Smartphones are boring. Nearly everyone reading this has one, and uses it on a daily basis. Smartphones are standard. Smartphones are ubiquitous. According to ComScore, more than 110 million people in the US own a smartphone. Smartphones are a commodity. Carriers give them away for free, or at a greatly reduced price with a two-year contract.
Keep this in mind when reading complaints about the Apple iPhone 5 and its complete lack of “wow factor.”
Smartphone technology has advanced to the point that any further advancement hits the wall of diminishing returns. Image experts claim 300 pixels per inch is the maximum the human eye can discern on a smartphone. Apple achieved that with the iPhone 4 two years ago, and just about every new high-end smartphone exceeds that mark. Any higher resolution would be overkill. We have 4G cellular technology that rivals Wi-Fi in terms of speed, and all-day batteries to boot. Smartphones now weigh less than a pound, and are measured in fractions of an inch. If they become any thinner or lighter they will be unusable. There are simply no major barriers for smartphones to topple, only engineering tweaks to be made that marginally improve the talking, texting, app, and browsing experience.
Given this reality, what could Apple have possibly announced that wasn’t boring? Better question: what could Apple have announced that wasn’t boring or gimmicky, like Siri?
To be clear, Siri, the buzz-worthy voice-powered “personal assistant” that shipped with the iPhone 4S was/is gimmicky. It was/is a beta product that might portend a novel and fun Apple feature down the road, but is currently too limited and too unreliable to matter much for most users – Zooey, Sam, and Marty aside.
Besides, it wasn’t all that innovative in 2011. Siri was available as a standalone app long before Apple bought it up and slapped it on the 4S, and it wasn’t the only one available. In addition, voice activated functionality had long been present on Android.
The Apple iPhone has always been an excellent device that works well. The Apple iPhone 5 presents marginal and necessary improvements on top of a solid foundation. For the 110 million US smartphone owners that rely on their devices day to day, that’s more than enough.
Boring means mundane. Boring means functional. Smartphones are boring because they are practical. Smartphones are boring because they work. If they did not, they wouldn’t be so omnipresent and crucial to our professional and personal lives.
Apple probably recognizes this and should be more than happy to be boring. Apple knows that it will have no trouble selling its boring iPhone 5 to the million and millions of consumers that just need something that works.