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The iPhone 14 makes me think smartphones have peaked, it’s incremental upgrades from now on

The new iPhones are out. My colleague talked all about them here. He thinks the 14 Pros are good but the regular 14s are a fleece. I don’t completely disagree, however, the iterative nature of the upgrades introduced has me thinking – have smartphones peaked?

First, it was Samsung

Late last month we saw Samsung introduce the Flip 4 and the Fold 4. We remarked that they did the bare minimum required, if that, to warrant the release of new phones with new names. You would be hard pressed to tell the Flip 3 and Fold 3 from this year’s Flip 4 and Fold 4.

The only upgrade of note in those phones were the new processors – the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1. The new processor is a little faster and a little more efficient. However, in real world use, they don’t blow away last year’s processors. They are better but in most cases you will only be able to tell if you do side by side comparisons.

As disappointing as the upgrade was, we could forgive Samsung because they are at least in the forefront, leading the charge in the fancy foldable smartphone race. Year on year, they made minor improvements but we cannot ignore that foldables are on the bleeding edge. We are yet to see this new form factor really make a case for its existence but at least Samsung is trying something new.

Some have pointed out though that Samsung’s lead in the foldables market is too great that they are not trying hard enough to innovate. I’m inclined to agree because foldables are still in their early days and there’s still room for tinkering.

Now, Apple

When it comes to Apple, the other dominant force in the smartphone space, it’s a little more complicated. They are not playing in the experimental foldable space. They are squarely in the conventional candy bar phone world.

It is this kind of smartphone that has peaked a little. Looking at the iPhone 14 line, I don’t see anything world shattering. I only see incremental upgrades and a few cool features.

Are we supposed to be excited about an Always On Display? We’ve had those for years on Android. Spare me the Apple does it better mantra. This is not innovation.

So, other manufacturers long moved on from huge notches in favour of hole punches? Apple now joins the party and leans into the hole punch, utilising the space around the pill shaped cutout to display some information. Stuff like incoming calls, alerts, notifications etc.

I have to admit I want everyone else to copy this. Apps with live activities like sports apps can keep you updated through that part of the screen that’s not really used whilst you do something else on your phone. Apple calls it the dynamic island.

That’s cool but is it ‘drop whatever you’re doing and look at this’ cool? Nope.

Just like with the Samsungs above, the iPhone 14s come in the same bodies as last year’s phones. In fact, Apple has recycled this design since the iPhone 11. Also, technically, this design was first seen in the iPhone 5.

As if to troll us, the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus use last year’s processors. Now that is just Apple saying, ‘what are you gonna do about it?’ That’s a baller move and they will get away with it. A 4 year old design and a 2 year old processor in today’s prices.

Is that bad though?

While I don’t like what they did, I have to concede that it’s not a big deal. Smartphone processors have been good enough for a while now. All the improvements we have been seeing have been marginal at best.

Reality is that an iPhone X and a Galaxy S10 are still good enough to handle all our everyday apps. Over the years, even when adding features, most apps have been getting efficient whilst processors have been getting powerful.

The WhatsApp experience on the iPhone X is exactly the same as it is on the iPhone 14. 5 year old processors can handle social media and other less demanding apps perfectly.

This is why I think smartphones have peaked a little. Unless you are playing Genshin Impact, you won’t really feel like your iPhone 14 is that much better than a 5 year old one.

Where you will notice the improvements is in battery life. The iPhone 13s had stellar battery life and these 14s should be even better. That may be but to be honest unless we are talking about multi-day battery life the improvements are not that great.

When your phone has 1 and a half day battery life you are no better off than me with my one day battery life. You will have to charge every night like the rest of us. So, although the iPhones are better than the competition on battery life, the experience is the same as everyone else with a recent smartphone.

What do you think?

We are well past the days of upgrading phones every year. We’ve gotten to the point where even mid range phones are good enough. We just aren’t pushing the needle far enough to get excited about the new smartphones coming out.

Do the new iPhones take better pictures than my 3 year old Android? Of course. Are the pics my phone takes good enough? Yes. That’s how it is with almost everything else.

Newer phones are better but not by much as to warrant upgrades. No wonder the world over, people are holding on to their phones longer before upgrading.

The Chinese are experimenting with super fast charging and I think that could be a game changer. Being able to recharge a phone in 10 minutes changes your usage patterns. The market leaders Apple and Samsung are still far behind on this.

It is in charging, durability and price that I think innovation has to come. Everything else is going to see only incremental upgrades anyway.

Experimenting with form factors like Samsung is doing with foldables is commendable too, who knows, we might get a winner there.

Also read:

The iPhone 14 Pros are great. Don’t buy the regular 14s

Samsung plays it safe with improvements to folding phones, Flip 4 and Fold 4, still impressive though

Fully charge your phone in 9 minutes? OPPO says why not with 240W fast charging


Quick NetOne, Econet, And Telecel Airtime Recharge

19 thoughts on “The iPhone 14 makes me think smartphones have peaked, it’s incremental upgrades from now on

  1. I think most of these latest upgrades to smartphones are marginal and for most people unnecessary,I would welcome real game changing innovations from smartphone manufacturers like an affordable drop resistant smartphone,full charge in under 20 mins,I mean those game changing innovations.Indeed a Galaxy S9+ or even less is able to handle most if not all our day to day tasks on a smartphone

      1. Hahaha, varikuita basa raMwari. Apps are not getting demanding so weaker components and lower prices has never been more doable.

      2. Bringing 90‘s old features is not innovation,kunonzi kungwarira paduri sehuku,no USB C,no 4G(they are liars they still at 3G),no large RAM ,you still use old processors hence Tiktok lite,Facebook Lite 😂same reason why it saves power,it’s cpu is weak(uses less power),retardant UI ,1UI and Stock Android are miles better

    1. Exactly. The whole ‘this one takes slightly better pics’ lines are tired now. That doesn’t change the smartphone experience in any meaningful way. At this rate of innovation, one should only upgrade every five years or so. The fact that the phones are getting 5 years of security updates and at least 3 major software upgrades means it won’t even be a problem.

  2. Aren’t people gearing up for 3nm process? Maybe that will be the generation it would be meaningful to upgrade to. As for form factor, what else can really be done? Maybe some new material choices or a mass producible wrap around screen. Not many will go too wild when the ghost of LG is floating around for all to see. Battery tech has been all hype and no go for years now too. Maybe 2024 will be the year it all comes together!

    1. I’m curious to see how 3nm pans out. On the one hand I’m not excited about performance improvements. Current processors handle everyday apps perfectly already. The efficiency gains though could be awesome. Most of these new flagships have over 24 hours of battery life but not 48 hours. If 3nm efficiency leads to comfortable 48 hour use or more that would be something. That would be the day when you can leave for the weekend and know that you will only need to charge on Monday.

      The LG cautionary tale cannot be ignored. That was all the convincing everyone needed to say slow and steady wins the race.

      We shall see what 2024 will bring but I’m not hopeful. I’ll be happy if battery tech improves, longevity and charging. I’m setting the bar low.

  3. Amana work on your headlines.
    Evolution of smartphones: Incremental upgrades?
    👆 That’s better. Cleaner and precise

  4. Phones stopped innoverting in 2019 and after Huawei ban their is no real competition but just camera upgrade only. Right now i am using a huawei p30 pro and its working fine. Iphone has been recycling the same design for the past 3 years and i wish it will change aome design a little, the island is a nice gimmick i love it although i am not an iphone user i wouldnt mind getting it on Android.

    1. Same. The island is all I want from the iPhone. That Huawei ban cost us. I’ve never owned a Huawei but they gave Samsung a fright and caused an innovation war. Alas, that’s no more.

  5. Isu vamwe hatina pressure nekuramba tichikwikwidzana netech…. Recently bought s10plus and im gonna upgrade to s20 in2024 yachipa… But if i had the monet i could upgrade to zflip 4… I have been selling my kidney since the e day they anounced the first x flip but ndiri kushaya buyer

    1. You my guy are reading from my book. I’m chasing after the older flagships. I wait until they are cheaper then I strike. I’m eyeing the S21U this Black Friday. If not then toibata yachipa further when the S23 comes out.
      And yeah, I also would choose the Flip 4 if money was no object.

  6. Guys let’s be honest. Apple has been a follower for quite a number of years now. It’s naivity to expect anything from them now. The ban on Huawei gave them a desperately needed lifeline but still the cracks are there.

  7. In the first world where you have a minute or less of grid power failure in a year, a phone battery which can go for 24 hours is sufficient. A fast charging one would be a bonus, and charging can be done when the one owner and user sleeps. In the third world and beyond you would need a phone battery that can go for at least four days and can support other family members, using the basic applications which are not memory hungry and not power hungry as the type of base stations and distance from them consume power as well. As for camera quality on phones, honestly, do we need that quality? What is the end use of most of the pictures we capture? If one is so fussy about picture quality one should just get a standalone camera.

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