For about three decades now, PCs or Macs were the machines that took care of personal computing – that is where all the advances were, and that is where majority of the sales were. Come 2007 and the world saw the revival of the mobile revolution in the form of a highly disruptive handheld product, the iPhone. Much of what the mobile industry does today revolves around the basic architecture set by the iPhone.
Today, mobile technology is leaps and bounds beyond what we can imagine. I think the consumer is no more the driver of technological innovation in the mobile industry. It is competition within the industry! The battle is definitely for a majority stake in the market share, but the intent is to stay ahead of the competition irrespective of what the consumer wants. A perfect example is the video below…
It’s not that the people shown in the video represent a majority, but the video does drive down the idea that consumer is no more the king. We no more choose what is best for us: we choose whatever is the best of the lot available. We were just settling down with those Snapdragon S4 Pros and Qualcomm just announced the new 800, and 600 series of processors – so did Nvidia (Tegra 4 aka Wayne) and so did Samsung (Exynos Octa). It’s not like the S4 Pros were showing any lag on the Lumia 920s, 8Xs and the S3s. It’s just their way of saying – wait, there’s more we can do. We are spoiled for choice these days.
When we go to buy a phone, let’s say a smart-phone, we have a horde of devices available for consideration. How do we decide what is best for us? I have seen friends discuss their smartphones’ processing speeds, the screen sizes, or the RAMs, but in the end, none of them seem to utilize those ‘powers’ in a way that justifies the capabilities of their phones. Yes, there are the power-users but then that is a limited lot if you ask me.
So what went wrong?
Today, a phone is more than just a phone. For one, it is an on-the-go social networking tool, for the other, it is an internet surfing cum reading device, or a gaming device and for another, it is a live music streaming device. Irrespective of the usage, the smart-phone has been positioned as a central hub in our lives.
We expect every phone to be a miracle. Doesn’t matter who the manufacturer is. Incremental changes in hardware don’t interest us anymore. We rate those lower than previous, because of a huge expectations’ drive. The entire consumer mentality has come to expect that given a year of development, a manufacturer would be treading on the edge of a cliff if their next phone didn’t bring, to market, features worthy of at least a year’s exclusivity. And what’s more, we get asphyxiated if a new smart-phone is not launched at an over-the-top event. What happened that shaped our minds into raising the benchmarks so high? Two words – Steve Jobs.
I consider myself a tech-enthusiast. And, I was as amazed as you were when the late Steve Jobs gave that ground-breaking iPhone presentation and maybe when he unveiled a couple of other Apple products. It was like – THIS. IS. THE. THING. MAN! But, if you think about it, in some ways, Steve Jobs defined what you needed from a smart-phone, from your iPhone. He almost dumbed us down. (I admire Steve Jobs, but all I mean to say is that he was ‘the influencer’, for better or worse).
Lack Of Needs Analysis
Another reason we generally end up with more than what we needed is that we never think of what we needed in the first place. We choose to stay ahead of people we know in terms of which smart-phone we have and what its specifications are, not in terms of what we did with that phone.
There is nothing wrong in that. But, then there’s nothing wrong in accepting that either. How many people out there think of their usage ahead of the phone’s specifications when we buy one? Agreed that, when we buy a phone, we are investing for at least 2 years and that we don’t want to be holding a legacy device one year down the line. But then there is always that buffer we need to put between known features we invest in and features we don’t know we may need in the future. So, my phone should fit somewhere between such that I don’t become a loser in the months to come.
Anyways, let’s just wrap up and say be happy that the last 5-6 years have been amazing for the tech world. There have been products, competitors, patent litigations, acquisitions, and so on, on the business end. Then there was foul-mouthing, ego tussles, fan-boys, and so on, on the emotional end. But the consumer, us, has benefited from all that. No doubts! There was a time when products were first invented for the big corps or for research purposes, and then stripped down for the mass market. Now, products are invented straight up for the consumer. That is a great thing for us.
So while you finish reading this article I hope that there has been some perspective added. If not, then never mind. Just go and splash some cash on the costliest, biggest and smartest of the smartphones.
And while you’re at it, I guess I’ll just wait for THE NEXT BIG THING!
This article was first posted on January 27, 2013