Is It Just Me?

Is it just me? Or is everyone else getting bored with the current directions in cell phones?

Just for the sake of clarity, let me say that I’m speaking as a cell phone user, not as a (former) tech industry professional. All of the latest phones have super-whoopie new features to set the souls of the developers writing apps ablaze, but from a user perspective, not so much.

From a consumer’s perspective, HTC’s latest offering (the One) has a huge, high-resolution screen (full 1080p HD) and new camera technology that’s supposed to result in better pictures despite its lower pixel count compared to the competition.

Samsung’s latest phone (the Galaxy S4) has a huge, high-resolution screen (full 1080p HD) and a camera with a higher pixel count than their previous model. The latest Notes have huge screens that give you all the size and weight of a tablet but save you from carrying something called a “tablet”. The ultimate example of that bit of silliness is that the most recent member of the family has an 8 inch screen and is wifi-only, but it’s still apparently a phablet, not a tablet.

Nokia has Windows 8. Oh, and a camera that is, based on reviews, the best smartphone camera currently available.

Motorola has… um. I don’t even know what Motorola has. Clearly they need to work on their message a bit.

Apple has a large screen. Well, larger than previous Apple phones, anyway, and with an aspect ratio that will improve your movie viewing experience. I’m serious folks. The exact quote on Apple’s website is “For big-time entertainment, iPhone 5 lets you watch widescreen HD video in all its glory – without letterboxing.” (The screen, incidentally, is 1136×640 – less than 720p HD.)

BlackBerry’s pitch seems to be “We’re still the kings of email, but now we have a big touchscreen like everyone else.” Arguable, but even if it’s true, it’s not exactly fascinating.

Are you seeing the same pattern I am here? The last couple of generations of phones have given us bigger screens with more pixels and better cameras. Appreciated by those who watch movies on their phones and who take a lot of pictures (and I’ll grant you, that’s a lot of people), but what about the rest of the phone-toting world? (I’m deliberately not mentioning games here – they don’t generally come from the phone manufacturers, and they generally work on all of the devices, so they’re irrelevant to my point.)

Not much for the non-movie-watching, non-photo-fascinated user. Incremental improvements to email programs, browsers, and mapping apps are nice, but they’re not exciting. Same for higher network speeds. Call quality? Every review of every phone says some form of either “The call quality sucks” or “Best call quality ever”. But since every phone seems to gather equal numbers of reviews in each category, I’m inclined to believe that it’s not the phones that are the problem, but how call quality is being measured.

Let me make a prediction here: Apple has, I hear, upped R&D by a third over last year. I’m predicting that the result will be an iPhone 6 that packs a screen somewhere between 720p and 1080p into the same space as the current iPhone 5. It’ll be slightly lighter than the iPhone 5, and the battery will last slightly longer. Are you thrilled at the thought? I can’t honestly say I am.

I don’t have an answer here. I’m not even sure the problem affects anyone but me.

I see that the Wall Street Journal is reporting that LG is promising a flexible smartphone by the end of the year. (Original link here, but it requires a subscription. I got my info from Gizmodo.) I’m dubious about just how flexible it’ll be, and I’m not sure I see the utility, but I commend LG for trying something different. It got my attention, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing what they actually come out with. Until then, I’m snoozing.

Poll time:

If you vote no, please leave a comment and let me know what you find interesting or exciting in the current or near-future crop of phones.

5 thoughts on “Is It Just Me?

  1. It pleases me to be able to say, honestly, that all I want from a phone is to be able to make a phone call. That’s it. I don’t want to walk around with my nose in a little screen, or ignore my tablemates by constantly checking for messages. I don’t want to play stupid games and I sure as hell don’t want to watch a movie on a tiny screen. Why would I want to do that? It’s a beautiful, occasionally challenging world in which we move around. Pay attention.

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  2. Pingback: A Cell Phone For Me? | I would rather just have a fishhook in my ass. | I AM TOM NARDONE

  3. Can we hope that as the excitement over pocket-sized brain extensions dies, so will people’s tendency to take them out at the dinner table?

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    • It’s a nice thought. I’m dubious, though. I’ll skip the potential rant, but will note that people on the telephone almost universally get priority over people physically present. Delayed gratification is becoming less and less common (and those damn kids keep walking on my lawn!) I don’t see people putting away their phones at the dinner table even if they’re not the flavor of the month any more. And just wait until Google Glass reaches the masses. People won’t even have to take their phones out to be distracted from their dinner conversation.

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  4. Pingback: A Cell Phone For Tom Nardone? rather just have a fishhook in my ass

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