Is the Smartphone Dying?

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, each new iPhone launch was met with an outstanding level of hype. At the time, the technology was so new and exciting that every year Apple’s smartphone would make the news with its shiny new features, with thousands of people waiting in lines outside Apple stores for the chance to get their hands on one on release day. But these days, that hype has largely died down, and while their is certainly buzz surrounding new iPhone releases, it’s nowhere near the levels it was in the time of the first iPhones. New features and designs have become predictable, often consisting of improved performance, cameras, and battery life, all notable improvements, but not innovations in the same way that the iPhone 4’s FaceTime camera or the iPhone 5s’ fingerprint sensor were. This decline in hype is what causes some tech analysts to say that smartphone innovation has plateaued, and the platform is on the edge of decline. Many see smartphones as going in the same direction that PCs went in the late 1980s and early 2000s, where performance and innovation had plateaued and customers weren’t upgrading nearly as often as they had in the past as a result. On the other hand, smartphone manufacturers are desperately trying to fend off this curve, largely through introducing gimmicky new features like modularity and three-dimensional technology, or through developing new form factors for phones, such as the ever so popular folding form. The truth is that these new features have been doing very little to generate hype around new releases, and even less to entice users to upgrade to newer models. But does this mean the smartphone is dead? Not exactly. While innovation in the smartphone space has certainly began to plateau, smartphones will largely remain relevant for the next few years if for nothing else than lack of a better alternative. Back in the early 90s, desktop PCs continued to sell despite a plateau in innovation largely because consumers didn’t have anywhere else to go for their computing needs, as laptops and portables had yet to pack sufficient power into their smaller frames, thus making them impractical for many users. The same is true now, wearables are not yet sufficiently usable to offer any real competition or threat to the well established smartphone, and until they can do so, the smartphone will be the go to mobile computer for the general population. The real issue comes in trying to hold on to customers and pushing them to upgrade, so that companies developing products for the post-smartphone future have enough income to do so. One avenue that is growing in popularity is the subscription/reoccurring revenue approach, which sees customers paying a certain amount over a period of time for a phone they don’t own but essentially lease until a newer model comes out, where the process continues. This software as a service and automotive industry inspired approach is popular among companies like Apple as it demands less innovation and guarantees a steady stream of income, while still allowing users to get a shiny new device each year, even if it isn’t drastically different under the surface from their last. Another way that companies achieve the same result is by charging more for their phones, as people tend to hold onto them for longer periods of time, thus allowing companies to make the same amount of money off of customers as before, just in a shorter period of time. One final approach is the much maligned practice of artificially slowing down older phones, as to push users to newer and seemingly faster devices. While this practice gets a bad rep, it does have some benefits, like pushing users to newer devices with better user experiences they may not have experienced without said push. To conclude, the smartphone has definitely slowed down in terms of innovation, but it’s far from dead, as there is nothing currently that can offer any sort of real alternative to it, and companies like Apple and Samsung will continue to push new devices to users in new and unique ways, with success, until this isn’t the case.

Will Apple Silicon Be the Silver Bullet for the Mac’s Problems?

When Steve Jobs iconically pulled the first ever MacBook Air out of an envelope way back in 2008, few could foresee the impact that the laptop would have on the computer industry as a whole. Now, over a decade later, it is easy to see how the then unbelievably thin and light profile of the device heavily informed almost all laptops that came after it, with many of the design elements that made the original MacBook Air’s profile so iconic still present in a majority of laptops on sale today. But what many fail to realize is that that original 2008 MacBook Air was largely seen as a failure, a rarity for Apple. It was seen as such for a number of reasons, mainly, lack of ports, a lacking display, and, most importantly, comparatively terrible performance when put up against both Apple’s own notebooks and those from other manufacturers. All of these issues were exacerbated by a steep price of $1,799, a price made almost entirely unjustifiable given the aforementioned flaws that came with the device. It wasn’t until the second generation Air, introduced two years later, that these flaws were fixed and the MacBook Air became the mainstay of coffee shops and college lectures that it is known so well for today. This anecdote is important to the subject of the Apple Silicon in Macs today as Apple took a similar approach to the one they took with the original 2008 MacBook Air more recently with another Product, and they were met with strikingly familiar results. In 2015, Apple announced the brand new MacBook, sans “pro” or “air”, it was just the MacBook. With the MacBook, Apple ushered in a brand new design language and ethos to the Mac, one that emphasized portability and versatility to their popular line of laptops and desktops, and promised to change the way laptops were designed in the same way the original MacBook Air did. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. However, where the original MacBook Air and the 2015 MacBook were similar were in the numerous problems that plagued their respective releases. Much like the original 2008 MacBook Air, the 2015 MacBook was seen as lacking in connectivity department, too underpowered, and once again, far too expensive for what it was. All of these issues culminated in Apple pulling the MacBook from sale after just 4 years in 2019, replacing it with a redesigned MacBook Air. But this doesn’t need to be the end for MacBook. The issues that came up with the redesigned MacBook echoed through the rest of Apple’s Notebook lineup from 2015 up until very recently, as those flaws resulted from the scale of form and function leaning to far towards the former. But, with the recent announcement that Apple will begin to use their own processors in their Mac lineup, the most pressing of these issues could be solved. Apple’s custom silicon offers several key advantages for the Mac lineup. First off, is improved power efficiency. Apple’s custom processors are based off of the open ARM standard, which, as a RISC (reduced instruction set computer) processor architecture, promises much more power per watt when compared to Intel’s processors, meaning the issues with power that faced the 2015 MacBook and the later Macs that followed in its design foot steps could be eliminated. Furthermore, using in house processors offers a significant cost cutting advantage for Apple, as it allows for them to reduce the overhead generated from using processors from firms like Intel and AMD. This could answer the concerns over the ever-raising prices and questionable value of Apple’s Mac’s by allowing Apple to reduce prices on the lower end of their lineup and pack in more value for your dollar on the higher end. To conclude, Apple’s transition to implementing their own processors in their Macs offers them a unique opportunity to solve the issues facing the product line for years.

Some Recent Thoughts.

I think that one of America’s biggest problems right now comes directly from the way it views itself. Nationalism is more visible in our country than it has been in a long while, perhaps even since world war II. While I believe that national pride is by all means a good thing, like with all things, too much of it can become hurtful. Today, I think people see America as more of an object, whereas we should be looking at it as a group of people. This is where we derive the idea of disrespecting it when we kneel during the national anthem, or when we say that one party is more patriotic than the other. We’ve made America an object and in doing so, we’ve attached these intrinsic values to it, values like what we call patriotism. I feel that these values that we attach to this objectified idea of America don’t do anything to bring the country together, and instead have the opposite effect. This approach is no different than identity politics, it’s a product of harsh overgeneralization. Instead of viewing America as an object represented by a flag that can be”disrespected” we should look at America as what it really is, a group of people from radically different backgrounds. Instead of seeing the flag as something that can be disrespected, we should look at how we disrespect each other, as this is what really matters. No one gets directly hurt when someone kneels during the National Anthem, sure it may hurt our pride, but at the end of the day we’re still breathing, right? But when we disrespect each other, we not only hurt another person, we hurt the country as a whole as we destroy the bonds that hold it together. We need to stop objectifying America as some kind of symbolic icon, and we need to start personifying each other and seeing each other as what we really are: human beings.