By 2015, Apple phones and Android phones had both been around for over five years. Even longer, actually, but you have to look to about 2009 or 2010 in order to see really fully functioning devices. By mid-decade, people had been arguing about which was better for a while, and the really interesting question was, “does it even matter anymore?”
I weighed in back then
I weighed the options in this article. After a long discussion with myself, I ended up deciding that it really didn’t matter. The phone you wanted was going to work well for you. And I stand by that, today.
Is it time for a shakeup?
A decade ago, phones were a major change to the way we interacted with the world. In just a short while, we went from only using our phones for important calls, to finding it impossible to put them down. We went from talking to texting to browsing to streaming. But that’s all yesterday’s news. Today we’re comfortable with our phones. We rely on them. They’ve been the only way we’ve communicated with each other, and with the world, for months.
There have been minor changes to iOS and Android in the last five years, but if you think about it, there haven’t really been any huge changes. OK, so we use our phones to pay for things a lot more now and they lock more securely. But if you picked up a phone running a five-year-old software version it wouldn’t seem that different.
The mobile industry tried to make big changes with things like Google Glass and some of the early wearables, but it seems like we aren’t really willing to make a jump into a new user experience. That is, unless there’s some real benefit. It seems people are happy with things “as is.”
The synergy that never was
Back in 2015 we thought Apple and Google were working together on a common advanced messaging platform. We expected FaceTime to become common on both operating systems. Neither of those things happened. There’s been some interoperability, but it’s been largely due to third-party platforms like Zoom and WhatsApp. It’s made Apple and Android products work more like each other. And, while Apple hasn’t done a lot to open up its platform but Google has. If you choose to stay in the Google world, you can have an almost identical experience on both devices.
The next five years
If I had to guess, there won’t be a disruptive phone experience in the next five years. Ok, I know 5G is coming and that’s going to be huge. But in a sense it’s an “iterative” change. It’s taking something the device does, and does it better. I am sure there are people working on something truly new for the phone to do, but short of something like a brain implant, I’m not sure that’s possible People want phones the size of a quarter that have screens the size of a television and all-week battery life. Unless the laws of physics change, it’s not likely to happen. I guess I’ll check back with all of you in another five years and we’ll see what there is to see.