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Android Businesses Iphone Hardware

We've Reached Peak Smartphone (washingtonpost.com) 222

You don't really need a new smartphone. From a column on the Washington Post (may be paywalled): Sure, some of them squeeze more screen into a smaller form. The cameras keep getting better, if you look very close. And you had to live under a rock to miss the hoopla for Apple's 10th-anniversary iPhone X or the Samsung Galaxy S8. Many in the smartphone business were sure this latest crop would bring a "super cycle" of upgrades. But here's the reality: More and more of Americans have decided we don't need to upgrade every year. Or every other year. We're no longer locked into two-year contracts and phones are way sturdier than they used to be. And the new stuff just isn't that tantalizing even to me, a professional gadget guy. Holding onto our phones is better for our budgets, not to mention the environment. This just means we -- and phone makers -- need to start thinking of them more like cars. We may have reached peak smartphone. Global shipments slipped 0.1 percent in 2017 -- the first ever decline, according to research firm IDC. In the United States, smartphone shipments grew just 1.6 percent, the smallest increase ever. Back in 2015, Americans replaced their phones after 23.6 months, on average, according to research firm Kantar Worldpanel. By the end of 2017, we were holding onto them for 25.3 months.
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We've Reached Peak Smartphone

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  • Market saturation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sanf780 ( 4055211 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @09:28AM (#56146710)
    I believe the term that you need is "market saturation" of "good enough goods". The new devices promise more CPU and GPU power, but most people including me do not tap that power. It also does not help that recent OS versions have changed graphics, and people do not want to learn old things anew.
    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

      I believe the term that you need is "market saturation" of "good enough goods". The new devices promise more CPU and GPU power, but most people including me do not tap that power. It also does not help that recent OS versions have changed graphics, and people do not want to learn old things anew.

      According to free market capitalism there is no such thing as "good enough goods". There are supposed to be an infinite amount of innovation of products and services to sell in the market and produce capital. That's the entire underpinning of the entire Capitalist economic system. If we suddenly run out of new products and services to sell because no one desires anything better and everyone is cool with life as-is, the whole market collapses. What do we do then?

      • Re:Market saturation (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @09:49AM (#56146762)

        Yes, but there comes a point where "good enough" is not worth the cost of improving.

        As a n example, look at aircraft - in the early days of flight there were many improvements constantly appearing and aircraft got better and better, until we reached the 747 and Concorde (2 planes that performed different tasks - one efficient, one fast) and that's pretty much where the state of the art stopped. Nobody tried to make a new plane for a very long time after those, and even today when the first new models came out, one is bankrupting the company because its "too good" to be useful and isn't cost-effective for the customers.

        So everything reaches a plateau. I would think a S curve to technology improvements is mostly appropriate for even smartphones. Until a breakthrough technology like holographic or neuro-injected displays appears!

        • Re:Market saturation (Score:4, Informative)

          by Stephan Schulz ( 948 ) <schulz@eprover.org> on Sunday February 18, 2018 @10:10AM (#56146818) Homepage

          As a n example, look at aircraft - in the early days of flight there were many improvements constantly appearing and aircraft got better and better, until we reached the 747 and Concorde (2 planes that performed different tasks - one efficient, one fast) and that's pretty much where the state of the art stopped.

          I'm sorry, but you know very little about modern aircraft. A modern 747 is no more similar to the 1970 model, than an iPhone X is similar to the original iPhone. Take a look at the 747 prototype [wikipedia.org] vs. a semi-current 747-8F [wikipedia.org] and check e.g. the size of the engine pods.

          • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

            And a 2018 Honda Civic has many more bells and whistles than one made in 1988 - but it's still a midsized ICE car. Whoop de do.

          • by mspohr ( 589790 )

            Just incremental improvements to efficiency.
            Nothing radically better.

        • Re:Market saturation (Score:4, Interesting)

          by mikael ( 484 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @10:21AM (#56146850)

          Aircraft have continued to improve. Fly-by-wire systems. Lighter and stronger materials. Better fuel efficiency and quieter engines through advanced CFD modeling. More cost-effiective maintenance by having telemetry sent straight to the manufacturer. So parts can be sent to the next maintenance call before pilots report a problem. Some components are made from carbon-fibre for strength.

          But the basic general shape of an aircraft hasn't changed. It's a slow refinement process. You'll notice that the tips of wings have little wings themselves or actually curved upwards. That's to reduce drag due to wingtip vortices. The flight-control software continues to get upgrades.

          • Re:Market saturation (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Zuriel ( 1760072 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @10:41AM (#56146926)

            It's not just refinement of existing designs - manufacturers are starting to experiment with electric aircraft now. Batteries don't have the capacity for long flights yet, but short hops are starting to look doable. Not to mention automated drones that can carry people. There was a hybrid aircraft announced late last year which had three ordinary jet engines, one electric engine, batteries and a generator.

            There's going to be some exciting developments in aircraft in the next few decades. They'll mostly have wings, a tail and a point at the front, but there's still a lot of stuff happening.

        • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

          Yes, but there comes a point where "good enough" is not worth the cost of improving.

          That's precisely my point. Moreover, what happens when the improvement in terms of effect to quality of life is so negligible that you can't formulate a value proposition for a sale? What then? Unemployment line?

      • Re:Market saturation (Score:4, Interesting)

        by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @10:07AM (#56146808)
        I don't think it's a problem as just because a smart phone has become "good enough" does not mean that there aren't plenty of other things that aren't "good enough" and worth improving upon or that we have invented everything that we need or would like to have. But even if we somehow manage to get to that magically point in time where any improvements to existing products have hit a wall of diminishing returns and can't imagine anything else we need, I don't think it's the end of the road.

        Just as we've seen with music and art, the next generation is not satisfied with their parents' music and there's no reason to think that "not your father's smartphone" won't be a thing either. You can even argue that much like with music that today's fare is nowhere near as good as what proceeded it in the 60's, 70's, or whatever other magical time period you want to use, that we'll see the same with phones. There may be no objective improvements and subjectively some will find the changes worse, but the new generation will want something of their own that defines them. Never mind the power of branding as social status which we already see driving a lot of purchasing decisions and there's plenty of room for continuing on into the future.

        The wheels of our economy don't depend on things getting demonstrably better in order to keep turning. They merely require that people keep wanting to buy things and engaging in economic exchange with one and other to obtain them. That those things may change over time is largely inconsequential, or we'd already be reeling from the losses seen the the horsewhip and buggy industries over 100 years ago, the utter destruction of the typewriter industry, and the massive number of jobs lost when we get rid of all of those telephone switch operators.

        If there's any major economic upheaval it will come from automated robots that are capable of laboring for humans and can be set to any task such that there's no need for a person who owns one to buy shoes since the robot can do all of the necessary labor from raising the food for the animals to be used for their leather all the way to molding the rubber soles and stitching the whole thing together for you and then keeping it in good repair. I think that's sufficiently far off into the future that it's not worth worrying about right now.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

          I don't think it's a problem as just because a smart phone has become "good enough" does not mean that there aren't plenty of other things that aren't "good enough" and worth improving upon or that we have invented everything that we need or would like to have.

          This is such an American thing to say (disclaimer: I'm American). The problem with American culture is it wants "better stuff" not "better lives". Why "better stuff"? Well for the most part so you can show it off to your friends and say "wowee, don't you wish you could be me? I'm so cool." While you've managed to pull this off and everyone might admire you, you wake up every day thinking "fuck my life". This is why we are working longer hours to buy more stuff that we don't have any time to use. You'

      • by Ramze ( 640788 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @01:14PM (#56147474)

        I think you misunderstand capitalism. There have always been products that have reached peak innovation and have become ubiquitous, cheap, and offered by many suppliers at prices very near to their cost. They are called commodities.

        A great example of commodities are foods in the produce aisle. Sure, people grow and sell specialty cultivars (sometimes even with patents! -- especially the GMOs), but by and large... they're commodities.

        Screws, nails, hinges, bolts, nuts, pine wood, and many other things used in construction are commodities.

        The cell phone has a long way to go before it becomes a commodity unencumbered by patents, but its product life cycle will eventually be extended -- just like desktop PCs and laptops have gone from 2 year cycles to 3 year cycles... to 5 year and now 7 year cycles or longer. If/when Moore's Law prevents further die shrinks, we'll probably see some architecture changes that will keep things chugging along for a while..... and new battery technologies as well. But, sooner or later, after we've gotten the right architecture on the smallest sized chip with the best possible battery running on the fastest speed (5G or faster), and the patents run out on the hardware and the license restrictions on software are gone -- boom. Cell phone becomes a commodity with little to no change and cheap price.

        What drives the market is the exchange of goods and services. People are always going to need things they can't reasonably make/grow for themselves and have time and/or money to trade for those things. Capitalism doesn't live and die by computer/cell phone technology innovations. It's been around since long before computers existed. Plenty of other things to make and improve -- lots of new areas that need innovation as well. But, even if we become hyper advanced to where everything that could be invented has been and we have no new applications for that technology... people will still need stuff & still be willing to work or trade with others for that stuff in exchange for stuff that their trading partners want in return. That's the core of capitalism.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 18, 2018 @09:29AM (#56146712)

    I want:

    A tiny phone that just dials and talks and runs a 4G access point. You take this everywhere, it's tiny and fits in your pocket and solid enough to not need a case, you can call and read messages, and run it as a wifi hotspot. The interface reflects the tiny nature. Use a Wifi tablet as your main media/work device connected via the tiny phone's hotspot.

    Phones as getting bigger and clumsier, and Android tablets have stalled, (largely due to some idiot and his ChromeOS, and 'Android Go' targetting none existant markets).

    But to get bigger the phone part you need all the time needs to be separated from the big touch screen part, you only need sometimes.

    Something the size of an iPod Nano 8th Generation is what I want.

    • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @09:41AM (#56146740)

      I want it to run OpenBSD as well. I'll live with FreeBSD.

      That's it. Exactly what you said plus a shift from what ever Android has become under the direction of Google to a *BSD.

      My current phone is a Kyocera DuraPlus. [google.com] And I still managed to break the screen.

      My mobile computing device with wifi and emergency cell service is a Galaxy Note 4. The only reason I upgraded was because my Note 3 fell out of my pocket and was taken out by my tractor's tiller because I was listening to FM radio on it. I have no interest in the Galaxy N+1 that they're on now. The battery is replaceable. It has Wifi, NFC, Bluetooth, FM Radio and a pen for notes. Plus I can plug it into USB OTG and hook it up to a TV. I would love to turn on a Hotspot on the DuraPlus and have a mobile datacenter.

      • by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @09:52AM (#56146770)
        As an OpenBSD enthusiast as well, I would like to see my phone run it. But, I don't think desktop OSes generally run well on mobile platforms. We've learned that time and again from Microsoft's attempts at making a square peg fit a round hole one size fits all. It would take a really superbly engineered mobile desktop environment to be added to OpenBSD for it to work.
        • But as OP stated I don't need a "Desktop Environment". I need a way to make a phone call and turn it into a hotspot to connect a real DE. Be it a tablet, laptop, Galaxy Note sized computing device.

        • Well, obviously you know that the UI is something different from the core OS so OpenBSD could be run on a smartphone by having a touch interface similar to Android or iOS.
          When docked with a keyboard and mouse you could run the traditional desktop UI and applications.
          I'd love to have an smartphone like that but sadly Android and iOS seem to have won and that looks less likely every day
      • by bronney ( 638318 )

        But we're the minority. The majority don't care what OS it runs as long as it gets their job done so there's really no economic value in adopting bsd from the major manufacturers. I think to attract the mass, the best way is looks now that we've reached the cpu gpu plateau. We might probably go back to the time when Motorola used to make weird phones.

    • I think the new direction needs to be more options on the high end. Actually have a version of the latest iPhone / Samsung that has 2mm more depth to allow twice the battery power. Have screen sizes ranging from 3.5"-7". There are needs in the marketplace which aren't being met, and I know sales to at least users like me stalled as a result. The moment Note screens stopped getting bigger (curved screen doesn't count) is the moment my Note 4 became my first phone I have owned for over 3 years.

    • by mikael ( 484 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @10:25AM (#56146860)

      The Zanco Tiny? [dailymail.co.uk]

    • People rarely use the "phone". It just happens to be a more convenient size for viewing the apps that people really use their phone with that either a big tablet or a little phone.

      You can make "phone calls" and send/receive messages without a "phone".

      People don't want to cart a tablet around with them

  • Tablets too! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drewsup ( 990717 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @09:34AM (#56146722)

    Until the next gen memory chips start getting integrated, or some awesome nano tube tetraherz processor gets released, we have reached the more than good enough for 99 % of the population. And thank God for that, we don't need any more heaps of tech landfill as the multiple new generations of phone/tablets quickly obsolete themselves.

  • lifespan of OS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 18, 2018 @09:36AM (#56146726)

    I still find it disturbing up to this day that every phones older than a few years old gets out of support for security updates. Too many Android devices with old unpatched firmware in the wild. Iphone? 4 and a half years later and no more updates from Apple. The hardware might be robust, but manifacturers donâ(TM)t give a shit about keeping security & os updates indefinitely. Thatâ(TM)s a major problem. Thoughts?

    • Re:lifespan of OS (Score:5, Informative)

      by LordKronos ( 470910 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @09:59AM (#56146784)

      Yes, google thought about it a while ago. That's the reason why Android Oreo introduced project treble. The reason the vast majority of smartphones never get updates is because each update requires vendor customization for each piece of hardware. Project treble has split apart the hardware support layer from the main OS layer. Going forward, the vendors only need to create the initial implementation of the hardware layer, and then each time a new version of Android is released it can be laid over top the old hardware layer with no rework necessary. Updates to the hardware layer are only necessary when there is a bug there, which of course is still a concern, but that's not where the vast majority of bugs are found these days.

  • Or (Score:2, Insightful)

    The more likely explanation is that people just don't have the disposable income they used to, in fact, it has been declining for years.

    • The more likely explanation is that people just don't have the disposable income they used to, in fact, it has been declining for years.

      Nonsense! Disposable income is increasing thanks to Bitcoin! People are wisely investing any leftover cash in this miracle new currency instead of buying new smartphones. Next year, their Bitcoin profits will increase their disposable income so much that they can then afford to buy 100 new smartphones, instead of just one!

      Smartphone vendors really need to come out with phones that spew out cryptocoins in their spare time! Then folks will buy new smartphones. If it can't mine cryptocoins in its spare t

    • Actually my (and most other Americans) disposable income just jumped quite a bit... (We just looked at our first post-taxcut paycheck).
      • Re:Or (Score:4, Insightful)

        by apoc.famine ( 621563 ) <apoc.famine@gmail . c om> on Sunday February 18, 2018 @11:52AM (#56147164) Journal

        Actually my (and most other Americans) disposable income has been flat and is not changing much. (We just looked at our first post-taxcut paycheck.)

        See! I can do anecdotes too!

        From the Tax Policy Center: The cut is estimated to be $930 this year for the middle one-fifth of taxpayers, which is about $35 a paycheck if you get paid every two weeks.

        I don't know how much you get paid, but I'm not going to call an extra $30 in my paycheck a big jump in disposable income.

        And I'm not going to celebrate it in any case, because come tax time, I'll likely owe way more than I ended up getting back in my paycheck anyway. Some of the other tax changes aren't going to be apparent until we get to filing next year, and it looks like some of them are going to hurt a lot of people. I really don't know what the SALT and standard deduction changes are going to mean for me personally, but initial indications are that I'm going to owe more come tax time. To the point that it might be worth upping my witholdings, and thus reducing my paycheck.

    • The more likely explanation is that people just don't have the disposable income they used to, in fact, it has been declining for years.

      With the exception of Russia and Greece, the inverse of your claim seems to be what economists hold to be true.
      https://data.oecd.org/hha/hous... [oecd.org]

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @09:39AM (#56146732)

    Computers have reached that no later than 2008. A level of quality that is basically sufficient to satisfy nearly all users, and if all you really care about is office, that level was already reached before the millennium rolled over. You could easily tell that by simply looking at how long you keep your computer. This one here is now about 5 years old and I still have no reason to replace it. I don't think a computer would have lasted me 5 years back in 2000, simply because most new software wouldn't run on it properly.

    Today I'm hard pressed to find software that doesn't run and if, I'd be hard pressed to say I want or even need that software.

    Same with smartphones today. People can do what they want to do with the cellphones they already have. The need to upgrade because the new version of your OS doesn't run or to finally run the software you want to run smoothly simply isn't there anymore. Better graphics, more CPU power, ok, but what for? Until we replace our computers with cellphones, i.e. having docking stations that turn cellphones into desktop replacements, the need for that power simply isn't there.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ColdWetDog ( 752185 )

      Hah. Microsoft is smarter than you are.

      So, you think your machine is OK because it could run MS Office? Guess what? We moved the goal posts. Now your machine wheezes and sputters.

      Think you can just keep using your old copies and licenses? Oops. Those servers. Just where did we put them?

      It's really not that hard to bloat up software. Lots of companies have been perfecting this behavior for years.

      Oooh! Shiny!

    • Better graphics, more CPU power, ok, but what for?

      Hobby work and media. We're now in a world where for $200 you can buy a camera that can record 4k HFR content. You have a screen with lots of pixels to fill. Sure you can run your game at a lower resolution but those nice screens exist for a reason.

      I agree with the general sentiment but there's a surprising number of people who still have a need for some high end computing power. Not just nerds or gamers but common people. My last PC upgrade was in 2015, and I was replacing a computer that wasn't even remot

    • Actually this is true for gamers as well, you can find plenty of vids on YouTube of people playing popular titles like the new Doom title and Rocket League on 10 year old Phenom IIs and C2Qs. I can say I've ended up joining that camp as well as I used to build a PC every other year (with a major upgrade in the off year) during the MHz wars, but now? My FX-8320e (which is just a gold binned FX-8350 from 2012) plays all my games at 60 FPS+ paired with an R9 280 and just chews through video renders like it was

    • Computers have reached that no later than 2008.

      I recommend 2011 as the cutoff. That's when Intel released Sandy Bridge, which was the first architecture (outside of mobile processors) where they took reducing power consumption seriously. A Sandy Bridge system will idle down around 35-40 Watts (vs. about 20-25 Watts for a modern system). Nehalem and Core 2 were closer to 100 Watts, 70 Watts if you really worked to pick out low-power components.

      By a remarkable coincidence, if you pay the U.S. average e

    • by Pieroxy ( 222434 )

      You're reading it completely backward. It's not that modern computers satisfy users needs, it's that developers stopped doing bloated software thinking that in two years the hardware will make it run fine. Because Moore's law stopped and new computers stopped being 2x more powerful every 18 month. Increase in power is much slower these days, so your 5 year old computer is still not that less powerful from the top of the line today. So software written for the top of the line run fine on yours.

      It's the same

      • by fisted ( 2295862 )

        it's that developers stopped doing bloated software

        Ha ha ha ha ha. Oh wait, you're serious? Let me laugh even harder...

    • Plus Moore's Law for silicon is nearly dead:

      45 nm – 2008
      32 nm – 2010
      22 nm – 2012
      14 nm – 2014
      10 nm – 2017
      7 nm – ~2018
      5 nm – ~2020

      Semiconductor fab [wikipedia.org]

  • Batteries (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MMC Monster ( 602931 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @09:39AM (#56146736)

    I think the next thing we'll see is an uptick in requests for new batteries from current phone owners.

    People will decide that the phone they have is "good enough" and just replace batteries when the charge isn't enough to get them through the day,

  • About time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rodrigoandrade ( 713371 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @09:39AM (#56146738)
    I hate upgrading shit just for the sake of upgrading. I can't justify getting rid of something in perfect working order just because something new is released. I just wait until something breaks, then go out and buy the best replacement I can at the moment, which will last me another several years.

    I was glad when AV gear reached the good enough point (1080p and DD 5.1 surround for me), then PCs (after I quit hardcore gaming, I doubt I'll ever need more than an i5 and 8GB of RAM and 1TB HDD for the foreseeable future), now smartphones.

    All my devices have all the features I want, and more.

    Having said all that, I'm glad we got to the good enough point with smartphones. Hopefully, the prices of high end devices can start coming down now.
    • I hate upgrading shit just for the sake of upgrading. I can't justify getting rid of something in perfect working order just because something new is released. I just wait until something breaks, then go out and buy the best replacement I can at the moment, which will last me another several years. I was glad when AV gear reached the good enough point (1080p and DD 5.1 surround for me), then PCs (after I quit hardcore gaming, I doubt I'll ever need more than an i5 and 8GB of RAM and 1TB HDD for the foreseeable future), now smartphones. All my devices have all the features I want, and more. Having said all that, I'm glad we got to the good enough point with smartphones. Hopefully, the prices of high end devices can start coming down now.

      I am right there with you. I have a laptop from 2012 that still works great. My smart phone is some budget ZTE that I only bought to replace the previous one where the screen cracked. It's now almost a year and a half old and I'll just keep it until it dies. I've long since discovered that there is no merit to buying a flagship phone, or for that matter, even a flagship computer.

    • 1TB of hard drive space is useless unless you stream everything or watch and delete, and there's still plenty of us resisting the 'must always be connected' 'can't format shift' 'selection limited to whatever the providers offer at that particular moment, with things you like constantly disappearing' model that streaming offers. My graphics card, 8GB of RAM, and mobo/CPU are practically ancient being from my last new build in 2010, but hard drive space? Always need more. The 16TB I have now is nearly full;
      • I don't steam everything, but I don't hoard everything either. I'm having trouble filling up a 4tb drive that I have plugged into my router. I just don't care enough to have everything in digital format. I still own plenty of CDs and DVDs/Blue-Ray.

        As for 4k..it's about as exciting as day-old bread.
    • I too feel that the hardware in smartphones is good enough. Their downside is that it tends to break pretty soon (in my experiences between 2 and 4 years) so you have to replace it sooner than later because of that.
      I try to buy phones with user replaceable batteries for that reason
  • Analogy fail (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @09:49AM (#56146764) Journal
    The automobile analogy [usatoday.com] isn't apt because even though the average age of an auto on the road rose to an all time high of 11.5 years in 2015, new vehicles were still being purchased in record numbers...

    -- a paradox attributable to substantial increases in reliability.

    True innovation is what's lacking, and perhaps phone manufacturers have been resting on their laurels, confident the need for the "newest shiny thing" would be enough to carry the day.

    • The automobile analogy [usatoday.com] isn't apt because even though the average age of an auto on the road rose to an all time high of 11.5 years in 2015, new vehicles were still being purchased in record numbers...

      Well, first I'd normally stop reading at the word "average" because the arithmetical mean is usually a lousy statistic. You don't need many 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60+ year-old cars still "on the road" (i.e. registered, even if they only ever get driven to 3 classic car rallies a year or are rented out for weddings) to drag up that average - there aren't many cars less than 0 years old to balance them out.

      Second, "record numbers" compared to what? The "affordable" motor car has been a thing for a century, and

      • Good point on the average age of vehicles still on the road, and to be fair, we would also need to quantify what still on the road means precisely... driven X km per year or merely registered, for instance.

        FTL: (US numbers)

        The number of vehicles on the road that are at least 25 years old is about 14 million. That's up from about 8 million in 2002. Those are vehicles made in 1990 or earlier. Meanwhile, the number of vehicles that are 16 to 24 years old is 44 million. That's up from 26 million in 2002, according to IHS.

        This suggests the types of vehicles coveted by collectors make up the smallest sample, and Car and Driver [caranddriver.com] suggested the number was about 5 million in 2014.

        Cellphones exponential growth is difficult to rival, but in the production life of the Ford Model T (1908-1927), automobile regist

    • Automakers actually came up with the strategy of refreshing the car's styling every few years in order to drive new car sales despite there being no significant mechanical improvements. They basically turned cars into fashion accessories.
    • True innovation is what's lacking, and perhaps phone manufacturers have been resting on their laurels

      Not so much resting on laurels as the combination of lack of vision and fear of failure. Steve Jobs knew how to incorporate ideas into innovative new products and wasn't afraid to take risk.

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @10:00AM (#56146788)
    The planned obsolescence via expensive, non-user replaceable batteries isn't working like it used to. It's time for phone makers to come up with a more expensive part to wear out, one which can't so easily be manufactured by third parties. How about they start designing the screens to get dimmer over the life of the phone, so that by the third year they're completely dark? That should do the trick to get the upgrades rolling again.
    • by mikael ( 484 )

      Screens tend to crack when they hit the ground. Despite having a 0.5cm wallet, my phone was unlucky enough to hit a tiny concrete stub right next to a vending machine. Instant crack. Would cost $150 to repair.

    • The planned obsolescence via expensive, non-user replaceable batteries isn't working like it used to.

      This was never something they relied on. Instead it was painfully poorly written software bogging down the processors of the time while actually adding useful features at each upgrade that made people WANT to replace their devices.

      That ended a couple of years ago.

      I remember WANTING to upgrade to Froyo.
      I remember that I couldn't wait to ditch the Galaxy S5 which with each successive update had become a slow piece of crap.

    • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @02:00PM (#56147676) Journal

      I am extremely saddened by the fact that my scientific discipline - materials science - is nowadays abused to design extremely precise engineering techniques for planned obsolescence. Limiting battery recharge cycles was a great method, but some far more sophisticated ones have emerged. These are based on:

      - fatigue limit of components subjected to repetitive strain (including designing built-in vibrational modes - that's right, the vibrational modes are added on purpose, and affect parts with a defined fatigue limit (like copper, for instance).
      - oxidation of polymers, especially elastomers
      - polymer deterioration induced by "useful" additives, like some fire retardants and plasticizers (though fire retardants are much more effective).

      These techniques are nowadays quite deeply developed, and their ONLY purpose is to bring the product to a very limited lifetime AFTER the warranty period. Therefore, for profit of the corporations and at direct odds with all consumers. As a scientist, this makes me actually quite sad. My only consolation is that I don't work in the industry, so at least I am not on the dark side.

  • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Sunday February 18, 2018 @10:01AM (#56146790) Homepage

    I agree that we've hit the point where, for most people most of the time, a phone from 3 years ago serves just as well as the brand new model. And here's the thing about that: I wish vendors would let that be.

    Because what tends to happen is they stop making meaningful and useful improvements, and instead focus on cramming in useless "improvements" that make the whole thing harder to deal with. Windows 7 was good enough, and so we got Windows 8 that ruined the UI, followed by Windows 10 which keeps cramming more and more advertising into vital functions while stripping away useful controls. Every version of Windows moves has new "features" and moves around the controls, but none of them actually improve it. Meanwhile, Apple has started forcing Siri into everything and putting that touch bar at the top of the keyboard, which are also pretty useless.

    Screw the gimmicks. If you can come up with a real improvement that makes things easier and more effective, great. Otherwise, just focus on refinements. Make it a little faster. Make the battery last longer. Start looking at the problems that users actually have, the annoyances and pesky bugs, and work on fixing those.

    There's nothing wrong with reaching the point where the innovation has dried up. Accept it, and make continual incremental improvements and refinements.

  • That from this year on, smartphones can't get any better? Why not a year ago [cnbc.com] or 2 and a half years ago [greenbot.com]? Or for that matter: do we all really need smartphones [washingtonpost.com] at all?(4 years ago also from WashPo)

    Or is the author just trying to explain why smartphone sales are slumping? That we have reached "peak smartphone" (that claim isn't new either)?

  • Then 5G starts rolling out and you'll need to upgrade for that. Probably more than once.

    • Then 5G starts rolling out and you'll need to upgrade for that

      Maybe if my 4G worked I would believe you.

    • Not while the current networks continue to work. 4G is plenty fast for me, unless they switch off the current frequencies I can keep using my current phone
  • We've reached peak smartphone when you can get the equivalent of a Nokia 8 with 6GB RAM/128GB SSD in a solid sturdy case and replaceable battery for 120$.

    But yeah, as far as super-thin flimsy built-in-battery Smartphones go, the market is pretty much saturated, that I'd admit.

  • I have a Nexus 5X. Google hobbled it with 2GB RAM and now a bit over two years since introduction, that is simply not enough. At best that causes it to be slow switching between apps. At worst, it causes apps to be bumped out of memory when another app is opened. For example if I'm listening to podcasts and running navigation using Google Maps (both in the background) and open a web page one of the other apps shuts down. 2GB is simply not enough. Other than that I could continue to be happy with it.

    As time

  • i have a galaxy s6 now, but it dont have FM radio, cant replace the battery myself, i am not buying a new phone until i can buy a phone that has those features. plus i dont want to disable apps i dont like or use, i want a phone that does not have third party apps bundled in like facebook, or microsoft office, i know those apps are not crucial for the system, they are third party crapware,
  • It seems that that challenge always comes down to batteries. I have a nearly-four-year-old Samsung Galaxy S5 that still works fine. The camera is great and I see no reason to upgrade for now. Part of the reason that's the case is the battery is user replaceable. I just pop off the back and pop in a new battery. I'm probably on battery #3 now. It's also got a microSD slot, so I know I'm never going to run out of storage.

    I think dying batteries is likely what drives a lot of upgrades.
  • The inability to easily change out the battery coupled with the knowledge that at least Apple is / was slowing down their older phones means it doesn't matter if we have reached peak Smartphone or not.

    They are DESIGNED to be replaced every few years to ensure a steady revenue stream for the manufacturors.

    • by DogDude ( 805747 )
      Apple phones are. Believe it or not, there are other makers of smartphones that don't treat their customers like milking cows.
  • I have an iPhone 7. Here's what I want in my next phone:

    1. Longer battery life
    2. Better signal reception, both cellular and WiFi.
    3. Even better camera; it's already pretty good.
    4. Even more durable; screen less likely to crack, more resistant to exposure to liquids, etc.
    5. Even brighter screen to help w/ viewing in sunny conditions.

    That's about it, really. Don't need a bigger screen, don't need the phone to be thinner or lighter, don't need more pixels, don't need gimmicky new features like facial
  • This is the normal cycle of new gadgets. Appliances. Think of any of these technological tools as appliances. New technologies or inventions arrive to make some aspect of daily life better or easier. The device penetrates the market at some rate, greater or slower, depending on many things: sense of relevance to your daily life (perhaps heightened by ambitious advertising), the cost of the new technology which invariably subsides with greater market penetration and competition, and giving up on old par

  • We hit "peak phone" quite a while ago, everything since then has been minor tweaks or adding bullshit "features" that practically no one uses.

    For example, Samsung's "eye mode" where it keeps the screen on as long as you're looking at it. Whoopdedoo, how could I live without that?? Or their multiple on-screen swipable toolboxes and favorites and recently-used apps and blah blah blah blah blah. Or a configurable button that isn't allowed to do anything that I'd actually want it to do- it can't be assigned to

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @02:04PM (#56147696)

    For the average person I would agree with you.

    But something you are overlooking is that smartphone processing capability is advancing much faster, percentage-wise, than laptops (which have stalled for many years now and at this point even regressed thanks to meltdown).

    At first as smartphones came along, I would happily skip upgrading every other year, and would have been tempted to skip longer periods if I did not need the devices for testing.

    But over the past few years, I have in fact gotten a new phone every year because the upgrades have become more compelling. The processing speed is notably faster every generation. The authentication features like TouchID and now FaceID keep advancing. The cameras advance notably in quality, and because the processor speed has improved so do camera features that require processing (like the quality of panos or HDR images). The battery management keeps improving.

    At this point I've shifted to doing a lot of photo editing on an iPad Pro, and I am actually looking forward to the next generation of that platform to give be a decent processing boost for working with images. They are arguably superior for such work because they adjust color temperature of the display automatically based on ambient light, not to mention being able to work directly on the photo with an Apple Pencil (which work way better than the Wacom Cintiq I tried using a few years ago)..

    One a side note, I do not honestly see how someone could use an iPhoneX for more than a day and then claim the smartphone platform has "peaked", as we have a long way to go and major changes are still underway.

  • I just threw out about 50 from the back of a closet. Not even Goodwill will take them. The Friends of the Library stuck some in their "free" box and no one would take them either. Surely the Smartphone is not the epitome of design for what it does. Could its job not be done by a different sort of device altogether? How about sticking the display on an intraocular lens and the CPU on an embedded chip? No more texting--just talk, or maybe even just think. At least you couldn't forget your phone that way.

  • I've got an iPhone 6 with 16GB of storage. I was quickly out of space until I decided to put all my photos on google photo and I switched companies from an Exchange based company to a gmail based company. Now the only thing I have on the phone is the few apps and some music.

  • 20 year old Land Rover... still runs great.
    5 year old Nexus 5... still runs great.
    60 year old house... still runs great.
    (I won't go into my clothes... what's a few holes?)

  • ...a smartphone that fully services ALL our compute needs. I'm talking about a smartphone I can drop in a docking station, connected to a big-ass monitor, mouse, keyboard and other peripherals, and it runs a full desktop OS and all my desktop software.

    We've been slowing but surely moving towards that and there's of course been a few attempts to make it literally true already, with varying degrees of success. None have completely managed it though, and there are of course pretty good technical reasons why

  • by green1 ( 322787 ) on Sunday February 18, 2018 @04:40PM (#56148474)

    With each generation of phone, more and more features are removed. Why would someone willingly downgrade to a new phone?

    My Note 4 has:
    - a wider screen than any available today
    - a user replaceable battery (I'm on #3)
    - an IR transmitter
    - an easy to hold faux-leather back that isn't slippery
    - a headphone jack
    - HDMI output (via MHL)
    - an SD card slot

    Almost all new phones get rid of the majority of that list (if not all of it).

    It's not that people don't want to UPGRADE, it's that people are sick of seeing the newer phones as a DOWNGRADE from where they already are!

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