLRs and their kind in the near feature. And with the two main assistants (Siri and Google Assistant) making the leap from smartphones to laptops, to speakers and other devices, and going beyond replying us with fancy quips to actually monitoring and controlling more things…from our calendars to our lights and electronics, I feel like they are truly now also making the move into integrating into our everyday lives much better than we could have dreamed of a few years ago, to a point where the device, which we used for voice calls and texts only just a few years ago might become a central hub for our daily lives. There’s VR as well, which potentially can change the way we interact with computers, the world or each other.
I haven’t used a new phone as a daily driver, since the BlackBerry Passport (really awesome in my opinion still, and I intend to keep using it for as long as I can) and the BlackBerry Priv (which, I’ll be dropping soon, as the device has ground to almost a halt over time) and to be honest, I haven’t felt like I was missing much, with each new device and each new OS update till now.
Mobile photography, the assistants and user experience generally in my opinion have jumped several steps ahead, to the point where if you’re still on devices from that generation, you are actually missing a lot of what the smartphone experience is in 2017.
No other devices epitomise the awesomeness of what a smartphone should be in this day an age, like the current flagships from Samsung (the Galaxy Note 8), the flagship from Apple (the iPhone X) and the flagship from Google (the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL).
If you had to get a device on the bleeding edge today, in my opinion, it’ll have to be one of the above.
And I have pitched my tent. (More on this decision in a subsequent post, but in summary, I think its the smartest smartphone out now and also the smartphone with the best camera out now).
Which way are you going?