Smartphones Approaching Mature, Commodity Phase?

I think smartphones are getting close to being a mature, boring, useful, inexpensive commodity hardware product. Similar to where desktops were 10+ years ago, and laptops within the last 5-10 years.

I have been an Android user for 3 years now. I am on my third, soon to be fourth, phone. I have a Sensation, first-generation dual-core. It definitely has room for improvement. But my wife has a Galaxy S2, late second-generation dual-core. Whenever I use it, it still feels like a great, up-to-date, blazingly responsive device with a huge, beautiful display.

The newly-released Samsung Galaxy S3, at 4.8″,  seems to be getting as large as anyone would want (I know, could be famous last words. 🙂 )

Display resolutions are fantastic, and maxing out what the human eye can discern. The top phones exceed 300 dpi, which is the standard for high-quality print.

Processors seem to have gotten faster than needed, other than for gaming.

Phones now come with tons of memory–even before you factor in the SD card. I have not run out of memory on any of my 3 Android phones.

Cameras are getting extremely good–especially combined with powerful software–making point-and-shoot obsolete. Seems like any barrier to major improvements involves lenses, which may be a physical fact of life.

Mobile data speed has not really been that big a driver of phone upgrades, but at any rate, as that hits 21-42 Mbps, it is also maxing out…far faster, already, than home internet. That’s fast enough. Let’s work on making coverage better, and service cheaper.

The Android OS is getting mature and stable. I have ICS on my current phone. It is marginally nicer than Gingerbread, and mostly in an eye-candy way. I think it’s bigger impact is on app design, but even that isn’t such a big deal. The prior Gingerbread upgrade was even less of an event. Like Windows XP–anything Froyo or beyond is fine for most people.

Of course there are areas for incremental improvement:

  • Notably, battery life/capacity
  • I would also put wireless charging high on the list
  • Novel features and protocols, such as NFC and S-beam
  • Ever-thinner–but they are getting pretty thin
  • Ruggedizing

I also think the same maturing is true with tablets. In fact, the two most exciting recent tablets have been exciting not for their specs or features, but for their price point of $199. I am speaking of the Kindle Fire, and the newly-announced Nexus tablet.

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