Long Live the Smartphone


Every major technology has its glory years. The PC had its glory days from 1981 until 1995 and Microsoft dominated the technical industry. Then the Internet took over from 1995 until 2007, when the smartphone era started. It’s start is marked by the remarkable historic lunch of the iPhone by late Steve Jobs. But now the the smartphone era is nearing its end. However, that does not mean it will not become important. In fact, it will be come ubiquitous, “invisible” tool that everyone has. It is like the magic wand to those of Hogwarts. The smartphone is shifting it’s role.

The following chart is the courtesy of Statistica:

Infographic: Have iPhone Sales Peaked in 2015? | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

Every important technology follows a simple pattern that in business schools is called the S-curve. It is simple to explain. First years of new technology, development is slow with only incremental success. There may be high hopes and big laughs. Think about early cars. People could not image that those things were a threat to the horse as means of transportation. Think about the PC – a toy for crazy hobbyist. And think early smartphones. All of these products were initially overpriced and underperforming. This is the gestation phase. Then, as magic, the progress in innovation starts to kick in. Something works. Performance improvements increase with each iteration. And the increase is increasing. This is the acceleration or growth phase. Eventually, the increase slows down. New features are not as revolutionary just incremental. This is the mature phase. The smartphone is entering the mature phase.

Again, that does not mean it is not important. It is just too powerful to not be. It means it will not see major must have new features, but it will become a platform for the next wave. And there are several coming. Let’s name two.

First, the Internet of things phenomena is real and it is finding new applications all the time. There are thermostats, lightbulbs, thermometers, sports equipment, all sorts of sensors, drones and you name it. All devices from coffee mugs to chairs, seem to connect to the Internet. And where does the smartphone come in? It is the remote control. It is the device to rule all devices.

Second, artificial intelligence is getting to a point that it is useful. In fact the big technologies companies in Silicon Wally are all serious about AI. And this is spreading. As Kevin Kelly pointed out the next 10,000 startups will be AI + something. Again the smartphone has a role. It will be the device that controls your live more than ever.

The smartphone is becoming a platform. It is the device in our hand which controls our lives. Not only does it answer questions and allow you to browse and read email. It will become you personal assistant. It will tell you what you need to do when you need to. It will remind you of you birthdays or your wedding anniversary and what’s more it will order the gifts to need and have them delivered plus it will reserve a table at a restaurant and put in your calendar. It is your new personal assistant. The era of the smartphone may be over, but its importance is far from over.