What Happens When We Reach Peak Smartphone

We'll Have a New iPhone Tomorrow! (Yawn)

Tomorrow, Apple will be holding it's annual iPhone-palooza. Announcing what is new about the forthcoming iPhone 7 and why you will need to immediately dislodge money from your wallet to get one.
We already know the basics.

  1. It will be thinner, lighter, faster, better.  
  2. It will probably have a fancy two lens camera, giving it DSLR-like capabilities.
  3. It probably won't have a headphone jack.

I'm sure there will be other bells and whistles, but for the most part this all-new device will feel more or less the same. Rumor mills are already starting about next year's iPhone, it will be the 10th anniversary of the device and apparently Apple's goal is the the device feels like it isn't even there, just a slab of glass in your hand your software floating in front of you. We'll see.

All of this has me thinking about when we will hit peak-smartphone. The last major innovation barrier is battery life. Something Apple and Samsung have yet to been able to really address. While it keeps improving, the improvement is nowhere near the pace of processor or display improvement which is demonstrable. Let's say that the secret mad scientists at Apple have sourced a new incredible battery that will improve life 10x and truly change the game, not only that - they've managed to sneak it into the glass-only slab form factor they've dreamed up.

In Other Words, Next Year's iPhone is Perfect.

I know we're a long way away from that, but go with me on this. We now have the perfect smartphone. Samsung copies it a year or so later. Then what? Where does tech go from there?

Well tech writers are doing everything they can to convince you that wearables are most definitely, for sure, absolutely coming and we will all love them. I have no doubt that everything from smart watches to VR helmets will get better, cheaper and more ubiquitous. But, I don't think we're going to see the majority of people need all of these things. I don't know that everyone is going to want to go home, get out of their work clothes and strap a VR helmet to their head. They might want to track their workouts and activity, but hasn't the Fitbit already nailed that?

If not wearables, then personal assistance and in-the-cloud-everything are next, right? People rave about Alexa from Amazon. Personally, Siri has two modes for me, stunning piece of the future in my pocket and drunk girl at the party who should really just go home. My issue with all of these platforms is that they are built on top of poorly constructed under pinnings. Our calendar, email, and task management protocols and platforms are dinosaurs. They don't work well and they sync poorly. No virtual assistant, no matter how well she understands my voice, can really help me if the data in my calendar is flawed or if the data in my email is inaccurate.

Some for instances?

  • How is it that I still get calendar invites in the wrong time zone?
  • How is it that all of my new contacts phone numbers are all saved as home numbers? Prompting exchanges like this:

"Hey Siri, call Jane Doe."

"Which phone number for Jane Doe, home, home, home or work fax?"

"Fuck if I know Siri."

  • How is it that tasks haven't been universalized as pieces of data? How come I can't save a reminder in my iPhone and it actually shows up properly on my Office 365 account?
  • Or the million other things that suck about how the most basic data that we move around day-to-day aren't created, saved or recalled easily.

OK, then Smart Guy? So what's next?

I don't think it will be hardware. Because here's the thing, today, right at this very moment, we have smart TVs and phones, tablets, laptops, connected cars, and a plethora of connected devices that can tell us everything right down to when the basement has flooded. The physical devices aren't the issue. The issue today is that the software isn't radically changing the way we live beyond inundating us with useless notifications and addictive pop sugar content. Accessing software in your hand, on the move, is indeed sometimes an improvement over having to sit at a computer. Maps are obviously much more useful when tethered to the device moving around in the car than to the one sitting on your desk. But the mobile experience has reached a plateau.

For all the promise of mobile purchasing, mobile commerce is largely not happening. I am the only jackass at dunkin donuts using my apple watch to buy coffee. I have literally never seen anyone at my local grocery store, mall, or home depot ask if they can pay for something with their phone. Does that mean it will never happen? No, of course not. But if these devices are going to matter, then it isn't going to the hardware that changes things any more. We're long past the days of smartphones being too bulky.

We're about to hit peak iPhone and Apple knows it. The race of the next decade won't be hardware. It'll be software.

Let's see who wins.