The most obviously successful industry trend, over the course of the last couple of decades, is the smartphone. It can be argued that Blackberry is where smartphones began, but they truly became popular and mainstream with the iPhone. The first iPhone was launched by Apple on the 29th June 2007, and it did away with physical buttons, in favour of a touchscreen interface. It would become the standard for following smartphones, and that original, ground-breaking product has evolved to become an absolute must-have for legions of tech-hungry fans.
The manufacturers of smartphones soon clocked that regularly updating their products, and marketing the new editions as the latest ‘must-have’, was an easy way to make money. Smartphones have become status symbols, especially to teenagers and young people, and having the latest edition of the best brands is important to schoolkids. Rivalling the iPhone is the Samsung Galaxy S series, and Apple and Samsung have had a number of high-profile spats. Lawsuits around technology and software have raged around the world, as the two companies vie for supremacy in this lucrative market.
A number of companies have come and gone. HTC (along with Samsung, and a number of other businesses) used the Android operating system, but their market share has dipped sharply, owing to competition within the Android category, and from Apple. Google (who developed the Android system) have launched their own range of smartphones, the popular Pixel series, which as of writing this, is one that quite intrigues me.
The rise of smartphones has led to a symbiotic relationship with fast, wireless internet, and the development of mobile internet. Social media’s success owes a lot to how smartphones let people broadcast their lives, instantly, from anywhere. Ancillary technologies like smartwatches have become big businesses in their own right, with Apple, Samsung and Google all developing them, to pair with their smartphone products.
Is it all a good thing? Anyone can now potentially reach anyone else, from anywhere, at any time. They can share anything, with anyone, anywhere, at any time. This is a positive and a negative. There was a time when you could go on holiday, and not be disturbed by work. Now, you cannot get away from work emails, even if you’re halfway around the world. There is an expectation that you should be available for, well, anything, all the time. There are questions around the built-in obsolescence of smartphones, and the push from manufacturers to drive people to buy the latest (usually very expensive) device, as soon as it comes out. With smartphones being status symbols, having an older or ‘inferior’ device can leave someone (such as a schoolkid) vulnerable to mockery. The effects of extreme production of smartphones on the environment cannot be overstated.
My thoughts would be to have manufacturers focus on supporting existing devices more, over manipulating people to buy a new one all the time. If they wanted to charge for this, that would be up to them, I appreciate they are businesses, aiming to make money, but especially in a time of a cost of living crisis, they have an obligation to ease the societal burden upon people.