By Jaime Rivera | January 21, 2014 1:10 PM
If you ask anyone that’s older than you if vehicles are better now than they were before, I’m sure a ton of people in their late 40s will tell you “they don’t make ‘em like they use to”. In some ways they’re right, and in others they aren’t. Vehicles were built stronger a couple of decades ago, and they were also built with more powerful engines as well, but that was fit for a time when your fuel costs didn’t burn a whole in your wallet. Today, vehicles are more efficient, smarter, and even safer than they were before. They are definitely not like they use to, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t better.
When it comes to mobile technology, I guess the biggest question that I have for you is: What was your first mobile device? In my case, I bought my first Nokia 250 NAMPS cellphone back in 1998, just weeks after the technology reached my country, and I bought my first-ever Compaq iPAQ h3630 Pocket PC in 2001, right when they begun being “a thing”. Make sure you share your devices in the comments, but while we’re at it, let’s briefly go through my impressions.
Are cellphones better than before? Of course they are. We’ve gone from 1-bit displays on the first Motorola cellphones to 2K displays on the devices we’ll see this year. We’re now permanently connected, and our devices are even smart enough to alert us of other things that aren’t just mobile communications. Mobile technology has evolved so much that they’ve served as the secret sauce that Tablet computers needed to become ubiquitous.
So, now that we all agree that technology is definitely better than before, the question that’s left is: Is it good enough to solve your needs? Has all this evolution really become useful? Let’s go through a couple of the things that are and that aren’t.
What’s right – Speed
I guess one of the things I enjoy the most about the evolution of technology is speed. You may not remember what it was like to navigate at GPRS or EDGE speeds on your mobile browser, but trust me, some of us do, and it was horrible. Surely mobile browsers required less data to process back in the day, but not every website back then was designed for mobile.
We do have to hand it to the mobile communications industry. LTE data is sometimes faster than what the average person has in their home. I can now be at the parking lot of my apartment building that’s three floors down from my place, and my Wi-Fi connection is good enough to where I even sustained a Skype call two days ago.
Mobile processors have also evolved to a point where we get console-quality games on our phones. Years ago we could barely play a choppy version of Tetris, and now Asphalt 8 has nothing to envy from what any of you can do on a PSP. All these are definitely the good things.
What’s wrong – Gimmicks
One of the biggest problems the industry faces lately is how to differentiate its products. Seven years ago, hardware was the biggest factor of differentiation where companies experimented with slide-out keyboards from different directions, dual sliders, back-flipping keyboards and lot’s of other things that were either cool, or truly ridiculous. Sadly when the first iPhone was launched, the industry changed along with it. Designs are now so simple, that it’s truly hard to tell one phone apart from another, and yet companies continue to push in this direction.
The focus today is on software, and this hasn’t necessarily been a good thing. Some OEMs focus on elegance and simplicity, like Apple, HTC and the Windows Phone adopters, and others focus on “Kitchen Sink inclusiveness”, as our own Michael Fisher would say about the Galaxy Note 3. Certain things are too simple to be useful, like the case of certain limitations iPhone owners will know and rant about, and certain things are just too convoluted to be useful in most Galaxy phones.
Useful is the term that I’m trying to get to, though. Is too simple or too convoluted something you’d call useful? In a way, I’d prefer to have more than to have less, but when the implementation of more is mediocre, it does become just as pointless as when something is too simple.
What we need – Reliability
Sadly, even though we do have speed, and even though we sometimes have too much software to bargain for, we still struggle with most of the same problems we’ve been facing for over a decade. None of us like to be restarting our smartphones because our software crashed. None of us like to see our UI slow down because of software issues. None of us like to feel our phone heating up as we play our favorite game. None of us like to see our phone freeze out of the blue, for reasons that not even company technicians understand. None of us like to deal with poor call quality after so many decades of research. Last but not least, none of us like to have such a powerful multi-media machine in our pockets, and know that if we use it for more than a couple of hours, the battery will be dead.
Speed, design, and software are really irrelevant if the complete user experience is lacking. 1 Million apps on an app store, or 64GB of storage are also pointless if my device won’t have the stamina to let me enjoy what it can do.
The bottom line
Mobile technology is definitely better than it used to be, but I do feel that a lot of it has focused on solving problems we didn’t need. Instead of giving me better hovering sensors, or fingerprint scanners on our phones, I’d rather get a phone that can last all day no matter what I did with it. Instead of giving me software that can detect if my eyes want to scroll down a page, how about giving us better voice assistant services?
The list can go on. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy the times I live in, but I do say that there are bigger fish to fry than a retina scanner on the next Galaxy S 5. How about you? What needs do you feel that smartphones haven’t met for you. Leave us a comment.