Our Phones Are Fast Enough. Now Please Make Them Better.

Let’s look at how smartphones have developed over the past three years: We went from having 8 megapixel cameras to 41 megapixels, from dual-core processors to octa-cores (that’s 8!!) and from roughly 250 PPI to 468 PPI displays. If we follow the current trend we will have smartphones with 800 PPI by the end of 2016. But do we really need this?

It’s obvious that technology is evolving. Every time manufacturers reveal their brand new flagship smartphone they tell us that their latest model is (again) even faster, more powerful, has more megapixels and has more of everything else. Stuffing more and more technology into phones (and tablets), they forget to actually make them… better.

Our phones are fast enough, hands down. They can handle every game you can imagine playing on a phone. The pixels are so small that you can’t even tell the difference between 350 and 500 PPI. And you definitely won’t see the difference between 8 and 40 megapixels on an Instagram photo you took on your trip to Paris.

When was the last time you really made full use of your processor? When was the last time you weren’t satisfied with the quality of your screen?

We might have reached the point where hardware doesn’t matter that much anymore.

What do we really look for in smartphones?

What do we really look for when buying a phone? Let’s first look at the situation at a slightly different angle. Here’s a small example: you buy a drill because you want to drill a hole in your wall. And you buy medication because you want to feel better, right?. Your main interest is not the product – it’s the result.

The main purpose of a smartphone is making our lives easier and more entertaining. Whether it’s checking your email on the go, playing Angry Birds during a lecture or sharing a beautiful picture you just made with your friends on Facebook.

What really matters is how the device will perform in real life situations. Will it make doing something easier? Will you enjoy entertainment on your phone more than before?

The recently release Moto X is a great example. The phone itself doesn’t have the HTC One’s performance or the Lumia 1020’s camera. What it has to offer goes far beyond basic technology specifications. People like using it! They say it lies perfectly in your hand, not too light and not too heavy. They like the shape. They like the fact that you can customize the phone’s exterior and that the device is assembled in the USA.

Motorola approached the manufacturing of the phone from a different perspective. They have asked people (not themselves) what they really wanted. They have spent a lot of time and money on researching what matters most. And what they found out is that mid-end hardware is powerful enough to offer a compelling user experience, only if you do everything else right.

Apple also has played its part in this. The iPhone is built around the people, around experiences. Bright colours, beautiful exterior, near perfect quality of product. But they have never put a 20-megapixel camera inside their phone. For the same reason Apple stopped at 326 PPI screens, while other companies continue fighting the PPI battle that nobody will ever win.

We don’t need 800 PPI displays. We don’t need octa-core processors. We don’t need 45 megapixel cameras. Here are just a few things many people wish for:

  1. Long-lasting battery (Motorola Droid Maxx – 48h of battery life)
  2. Camera that could handle low-light situations
  3. Integrations with services you use every day, whatever they might be

“Phones are now fast enough. Screens are now big enough. Sensors are now… sensory enough. Can we please have bigger batteries now?” andybak – reddit 

Why do companies still compete on hardware?

Imagine you have invested millions of dollars into a company that produces and sells mobile devices (or anything else, really). What do you care about most? Return on investment.

And according to all laws of common sense, the greater the risk, the more money you could possibly win (and lose) in a certain period of time. So if you invest millions you are usually looking for a stable and secure investment.

What you get as an investor is directly linked to the financial performance of a company. So how can such a company ensure that the new phone will sell better than the older one? By stuffing in more electronics and make it look better on paper. Why? Because they can’t predict to a full 100% if customers will like new features like, for example, the active display. But they certainly know that the people will love “bigger, faster and more powerful than ever”. At least they used to…

moto x active display

Chicken and Egg Problem

There will, of course, be people who will say that hardware matters a lot. Their main argument is that new services and more opportunities will arise as the result of more powerful technology. This is true to a certain extent. But do we really want to go down this road?

There are two ways to look at this. What do you think? Should we create new technology and make services follow… or should we make visions come to life with new technology?


We have enough of everything. We have grown up. We have moved past showing off who has the bigger screen or the faster processor. We care more about the experience than about the hardware.

What do you really care about in a smartphone? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

  1. Fuckwit says

    battery life

  2. furry razor says

    Battery life, and low light camera pictures.

    But mainly battery life.

  3. Dean says

    battery life

  4. BA says

    battery, camera. the more megapixels in the camera the better, Nokia is moving in the right direction with their camera tech because it’s actually useful to the consumer, quite the opposite of octacore processors and excessively high screen resolutions

  5. ChallangetobeAccepted says

    Improving hardware is also improving the experience.

    Android, especially compared to the other mobile operating systems, is very power hungry. Dalvik is probably Android’s greatest strength and its biggest flaw.

    Also you should not be willing to abstrain yourself from good hardware for the benefit of decent software.

    Android has been quite stagnant recently. Sure, 4.3 is a big improvement over 4.2, but that is because 4.2 broke a lot of things and was overall slower than 4.1. 4.3 is what 4.2 should have been.

    With Android 4 Android grew to visual maturity. The interface is clean and easy to understand. With 5.0 the core of the OS should follow. It’s just ridiculous how a quad core powered smartphone with two gigabytes of RAM is not able to smoothly scroll a list.

    It should not be the manufacturer’s job to make the OS usable. Their optimisations should be improving compatibility with a given set of hardware and not rewriting parts of the OS to make it work the way it is supposed to in the first place. This should be Google’s job. Sadly they seem more interested in deploying their Play Services and separating core features from the OS than actually pushing Android as the earlier mentioned stagnation shows.

    Let’s just hope future devices will offer the best hardware available and offer the best experience possible.

  6. heathgm says

    Maybe with games excluded, I cannot see why we need more processing power for the apps we are running. Why are newer versions of apps so much more demanding than they were 2 years ago.

    My main wishes for future phones is battery life, software innovation (which offers significant user benefits from the super powerful phones that we have) and solid build quality.

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