Device overload

I’m feeling mobile device overload. Trying to keep up with what’s available? What’s announced? What’s available in which market? What are flagship specs? Mid-point specs?

The rate of mobile devices introduction, including both tablets and phones, is astounding these days, and just seems to be accelerating. But, as I look at the differences and variety, I keep thinking, why? After all, at least in North America, carriers are increasing the equipment discount contract length, and the un-discounted price of these devices is staggering. 

Technological one-upmanship is generally a good thing, when it continues to advance the state of the art, but it really seems like what we’re getting here are not significant steps forward, but cranking out something new with what’s on hand, since its been a couple weeks since you’ve announced a new device.

I bought a DroidX when it first started shipping. A year later, they announced a new version of the same model with a dual core processor, but the same scant 512MB of memory. I find my DroidX to be unbearably slow at times, we’re talking 20-30 seconds to respond to a request to switch to an app I was using a minute ago. What I find bogs the device down in real-world use is switching between applications, not the performance of the running application. While a faster processor will help with that, more physical memory would improve it without the corresponding hit on battery life, which was already mediocre.

In fact, all the devices I’m seeing are touting tech specs as their differentiators, which shows that in what is still a scramble to compete with Apple’s significant market share, companies aren’t creating devices that make a users experience better, but are just flashy, blinky lights hoping to get you to consume. And, the problem with touting tech specs, generally before a device is actually available, another device is announced that already makes it obsolete.

How about creating 1/2 or 1/3 the devices, but making each one excellent at what it does?

You can’t talk about mobile devices without acknowledging Apple, of course. The one exception is device overload is Apple, and its predictiable iteration of devices with iPhone, iPad, and MacBooks, all of which have gotten off the “amazing new device” track, and are now all on slow-and-steady incremental upgrade paths. They stay behind the curve in many areas (sometimes years behind), but don’t overload the market with confusing options (anymore ;-). Althought I’ve gotten off the Apple bandwagon, they have a generally logical set of devices, including the iPod Touch, iPad, and laptops in their lineup. Apple’s constraints on development for mobile devices did force me off the bandwagon though. And, it looks like it’s heading that direction on its laptops as well with the introduction of the desktop app store, and paid developer “program” for MacOS apps. Before I get fanboyed, where can I download your cute little iOS app you built for personal use, and to share with your friends, after paying a premium for a device, and paid $99 to get in the development program I need to write and deploy the app, and generate security certificates? Oh, I can’t unless I jailbreak the phone? Yeah, that. My Android app under development can be downloaded here.

OK, Apple diversion aside, my point is, how about fewer mobile devices, but actually building devices based on customer use/demand? Fewer devices, upgraded more slowly, but more significantly? Don’t replace a model until it’s 2x better in at least 3 areas than the device it’s replacing (using display, memory, processor, battery, network(s), cost,  as axes of “better”).