Smartphones are fragile, getting bigger and bigger, have security issues and aren’t as easy to type on as a physical keyboard. Pair that with the fact that most of them barely get a heavy user through the day and we’re faced with the reality that upgrades are iterative and improvements aren’t significant enough to justify yearly upgrades.
And THANK-GOD! Instead of complaining that the advancements aren’t as big as they used to be, we’re finally able to focus the more important problem of “How can I use my Smartphone to truly make my life better?”
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro has a lot of cool technology in it, an optical fingerprint sensor, a front camera with so many sensors your face unlock will be super secure, an improved camera with Master AI 2.0 that will help you take a better picture.
But the truth is that having a fingerprint reader in your screen, thinner bezels or face authentication is super cool from a technology standpoint but they aren’t features that fundamentally change the way that we interact with our devices.
The hard truth is that innovation doesn’t guarantee success, HTC is probably the most prominent example of this. They were among the first to deliver a dual lens set up on the HTC Evo 3D, which was only for 3D photos, but in 2014 they One M8 upped the ante allowing for refocusing. This solution became the template for dual cameras and despite introducing these features HTC is far from the best at it now.
The company introduced squeezable edges, Hi-Res Audio recording in stereo, and more. Yet, for all HTC’s innovations, where has it led?
Innovation serves as a barometer of technological (and perhaps market) supremacy. It catches headlines and generates buzz which seems to be more important to manufacturers, even if they don’t necessarily translate to sales.
The Mate 20 Pro’s launch today hit one major thing home for me today, the companies that I find the most compelling aren’t producing their devices in a bubble, they have a holistic view on how their devices will exist in an ecosystem which, they’re also helping to shape through their enterprise divisions.
We know you came here to read an article about smartphones, but in the spirit of mobility, we’re looking at the phone as a piece of the puzzle. And we think this is how manufacturers are looking at them too.
The innovation for smartphones will come around how they fit into a larger mobility picture. At Mobile Geeks we like to ask questions about “How we Travel” and “How we live” We’re seeing the future of mobility shift from how we use our smartphones to interact with the world, but also how these devices are going to interact with broader concepts of mobility, like self-driving cars.
Last year Huawei showed off a semi-autonomous vehicle that was powered by the Mate 10 Pro. The Porsche Panamera didn’t have any self-driving capabilities, a top mounted camera rack fed directly into the smartphone. The Hisilicon Kirin 970’s neural processing unit processed the images through an app they built in 5 weeks with Kerve and the car was able to avoid obstacles and recognize objects.
The technical innovation found within the Huawei’s processors takes the entire ecosystem of mobility into consideration. Being a large company can make it hard to pivot but it also allows you to look at the big picture when you’re developing all your products.
Huawei has been a vocal advocate of digital transformation being critical to enterprise. Huawei’s new vision is to bring digital to every person, home and organization for a fully connected, intelligent world.
Smartphone exist in an ecosystem and Huawei is active in rolling out digital solutions in six major industries: Smart City, finance, manufacturing, electric power, transportation, and retail.
As an example, in Smart City area they have the Intelligent Operation Center (IOC), which serves as the brain of the city to connect the physical and digital worlds. Through Big Data, machine learning, and A.I., the IOC visually displays a city’s daily operating status.
The future is about making use of our data wherever we are, and the phone will be one of the many ways we areto able access information. Our handsets used to be the only way that we could access the internet while on the go. Now information is appearing in the smart display in our kitchen, our smart speakers, TVs and in our cars. Instead of turning to our phones for all the answers, we’re starting to turn to the world around us for answers.
Innovation is alive and well, but technological advancements in our phones are no longer the benchmark for success.
Even Apple has virtually come to a standstill when it comes to launching innovation in their devices. If I was a betting woman, I’d put all my money on Apple working on a self-driving car solution.
Ben Thompson over at Stratechery did some interesting math on just how many people are working on Project Titan self-driving project. According to public record, 5,000 of Apple’s 135,000 employee’s are disclosed on the project and 2,700 of those are granted access to the project database.
To put these numbers in context in 2010 Apple had 50,000 employees and 80% were in retail stores. If a similar ratio is applied to today’s numbers, this means there are about 25,000 employees at Apple’s headquarters, of which 20% are disclosed on the project. These are just guesses, but 20% is an exceptionally high number of people to be disclosed on an unreleased product.
Now that our hardware is good enough that we don’t need to upgrade our devices every year, manufacturers are able to focus on what the future of mobility looks like beyond the smartphone.
Don’t get me wrong. The Mate 20 Pro has some very cool technology that will keep Huawei on the tip of everyone’s tongue, but if we want to be inspired, we need to look at how companies are envisioning the role of smartphone’s in their larger mobility plan.