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Innovation Vs Improvement: What's Next For Smartphones? Part 1

Eric McBride
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There's no doubt that 2012 has been a huge year for Android smartphones. Not only have they gotten lighter, thinner, bigger, wider, and sleeker, they have also gotten faster, extremely powerful, and more feature packed than ever before. Smartphones now feature quad core processors, NFC chips, beautiful AMOLED displays, projectors, talking assistants, and many are even in some ways more powerful specwise than a lot of PC’s were 5 or 6 years ago!

But with all the powerful hardware and amazing apps and features, what will be the next big leap in innovation for smartphones? Does it make sense to focus on innovating more in terms of hardware and software, or is it smarter to focus on improving existing technology first? What hasn’t been done yet, and what can we look forward to seeing in smartphones in the future? In part 1 of this 2 part article, we’ll firstly focus on existing features that could be improved within Android.

Improving Existing Software/Hardware Vs Developing New Technology

To illustrate my point, have a look at the picture of the 2 motorcycles above. The one on the left is a classic example of newly created innovation. This Tomahawk Viper motorcycle is a massive powerhouse, with a 500 horsepower V10 engine, 4 wheels, and costs over half a million dollars. Hardware wise, this thing is an absolute beast.

But now have a look at the bike on the right. Looks like a simple dirt bike right? This much more simple looking device is the Zero X, and is a clear example of not only innovation, but of improvement to existing capabilities. This bike, although simple looking, offers the worlds “best acceleration, agility, and durability” of any bike on the market. It runs on a lithium battery, runs completely silent, is very easy to maintain due to the absence of oil or gas, can ride on almost any terrain, and allows you to completely customize your riding experience. This one doesn’t cost half a million either, but rather $6,900 dollars.

So which is “cooler”? Which is more useful? Which is more appealing to consumers,... the innovation, or the improved existing technology? Or a combination of both perhaps?

Android devices are certainly beefy when it comes to specs, and Android as an operating system has improved by leaps and bounds. But this certainly doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. Quad core processors power smartphones now, yet Android can still run laggy even on the newest devices. Facial recognition and voice activated features also function on smartphones, but they still aren’t at a point to where consumers can take full advantage of them on a daily basis. So while powerful hardware and innovative features are present in smartphones, wouldn’t it be wiser to focus more on improving existing technology vs creating new technology? After all, what’s the use in spending time, money, and developer resources developing specific features if only the minority of consumers end up using them?

Good Technology Vs Great Technology

Talking assistants are a great example here. While Google Voice, Siri, S-Voice, Vlingo, and many others are certainly good at performing lots of tasks, the majority of people with access to these services don’t use them that often. Does that mean they aren’t good? Certainly not. What it means is that in order to attract more consumer usage of this feature, it needs to be implemented in a way that is more USEFUL to consumers. In order for that to happen, a lot more development is needed in order to bring these apps from “cool” to “can't live without it” status. 

Remember on Star Trek how the voice computer functioned on the entire series? Everyone depended on it. Do I think voice assistants could work that well in the future? I certainly do. Do I think people would use the feature more if it did? You bet. Do I think it will happen anytime soon? That’s very hard to say. As the focus of OEMs seems to be more on hardware and software development vs improvement, right now it seems like more of a race to have the same features (or slightly better) than competitors vs focusing less on new technology to streamline the existing software that is already there. Only time will tell if this mentality will shift a bit more towards streamlining in favor of creating. If that would ever happen, maybe we would finally see a battery that would last us a week instead of a day, which is a pretty much ignored topic that consumers have been bringing up for years.

Perfect Your Concepts Before Creating More?

This is a subject I could go on and on and on about, but I think you get the jist of it. New technology should always and will always come, but shouldn't perfecting what you already have take more priority if potential is already present?

What do you guys think? Should Android slow down in terms of “new” and focus more on perfecting the “old”? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article, where we’ll touch on a few more improvement points, along with what new technology and features could be the next big thing for smartphones.

Picture credits: www.allpar.com and cdn.uberreview.com (edited by myself)

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Comments

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  • Surian Phillips May 22, 2012 Link

    What is defnetelly needed and should be perfected or even renewed is the lithium battery, to me seems more importantly especially with such processors, i hate to have to recharge my phone every day...

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  • Eric McBride May 22, 2012 Link

    I feel your pain. First Android phone to come out with a 72 hour moderate usage battery is getting my money :)

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  • Duncan Bouwer May 22, 2012 Link

    the whole office thing, cutting and pasting and spellcheck needs work

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  • Eric McBride May 22, 2012 Link

    @Duncan - OH YES. Good point. When it works, it works ok. But sometimes it can be pretty hard for that to smoothly work.

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    DaBartonator May 22, 2012 Link

    Agreed...also there comes a point where the hardware that a phone is capable of having is limited by electricity, you start moving the electrons so fast that they fly off in infrared, therefor I beloved the refining of current phone should not be as important as crating optical processors for optics has no limit as of now

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