Ctrl: The Smart-Phone Revolution is Over

Caio Brighenti, Maroon-News Staff

For the last seven years, tech enthusiasts have entered the second week of September—the consistent date for Apple’s yearly major iPhone announcements—full of anticipation for what new features Apple might bring to the table. Apple fans hope for the best and Apple haters hope for potential backlash storms (please just give us back the headphone jack), but both groups expect at least one interesting addition to come. This year’s event, however, might’ve been the most boring iPhone announcement of all time.

If you watched the Apple keynote (which let’s be honest, you didn’t), you walked out with a single word in your head: camera. The seemingly only feature Apple deemed worthy to talk about was the iPhone 11’s hilariously fidget-spinner-esque camera array. If you don’t believe me, just go to the iPhone 11 page on Apple’s official website (you have to scroll for about 20 seconds to find a single word talking about something other than the camera).

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely understand that camera quality is increasingly the key metric for phone quality. But, it seems strange to make that the exclusive feature to promote. A phone is still a phone and not just a camera, which means it has to do significantly more than just take pictures. It feels redundant to have to say that, but between touchscreen, bluetooth-enabled cameras and increasingly camera-focused smartphones the line separating camera from phone is getting harder and harder to spot.

While a good camera is obviously a key aspect of a smartphone, it’s miles away from being the most used feature, so why does it dominate product marketing? Well, because Apple—and other major phone manufacturers too—have totally run out of things to improve. We’ve reached peak phone.

On a technological standpoint, Apple’s new A13 Bionic chip is by far a more impressive achievement than a sweet camera. In fact, Apple’s mobile devices even started outperforming the Apple laptop line years ago. They’re miles ahead of the competition and only getting better, but why is it that not a focus? Well, because we can’t tell.

Frankly, the A13 chip is amazing but complete overkill for browsing Facebook memes and posting your latest bid day group pic on Instagram. It’s like buying a Ferrari but only using it to drive around Morrisville—what’s the point if you can’t go past 30mph? Unfortunately, for the engineers at Apple, their mobile chips years ago passed the point of consumers being able to tell the difference. Remember when phones used to lag when you’d switch apps? Those days are in the past.

It’s not just the processing power that’s passed the point of having any visible improvements: Apple’s screens, form factor, and build quality have reached the point where it’s basically impossible to imagine a significant departure from what we have.

I remember getting my first phone ever as a middle schooler. I was obsessed with my beautiful black and red Motorola Razr flip phone, complete with it’s miniscule screen with visible pixels and tiny buttons. A couple of years later, I upgraded to my second phone. It was still a Motorola, but now it had a touch screen. A few years later, I receivedmy third Motorola phone, this time still with a touch screen but with unbelievable colors and a camera that could actually be considered usable.

In a handful of short years, my phone experience evolved from flip to chunky touchscreen to slim smartphone. Now, I have a hard time thinking of a single memorable development in smartphones over the last few years aside from the departure of our beloved headphone jack.

Simply put, the revolution is over. Smartphones have stabilized, and the days of yearly excitement have passed.