It’s finally happened.
I have, in my pocket, a phone that is so powerful, so fast, beautifully made, with a top notch camera, incredible chip, amazing OLED screen, that I cannot think of one single thing that Apple can do to make it any better. A couple of weeks ago I upgraded my phone to the new iPhone XS Max. I’d been used to a ‘plus’ or ‘gigantaphone’ and wasn’t too sure of the iPhone X design (particularly FaceID) so held off a year until the plus version came out and FaceID became a little more established (I remember when TouchID first arrived it was a little hit and miss) but when the XS Max was announced I knew I’d take the plunge, and I’m so glad I did.
But this really represents a problem for companies like Apple, Samsung and Google. I’ve had an iPhone since the 3G and back then the smartphone was a revelation. I felt quite conspicuous talking into this square object that looked more like an iPod than a phone. It wasn’t very good either. 3G was patchy, new apps regularly crashed, the camera was rubbish, there was no multi-media messaging, but there was huge potential. I upgraded every two years, so have had the 4, 5, 6, and 7 Plus and each version has got better and better. The XS Max I now hold in my hand, when compared to that original 3G, is astounding.
If you are into tech then maybe you have also been used to the two-year upgrade cycle (it’s something that was a hangover from the Nokia/Motorola days when phones were, well, just phones, and broke easily), but now I wonder exactly what Apple (well, not just Apple this goes for Android phones too, because we have reached that point where the quality, software, user experience on either iOS and Android is established, smooth, and pretty much the same – it just depends whether you are in the Google or Apple ecosystem), are going to do now to entice that upgrade? I think we have reached the same point with phones as we have with our computers, and possibly tablets too, where we have a phone for at least 5 years before there is any need to upgrade. I can certainly see this XS Max staying with me well beyond my usual two year upgrade cycle.
So the phone equivalent to the gold rush has ended. It’s certainly been fun. Some of the changes I’m now seeing seem to be change for change sake, something to just make the phone different, but they aren’t great improvements. Right now I still prefer TouchID on the iPhone, but am getting used to FaceID, the phone is snappy, reliable, and beautiful to use, but it’s not a huge leap from my 7 Plus (apart from the full screen which is the main reason I forked out for it). The technical design departments at all of these companies must be scratching their heads right now wondering where they can go, where they haven’t already gone before. It’s going to be a interesting few years for smartphone manufacturers. And the ‘next big thing’ is nowhere to be seen. As the vast majority of Apple’s business is the iPhone they must be particularly concerned, but, hey, they are the world’s first trillion dollar company, so I think we can put those sad violins away for the moment…
Have you been on the two year upgrade cycle?
Do you see yourself continuing, or are you like me, and see that also coming to an end?
Where do you think smartphone manufacturers can do now to make these incredible pocket computers any better?