When Steve Jobs announced the iPhone 10 years ago, he said that Apple would be standing on the shoulders of giants. Those giants had names. And they were Nokia, Microsoft, Blackberry, and Palm.
Today, Nokia lives only as a name. Microsoft’s Windows Mobile became Windows Phone, then nothing. Blackberry was the phone to beat. And that is exactly what happened. Palm, once mighty, is now twice dead. The giants have fallen. And Apple stands on its own: a bigger giant than all of them put together during their best days.
Apple may stand on its own. But it does not stand alone. Google’s Android represents the other giant in the room. The vast majority of the world’s smartphones run on Android. The iPhone has powered Apple’s push to become the most valuable company in the world. Smartphones will never be the same again. Here are some of the ways they have changed:
Apple used to boast about simplicity. Android has always never shied away from its added complexity. But these days, neither platform is particularly easy for a new user to master. Added complexity was inevitable.
Truly simple phones like the Jitterbug phone remind us of just how complex modern smartphones have become. In these days when everything is an app, the Jitterbug provides real tactile buttons on a keypad that you can press without looking. Entering a number is as easy as entering a number.
There are other ways of entering numbers on newer styles of smartphones. But newer ways are not always better ways for many people who grew up with something more straightforward. With iPhones and Android phones, you have to locate and tap an icon on the screen to turn the device into a phone. That is a lot more abstraction than many are willing to deal with. That said, complexity has at least one benefit worth mentioning:
There was a time when true pocket computers were the stuff of geek dreams. Today, pocket computing is a mainstream reality. 2014 smartphones had better screens than most TV sets at the time. For many people, the smartphone has taken over as the primary TV experience.
It has also taken over as the primary gaming machine, reading device, shopping portal, music player, camera, photo album, and so much more. The smartphone is the primary computing device in many parts of the world, and is rapidly becoming so in the US.
We had a flirtation with tablets not many years ago. The iPad remains the only tablet with any success in the market today. But even the iPad has been declining for years. Some say the reason for the tablet’s failure is the upsizing of the smartphone. It became so big and powerful, there was just no need to add a tablet to the mix. Also, a tablet was viewed as an extra. While the smartphone remains an essential.
Some people want to know if an iPad can replace a laptop. But that may be the wrong question. At this point, we should be noting that the smartphone is already replacing the entire computing experience of the up and coming generation of tech users. The smartphone’s transition to computer has been one of the biggest changes no one really saw coming.
The Next 10 Years
The smartphone as we know it is not going anywhere for a long time. It will become more powerful, enough so to replace consumer-grade computers. It is very possible that everything will become a passive screen that is powered by the smartphone.
This idea has been tried by companies like Motorola and Microsoft. But they may have been a little too far ahead of their time. Neither the technology nor the market were ready. But that time is coming soon.
In the meantime, expect smartphones to get smarter, with something akin to human intelligence packed inside the chassis. The cameras will become windows into a new augmented reality. And one day, the batteries might even last all day.
Till then, let us reflect on how far we have come, mourn the simplicity we left behind in the name of progress, and look forward to a time when society grows and smart and progressive as our phones.