Incremental Updates Have All But Killed Innovation

Editorial / Mobile / Tech

So I’m Cranky Today

Sometime next week I should be receiving a shiny new Moto X Pure and Apple iPhone 6s Plus, both 64GB versions. These are Motorola and Apple’s newest flagship devices shipping for 2015 and many users are abuzz over them. Apple’s latest promises 3D Touch as well as an upgraded camera and better Siri performance. Motorola’s X Pure is packing in a 20MP shooter and of course Moto’s little software tweaks. Patrick_Is_Bored_With_Smartphone_TechAm I excited to get my hands on these babies? Well, sure I am, I admit I’m somewhat blinded by new toys when they arrive at my doorstep. But as I’ve been writing about technology for over 3 years now, I’ve also begun to become somewhat of a pessimist and curmudgeon and lately I’ve felt that incremental updates have all but killed innovation and the blame lay squarely on us.

More Megapixels Bro

Probably one of the single most incrementally updated parts of the smartphone is the camera. Whether it’s packing in more megapixels or upgrading the sensor to a better f-stop we all lose our minds when we find out the camera is going to be better. Problem is, most camera updates are only marginally better than the previous version. megapixel_excitmentYou’d be hard pressed to find a huge difference in the iPhone 6 camera vs the iPhone 5s camera. Sure there are some differences but it’s hardly anything a normal user would notice in day to day social media and family sharing environment (and that’s 95% of smartphone users).

Each year Apple and Android parade their latest pictures taken with (insert flagship name here) to the ooohs and ahhhs of fanboys everywhere. Pictures taken by professional photographers with professional lighting equipment who just happen to know how to make appropriate adjustments to the camera’s ISO, White Balance and other important functions. We tend to forget that 95% of us (there’s that number again) basically point and shoot so most of us won’t be seeing those picturesque landscape moments. Instead, you’ll probably end up with pictures of your lunch that look a lot like the pictures of your lunch that you took with last years device.

Use The Force And Flick Your Wrist

Of course each year we have to have the token software/hardware feature like Motorola’s flick your wrist to start the camera, innovation and uselessness at its best. Motorola is likely to have some new Moto tricks up its sleeve this year too and don’t get me wrong, they’re not all useless but also not astonishing or groundbreaking. 3d_touch_seriouslyApple’s 3D Touch is set to debut on the iPhone 6s and despite a Forbes writer’s insistence that it is not haptic technology (which it basically is, renamed the Taptic Engine) the only thing that is really intriguing about it is the software implementation.

Seems smartphone makers are working just hard enough to make things lukewarm interesting but not hard enough to make you jump out of the water due to the heat. Apple’s user interface hasn’t changed much since the original iPhone, go ahead and argue otherwise but don’t let your fanboy show too much. Android’s only real advantage is the ability to customize the look of your phone, no its larger specs don’t make a difference to the 95% (damn that number). Smartphone design, both hardware and software, have fallen into the gimmicky pool and seem to be enjoying themselves in the deep end.

It’s Our Fault

Yeah, mine too. Our fault because we scatter like sheep (yes Android and iOS are equal in their Ovis aries) at the first mention of a Nexus device or iPhone. The latest Nexus devices are set to be announced soon and just about two months after that, we’ll start hearing rumors, rumblings and leaks of the next iPhone and Nexus devices (and we will likely publish those here as well). @upleaks and @evleaks will be fed their material by some backroom public relations firm with no name or face.Android_And_Apple_Sheep Because we know these leaks aren’t strategically planned marketing tools to get the Ovis aries scattering for a looksee (sarcasm).

When did we stop demanding the wOw factor? When did we start settling for scraps of bread and give up the meat? Why do we let Apple, Google, Microsoft, Blackberry and the rest of them simply give us just enough to get us by? And why are we satisfied with that? Maybe it’s time to stop upgrading our phones every six months, year or even two. The way smartphones stand right now you could plausibly get away with using your iPhone 6s or Moto X Pure for 4 years. Sure you might not be able to run a few apps here and there in 4 years on older hardware but are those apps the wOw factor for you? I’m not trying to kid myself here, a sudden mass brake check on smartphone upgrades is likely not going to happen. The same vicious cycle will continue to repeat itself and I’ll more than likely be right in the same herd as everybody else.

Just Give Me More Already

So we know we’re all going to flock alongside our fellow Ovis aries excitedly chasing the proverbial carrot on a stick year in and year out. The OEM’s know this too and they’re not likely to change the size or look of that carrot very much each year. What we need is someone to break that cycle, show us something we haven’t seen, show us something useful, show us the wOw factor. Sure there has been an attempt with marketing slogans like “The Flagship Killer” but that turned out to be nothing more than the Canis lupus among the Ovis aries.

Do I have some sort of idea of how that wOw factor can be achieved? No. Of course not. I’m just a technology journalist and consumer who likes tech gadgetry, it’s not my job to come up with the ideas.nerd_rage That’s the software and hardware engineers jobs from the very large corporations who year after year take your hard earned money for essentially the same device. I’m not the one you need to demand more from. Maybe it’s time to take off the fanboy blinders, stop trying to justify our purchases year after year and hold their toes to the fire. Or maybe we just need fresh blood in the market, someone who has new ideas and is ready to forge ahead to unpack the wOw factor? I don’t have the answers, I don’t pretend that I do.

What I do know is… just give me more already, incremental updates are getting boring.

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