I remember holding a Nokia 6600 and being in awe of how revolutionary and cutting edge it looked. It’s a bulky and completely outdated phone by todays standards, but back then it was an absolute beauty. A never before seen form factor, bulky but good-to-hold curves and a brilliant camera for its time really made the phone desirable by many.
I remember the Sony Walkman phone, which was in a league of its own. Sony owned the camera battles back then, but the Walkman phone offered more; unprecedented sound quality, and walkman-like music management. There were other players – you bought a Motorola just for the looks. There was nothing like a Razr back then, and there is nothing that looks like the Razr even now. Every major competitor before Apple brought something new to the table. There were no lists of consumer-friendly phone specs that you could compare. You simply had to choose one which fit your needs the best. DPI, megapixels, cores, rom; none of these things mattered much. And the phones were generally very stable.
There will not be another Nokia 3310, or at least a phone which will be as popular. Why? It’s because back then, spec sheets did not matter much.
Apple revolutionised mobiles. It’s true. Whether or not you’re an Android fan, this is something you simply have to accept. Touchscreens were never very popular. Using a stylus to operate smartphones today can get really cumbersome. O2 had a lot of clout among the business elitists, but the world was mainly either Nokia, Sony Erricson, Motorola, or Blackberry. Blackberry owned the majority of the business market, and the other three ruled everything else. All Apple had to do was make a good Touchscreen phone. And it did. And it brought something new to the table; something which was acceptable as the next big thing; something which did not seem ahead of its time. That’s really all you need to do; make something which feels like a logical follow up without really trying to change the world. Apple did just that, and suddenly they were innovators. Every new piece of technology they put into the iPhone became a standard. DPI became the next screen rating. Cameras suddenly felt obsolete in comparison. Music was already their bread and butter and coin. It’s like the world was just waiting for a good ‘smartphone’ – a term that brings about mixed feelings, but that”s for another time.
War is, on many levels, a mind game. Your strength lies not in the strength of your units, but in your ability to use them properly. You cannot always be innovative in a war. You simply have to do what’s necessary; fight fire with lava. And sometimes you just have to do what your opponent does, but for free. And that is what Google did. Android created a mobile ecosystem, which was comparable to iOS, was free, and was open source. Their aim was not to cater to the few elite believing in shelling out a bomb for quality. Their aim was to cater to everybody. They created a model where mobile manufacturers did not have to worry about software. All they had to do was create good hardware which could support Android, much like a PC. Apple was untouchable uptil then, having a daunting monotony on the mobile market. Android is the natural competition the world needed to strive in an Apple dominated world.
The result – Samsung is now one of the top phone manufacturers in the world. HTC have left that O2 image behind and made some excellent phones. This automatically enables a sense of doubt for Apple, which makes it strive to make it products better. And any competition is good competition.
As an end user, I can rest assured that the next phone I buy will be of higher quality than the last, and this trend will only continue. At a certain point, Android left its Apple-copier image, and started taking initiatives of its own. It did what google does best, integrate search into the ecosystem, which is Google’s main source of income. They initiated the Nexus series of phones – the purpose of which was to increase their search base, by selling premium quality phones at mid range prices. And this has worked very well for Google. Nexus 5 is now the standard by which Android phones are measured with. Sure there is the Nexus 6, but it feels like a failed experiment, with its obnoxious pricing. The Nexus 5 is Google at its best in the Android space, and the remastered 2015 edition coming out is a testament to that.
My main gripe with this holy war is this – there used to be a magical (sorta) feeling about holding a mobile phone. When I had held a Nokia Communicator, the sense of awe I got was completely different than holding a 6600. The joy of flapping and unflapping a Moto Razr was unlike anything out there. I could throw around a 3310 and know that it will still ring when I get a call. There was art; art with flaws, but art nonetheless.
Being a software engineer, I now realize that the best way to build a software fast, is to reuse. Almost every phone today is reusing the same curvy edges slim trim design. Almost every Android phone today has a home screen which looks exactly the same.
It still feels great to hold a LG G4, but there’s not much that can surprise me. Sure the phone can look after my every need; way more than any phone back then could possibly do, but it just feels part of my daily life, and not something that I should treasure. And I see this in almost every industry these days. Maybe that is what customers want; a fixed standard set of specs for their daily lives. But when every phones feels the same, you don’t have much of a choice. I used to get butterflies at the thought of buying and exploring a new phone. Now it just feels like i’m buying upgraded software.