The commoditization of smartphone is complete; the Rs.251 (US$ 4) smartphone launch in India is the last nail in the coffin of the revolution lit by the launch of the first iphone by Steve Jobs in 2007. That device was a revolutionary product that gave rise to a new industries, dramatically changed consumer behavior, made legacy players redundant and had unleashed creative forces ranging across technology development to arts and culture.
We are now in the phase of either squeezing costs – to make smartphones affordable to everyone - or incremental technical enhancement to optimize the various functionalities already present. In fact one can argue that nearly all the smartphones out there are replicas of the original iphone (and that includes all the newer versions of the iphone as well).
So the big question is whether is there going to be a new product or concept which iphone really was in the foreseeable future. It seems if one were to look at what is currently announced by vendors and developers at Mobile World Congress (MWC) and other places, we are stuck with incremental secular innovation. It will take someone with a great foresight who can look beyond foreseeable to think, and develop a revolutionary concept; unfortunately Steve Jobs is no longer with us.
Arguably, this inability to spawn a new revolution at a conceptual level we see in many other areas where we have developed a revolutionary product/concept/idea. The focus is either on improving or optimizing and less on discarding and re-starting as is needed for a revolutionary idea/concept to bear fruit.
So for example our inability to come up with a Grand Unification Theory in physics is partly due to an effort to reconcile the theory of relativity with the theory of quantum mechanics. And this effort which has been ongoing since the time of Einstein has still not reached a conclusion. Maybe there and maybe in smartphone industry, we need a complete re-think to create a new revolution.