Sunday, December 17, 2017

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Tech Talk

Phone innovation is over

10/4/2017

Nothing Apple announced is awe-inspiring

Oh, my word, did you see what the new iPhone can do? It can wirelessly charge! It allows users to create custom emojis! You can edit screenshots! It has a processor five times as fast as lightning! The screen goes all the way to the edges! The new iPhone has pushed us literally to the edge of technological innovation. This truly is the greatest time to be alive!

Except it is not. All the things Apple unveiled last month at their giant promotional event for the brand-new iPhone 8, 8s and iPhone X have been on the market for years. No, they haven’t been available in iPhone form, but Samsung, LG, HTC and Motorola — basically Android carrying phones — all offered one or all of the latest and greatest iPhone tricks. So why is the market reacting like Apple has flipped the tech world on its head?

Ten years ago, when the iPhone came out, Steve Jobs truly revolutionized the tech world. There had been smartphones before, there had been picture phones before, there had even been touchscreens before, but none of them were as close to perfect as the iPhone. That collection of tools and the pristine design of the iPhone made everyone in the industry look at their offerings and realize they were selling ugly, slow bricks. Jobs and crew ate their lunch. It took half a decade for the industry to catch up with reasonable facsimiles. But since that moment of parity, Apple has been the one playing catch up.

No one should be camping outside Apple stores waiting for the iPhone 8, 8s or iPhone X. While the original iPhone made fools of the industry by remixing the available tech, the new iPhones are sad attempts at trying out other companies’ tech. First the bezel-less screen (meaning no edge around the screen) is a lie. There is a definite and easily noticeable edge to the iPhone screen. Samsung has been offering phones with wrap around screens for years now, and even the 2017 “Essential Phone,” manufactured by recent newcomer Essential Products, has a more realistic flat-faced, bezel-less smart phone. So, for no apparent reason, Apple is lying to its customers.

As for custom gifs and emojis baked in to the device? Worthless. Apps have been providing this for almost as long as the App Store has existed. Next up: editing screenshots. Why would a company market something that its competing platform has offered since its launch? This only points out Apple’s stubborn nature to tell customers what they want as opposed to meeting user desires. Finally, wireless charging. The fact that third-party suppliers have been offering this tech on Android, Microsoft and Blackberry phones for a decade makes Apple’s blasting of trumpets about its new wireless capability embarrassing. Making matters worse, Apple isn’t even manufacturing this function. It’s being commissioned by a third-party manufacturer just like all its competitors.

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All right, enough bashing on Apple. The truth is that innovation at the manufacturing level is nearly dead when it comes to smart phones. Yes, there are incredible advancements in medical tech in smart phone cameras, but nothing Apple announced is awe-inspiring. This month Google’s announcement about its new Pixel 2 will be equally pathetic.

These announcements are all about marketing and stock price. You could hold onto your 3-year-old Samsung 5, iPhone 6, Nexus 6p or HTC One for another four years and be happy with their functionality, but that won’t keep the shareholders happy. These lame “innovations” and phone iterations are not about you or even the tech. They are all about sales. ♦

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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