Why smartphones don’t add so much glitter to our lives anymore

The smartphone market seems to have more and more difficulty in bringing big innovations capable of stirring up passions. The phenomenon is explained by pragmatic reasons.

Why smartphones don't add so much glitter to our lives anymore
Is the smartphone market becoming… boring?

Do you know what carcinization is? This is a rather peculiar phenomenon by which several different species of crustaceans evolve into forms resembling those of crabs, which are more conducive to survival. It’s an exciting case of evolutionary convergence that actually inspired a YouTuber video DirtyBiology. And it is clear that this trend is also found on the smartphone market.

Obviously, smartphones do not look like crabs, but it is becoming very difficult today to really differentiate them, both aesthetically and technically. A very logical observation, but also a little bitter.

The turning points of 2007 then 2017

Let’s talk about the design first. With its iPhone, Apple revolutionized mobile telephony in 2007, but it also popularized the smartphone format with touch screen. Apart from a few alternatives that have tried to survive — like keyboard BlackBerrys –, the industry converged on this design since it suited the vast majority of users.

However, for years, almost all smartphones unfortunately suffered from very large borders around the screen. The front surface of the devices was not fully exploited. We will have to wait until 2017 to see another major transformation: the transition to the 18:9 ratio (and other fairly elongated formats) to replace the traditional 16:9.

Why smartphones don't add so much glitter to our lives anymore
The Samsung Galaxy S8 // Source: Frandroid

We remember, for example, Samsung Galaxy S8 or LG G6two models that have really contributed to this change in aesthetic paradigm allowing not only to offer larger screens without increasing the size of the smartphone (in theory), but also to refine the borders on the front to make the devices much prettier .

Inevitably, during the years that followed, the various brands of smartphones continued to refine this design ” borderless » and technical advances for integrate the selfie camera under the screen are part of this movement. But in the meantime, we find ourselves with a good number of smartphones that are very difficult to distinguish from each other just by looking at the front panel.

Why smartphones don't add so much glitter to our lives anymore
The LG G6 // Source: Frandroid

Over time, smartphones have simply become more sophisticated to adopt the best possible form, the most likely to appeal to the general public. Like crustaceans that turn into crabs. In itself, this is obviously a good thing, but it is also synonymous with a certain standardization of the market which no longer leaves much room for boldness and surprise.

The true-false counter-example of foldable smartphones

To contradict this observation, we could cite foldable smartphones that promise to upset our habits. The future will tell us if this format will be able to impose itself or not, but it is true that the design and the use are very different. There is enough to see exciting innovations for the coming years!

However, even if they are breaking, these foldable smartphones are already tending to standardize as well. Indeed, for a time, a question arose: is it better to have a phone that folds inwards or outwards?

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
The half-folded Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 // Source: Anthony Wonner – Frandroid

Quickly, the first solution imposed itself with Galaxy Z Fold 3, Honor Magic V, Oppo Find N and Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold which fold inward. Even Huawei, which nevertheless favored the opposite at the beginning, ended up giving in with its Mate X2.

The inward fold has simply gradually emerged as the most future-proof for the longevity of folding smartphones.

A technological glass ceiling

This standardization is also felt through the technical sheets of our phones. The tech market has often operated on a trickle-down basis. In other words, innovations arrive first on the most expensive smartphones before gradually being deployed on more affordable models as technologies become more mastered and less expensive.

Oppo Find X5 Pro
The Oppo Find X5 Pro, one of the best smartphones at the start of 2022 // Source: Anthony Wonner – Frandroid

However, high-end smartphones are struggling today to preserve this role as locomotives, because they already excel in several areas (screen, photo, performance, fast charge, interface, etc.). Of course, each new generation brings its share of novelties, but these are usually content to improve a few details here and there, to refine a recipe already mastered and convincing. Really game-changing innovations are becoming increasingly rare as we move inexorably closer to a technological glass ceiling.

Take for example the three flagship smartphones of MWC 2022 : the Realme GT 2 Prothe OnePlus 10 Pro and the Honor Magic 4 Pro. All three have a neat OLED screen, a Snadragon 8 Gen 1 and a big fast charge. Finally, they especially try to stand out with their photo functions full of promise.

Why smartphones don't add so much glitter to our lives anymore
The back of the Honor Magic 4 Pro // Source: Anthony Wonner – Frandroid

But said functions may only be used by a small part of users and above all they do not revolutionize the user experience. These are additional options that simply enrich an already very good base.

A soft belly

The smartphone market obeys a very simple law: to arouse interest with each release, the products must be improved, which makes it possible to have strong sales arguments. However, we are reaching a point where this cycle is running out of steam.

It would obviously be awkward to complain that our smartphones have become too good. But it is interesting to realize the little soft underbelly in which we currently find ourselves. Soft belly that is likely to last over time as indicated by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo on Twitter.

There seems no reason to be optimistic about the 2022 mobile phone market. Cutting orders from the highest-end (Apple) and lowest-end (Transsion) brands imply the mobile phone industry is facing structural challenges.

— Ming-Chi Kuo (@mingchikuo) March 14, 2022

«There does not seem to be any reason to be optimistic about the mobile phone market for 2022. The reduction in orders from the most high-end brands (Apple) and the most entry-level (Transsion) implies that the industry of mobile telephony is facing structural challenges“, writes the specialist.

To understand: the smartphone market is not currently the most dynamic. And if there are a plethora of causes for this loss of speed, the difficulty of manufacturers to renew their ranges in a relevant way is probably also for something.

Positive effects?

Despite the smallbluesthat we could feel at the idea of ​​a sector of one that can no longer impress us, there are also positive effects to report. First of all, it should be noted that this product improvement allows people on a limited budget to find smartphones with good qualities in affordable price segments.

Redmi Note 11
The Redmi Note 11 has an attractive technical sheet for a very affordable price // Source: Anthony Wonner – Frandroid

From 150-200 euro, there are very few truly bad smartphones. Some may be too expensive for what they offer, but they still meet the most essential criteria.

In addition, this context may encourage people to keep their smartphones longer. When you are less excited about the latest model released, you are less tempted by the renewal of your product. As long as the manufacturers reinforce their software monitoring like Samsung recently, there is material here to promote good eco-responsible behavior.

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