The biggest mobile mistakes of the decade
It’s impossible to deny the multitude of amazing things we’ve been given from the sheer idea of mobility – smartphones, tablets, agile operating systems, literally millions of mobile applications, amazing time-waster games, digital movies that can be watched from literally anywhere, and instant access to Internet from practically anywhere on the globe.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The last decade, from a technology standpoint, has been one of the most impressive in recent human history. The things manufacturers have accomplished were mere fantasy just decades ago. And the potential for changing and improving lives with the technology we have today is immense and undeniable.
That said, no market, manufacturer, technology, product, or anything else for that matter is without flaw. And in the last decade, the mobile market has been home to many blunders.
Below you will find the biggest mobile mistakes of the last decade, from the perspective of the Pocketnow team. Enjoy!
The abandonment of expandable storage
So here’s the thing. Streaming is the shizzle right? We all should just put our stuff in the cloud and stroll on with our lives streaming movies, streaming music, uploading all our photos and we can get away with 8 GB on our phones right?
Wrong. See, there’s this thing on your phone called a battery. And one of the most complained about aspects of a phone, whether it’s iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Bada, etc. is: “Why can’t I get more than a day on a charge?” Well, it’s because you’re streaming your life through the air all the freaking time, and your battery hates that.
Once upon a time, I used to keep all my media on an SD card (and then MicroSD card) and I played movies and music from that. Battery performed like a champ. It’s because I didn’t have to pull down data over WiFi or LTE (or back then 3G) and kill my battery doing it. These days, MicroSD cards are so small and so cheap, you could turn any phone into a 64 GB phone for $20 and an Amazon account. But alas, they are sacrificed in the name of “thin” and “unibody”. Smartphones had a good thing going for a while there, and suddenly, it just stopped. And we all had the sadz.
Microsoft letting Windows Mobile stagnate
I’d say Microsoft’s biggest mistake with Windows Mobile was not putting more effort into it and into marketing it during 2005-2010. Windows Mobile was a very powerful and customizable mobile operating system 10 years ago… in many of the same ways Android is today. If Microsoft had made more commercials to tell people how much better life is with a smartphone (like Apple did when they released their iPhone), then Apple and Android would have had a much harder time breaking into the market. In addition to letting Windows Mobile stagnate and not putting enough effort into it, I think another mistake was when all of the Windows Mobile smartphone OEMs switched to TI OMAP processors instead of the faster ARM processors they were using previously. The TI OMAP processors had a lot of power-saving features, but that also came with huge slow-downs, stability problems and lag. The old HTC Magician with its fast processor, stable smartphone operating system, and expandable features could have been the device to get the world on the smartphone bandwagon if it was marketed at all.
Anton D. Nagy
In a world where everyone is starting to push for better imaging quality delivered by mobile phones, everyone is participating in the megapixel race, where Nokia and Sony are leading with their 41 and 20MP sensors, respectively. HTC wanted to be different, and the marketing label attached to the UltraPixel camera — that four megapixels might be all you need — could have worked if those four megapixels would have been good enough to satisfy imaging aficionados. However, the “UltraPixel” camera was not ready, in my opinion, for prime time, and that’s not because of the low pixel count, with which we could all have lived happily, but because of algorithms used to generate the images. Better low light performance is indeed present, but the sensor is not capable of producing good enough pictures in all the rest of the scenarios. This, of course, through my eyes, and not the regular users’ eyes who have no chance but to be happy with whatever the camera on their phone — with which they’re stuck with for a couple of years — outputs. In my book, HTC made a mistake with this camera on its 2013 flagship and I can just hope they won’t repeat it with the 2014 signature HTC phone. A regular 8 or 13MP sensor, like on the S III or S 4 could have done a better job on the One. Use that, or completely rethink your UltraPixel system (sensor+lens+software) for 2014.
Failure to evolve
There’s a very famous saying: “All empires die from within.” And in the world of mobile technology, this is one of the harshest realities. Just a couple of years ago the top players of the industry were Nokia, BlackBerry, Microsoft through Windows Mobile, and even Palm. Where are these companies now? If you think of it, all of these giants have lost the battle to the top, or have lost the ownership of the top because of the same thing, and that’s software.
If we gave it a name, these companies chose a “Lipstick on a pig approach to milk dead cows” approach. All of these players had the infrastructure to evolve software into the next generation of mobile devices that was pushed by Android and iOS, and instead of using these resources to choke the new competitors, they decided to sit on their laurels. Palm’s Garnet OS, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, Nokia’s Symbian and the old BlackBerry OS are all examples of a great company stuck on their comfort zone. When things got tough, we got newer and flashier versions of the same thing, but nothing powerful enough to stop the momentum that Apple and Google had already begun.
Sad but true, the worse mistake that any mobile company can do, is wait and see.
Microsoft abandoning Windows Mobile
The biggest mobile mistake of the decade was Microsoft abandoning Windows Mobile. At the time, Microsoft and Apple were the only two serious players in the mobile space. Android came along and Microsoft jumped ship. Yes, the Windows Mobile UI was completely out-of-data, and yes, Microsoft needed a change, but by cutting ties to Windows Mobile, the company lost precious years trying to recover and playing catch-up.
Android and Apple both did well with consumers, but Microsoft had the enterprises of the world backing its mobile products. When it was announced that Windows Mobile was being discontinued there was a vacuum left. Enterprises were forced to make a choice: Apple or Android. Due to Apple’s better integration with Exchange (at the time), a significant number of corporations made the jump to iOS.
Once Microsoft introduced Windows Phone, many of the features that enterprises needed were not available. What’s more, the new “Metro” style didn’t look “corporate” at all. It was even further from what the suits considered a “professional” user interface than iOS. Apple became even more entrenched in the enterprise.
In retrospect we can all suggest how Microsoft could have made the transition better, but in the end, Microsoft voluntarily exited the enterprise business — at least with its smartphones. Whether or not it will make a resurgence with phones and tablets remains to be seen. In the meantime, a lot of investment in iOS apps has been made — which would have to be reinvested in a Windows solution.
The decision to embrace boring design
It might seem misguided to characterize the rise of the world’s most popular smartphone form factor as a mistake – and to say it’s one of the worst mistakes of the past ten years seems to border on the ludicrous. So I should clarify, right up front, that this “mistake” has only served to grow the smartphone world. Explosively, in fact.
The misstep is in the price we’ve collectively paid for that growth. Namely, the transformation of the entire smartphone landscape from a lush jungle of diversity to a beige expanse of dull sameness. Just blur your eyes a bit: look past the powerful spec sheets and tiny details, and the smartphone shelf at your local carrier store starts to look real repetitive. Today’s choice in form factor comes down to which
dull “minimalist” pocket box appeals to you the most.
And look at the world we traded for this one. Portrait and landscape QWERTY sliders. Futuristic dual-fold messaging phones. Clamshells of all varieties. Dual-direction sliders. We even had twin-display swivel-screen devices and taco phones, for Chrissake. Were all of these a good idea? Hell no – but they were at least interesting. These days we’re so starved for diversity that we go ape over something as small as a finger dimple or a curved display – and then people in the comments complain that it’s not “practical.”
So this mistake isn’t the industry’s; rather, it’s on us, the consumers. Nearly every time the OEMs have offered something new, we’ve rejected it as too unconventional. Sometimes that’s been for good reason, but other times we just haven’t been willing to accept something different. And that’s a shame. Because I’d sure love to get my hands on one of those Android flip phones they only sell in Asia. Where they don’t mind being different.
Chief News Editor
The untimely death of the stylus
There’s this enormous pressure in the mobile space to always be innovating, and companies fear being pegged as slow to respond to trends. As such, they’re quick to adopt new technology, but even quicker at abandoning anything viewed as a relic from the past. And I fear this mindset ended up depriving us of maybe the single most useful tool for interacting with hand-sized screens: the stylus.
To this day, I’m continually frustrated by the imprecision inherent in using broad, stubby fingertips to interact with mobile displays. Samsung is admirable for its efforts to restore the stylus to prominence with the S Pen, but I’m still sore that manufacturers gave up on them en masse in the first place.
Why did this all happen? Sure, Windows Mobile was already headed down that road, but Apple positively forced everyone’s hand with the first iPhone: instantly, the stylus was no longer “cool.” Have we gained a lot from the move to finger-based interactions? Sure, multi-touch is great, and resistive screens still send chills up my spine, but the loss of input precision that came with the fall of the stylus is one loss I’ve yet to get over.
The comical notion of 3D outside theaters still makes me chuckle … and cringe. It was never something I wanted to experience outside an immersive silver screen. I still don’t. I never wanted a 3D television for my living room, 3D video games, 3D televised sports, and especially a 3D smartphone. In fact, I have to be in the mood to see a move in 3D.
Alas, whether it was (and is) actually a ploy to cut down in-theater piracy or not, it briefly caught on elsewhere, too. I’ve seen countless 3D movies, and even watched some at my mother’s home, and rarely do I walk away without rubbing my eyes and experiencing the slightest headache.
HTC and LG jumped on that bandwagon, then fell off … hard. The HTC EVO 3D and LG Optimus 3D were the first of their kind, demanding attention from press and potential buyers because they were different. They could capture images in 3D! And they had glasses-free 3D displays! Never mind the displays were horrid, even by the standards then. And the effect of the 3D pictures and video was entirely moot, unless you also had a gimmicky 3D television in your home.
3D technology itself isn’t … bad. Nor is it great, amazing, or mind-blowing. I just couldn’t figure out why someone would want or need it in a phone, especially so prematurely.
A lot of gimmicky things have hit the mobile market since 3D, but many of them have proven useful over time or evolved into something much more – better. 3D, on the other hand, lasted a few months, at best. And that’s why it was the biggest mobile mistake of the last decade. It was a feature that was immediately seen for what it was: a gimmick.
“The biggest mobile mistake of the decade was …”
We all have our different takes on the mobile industry – what’s great, what could use some work, and what’s downright terrible. Many of the above mistakes we can agree on. Some of them are debatable. But we’re curious in hearing your take. What do you think the biggest mobile mistakes of the decade were? Join the discussion and share you thoughts below!