Yes; smartphones have become commodities

Posted by Mister Mobility




Definition of ‘Commodity’

A basic good used in commerce that is interchangeable with other commodities of the same type. The quality of a given commodity may differ slightly, but it is essentially uniform across producers. For some weeks now, I have been thinking about how smartphones have become commodities. However, someone beat me to the press.

Over at TechSuplex, SuperSanusi (I need a super hero name like that; “Mister Mobility” is so plain) has an article that spells out some of the stuff that I have been thinking about in recent times. His post is titled Smartphones have gotten boring. Bang! Spot on. Some excerpts:

I think the reason is that we have gotten to a saturation point of sorts. We are getting to the point where hardware is much less of a differentiator than it used to be; want the coolest camera? Every hardware maker can order the same camera sensors on the iPhone 5s from Sony. Processors? Every OEM can get the top of the line chip from Qualcomm…

Even with software, the differences aren’t so much except for a few specialised needs (e.g. banking services, health services, etc). There is almost nothing you can’t do on all the major smartphone OSes today, they obviously each have their own strengths and weaknesses, but at the basic level, they will do almost everything you need off a smartphone today.

Yes; smartphones have become commodities. They are mostly the same with little bits of differentiators here and there. Boring. It is tough reviewing mobile devices today. What I do now is highlight the differentiators and mention any grievous failings of each device. Anything outside of that means one would basically regurgitate the same thing for each review. Boring.


Martin Nkem, another mobilista, told me he feels the same way too. So it isn’t just Sanusi and Mo. A new flagship is announced and it is basically last year’s flagship with some minor differences. And this is not just Apple. This is every manufacturer. The industry has hit a plateau. Whether its feature phones, smartphones or tablets, it is mostly more of the same across brands.

What to do? It is time for people to stop obsessing over what device they bought or use, and instead get into using them more. You know, like really, really use them. Hopefully, someone will show up and disrupt the industry again, and start a new flurry of excitement that we can get high on. To be honest, I need my fix.

Do go read SuperSanusi’s article, Smartphones have gotten boring.


5 comments

  1. You, Martinkem, and SuperSanusi aren’t the only ones.

    I’ve felt the same way since Q3, 2013.

    There was a time I would eagerly devour every word of a smartphone review from mobilitynigeria, gsmarena, verge, fonearena, etc. Not anymore. I’ve unsubscribed from many tech blogs.

    Very little is new or innovative in the smartphone industry anymore. I keep an eye out only for unique devices. Like the Jolla (which under-whelmed me). Like the first Tizen phone (I don’t expect much but it will be a breath of fresh air). Like that Phone ‘blocks’ concept (truly unique!)

    Btw, I suggest DoroMo, DoroMobi, AbigMo. :p

  2. I agree totally that smartphones, the hardware, have become like sedans. They all look the same. Remove the auto badge and they are basically indistinguishable. .

    Basically, a new smartphone, no matter the specs, just bores They are almost all the same. That’s why I don’t read smartphone / tablet reviews, unless when shopping for a new device. People gushing about multicores, megapixesl, etc, just evoke yawns from me.

    But…

    While some people would go broke trying to get a gadget fix by procuring the latest flagship smartphone, I get by via software, apps. That route costs next to nothing.

    You can take a crappy last year’s device, pimp it up with the right apps, and you get the feeling of a brand new device.

    With Android (and now, iOS) , things are even easier.. You have replaceable launchers, live wallpapers, static wallpapers, replaceable keyboards, widgets, etc…. to make things look like new.

    Conclusively, while I would agree things are pretty insipid on the hardware front, the software arena is a_buzz with excitement, giving those boring hardware new leases of life, with every new app that is installed.

  3. this was bound to happen sooner or later. any industry that goes through such aggressive expansion eventually reaches a plateau of sorts. and with iOS 8, Android 4.4 & WP 8.1 more or less having feature parity you’ll see OEMs trying crazy things to push hardware differentiation. 4k screens, sapphire screens, more sensors etc

  4. I would agree up to a certain point. Did I read correctly somewhere that 2/3rds of the worlds population still use feature phones? What does that say about those of us who fly in the coat tails of each new OS update and released smartphone?

    Less than 40% of Nigerians use the internet, let’s not talk of those who use smartphones (or more than one). So we’re really talking of boredom for the few rather than the many.

    Having read Sanusi’s writeup, both parts 1 and 2, I have to agree that device integration and better battery life are the key features users are looking for, not gimmicks. Waterproof your phone if you like, if the battery life is poor I don’t want to know. Can it work my TV and video without me having to look for a new remote control? Great!

    Yes, Mister Mobility is such a 20th Century name…

  5. cool names; “valiant Mo” “Mow the Viper” “Avenger Mo”.

    Agree with SuperSanusi and Mo. Looking for an Android device for portable e-reading and general geekery and no one device spoke to me. I gushed about the Xperia Z1, then HTC M7, then Lumian 1320, followed by Gionee Elife E6 and now Gionee s5.5. I held the device and I lusted…terribly. it’s just 5.8mm thin. The back is made of glass, it’s octacore, 13mp, anorexic and just 45,000. It felt totally different and thanks to the odd Amigo UI, it behaves differently.
    Barring any sudden change, i’ve found my next device. Just have to wait for 1week and determine if I would still be interested.

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