CES 2013 is winding down. And while the really big hitters HTC and Samsung may not have used the Las Vegas gathering to tout new ‘phablets’, there’s been no shortage of new handsets to rouse the interest of smartphone fanatics.
Sony’s Xperia Z is undoubtedly a stunner, while ZTE’s FHD smartphone, with an insane 1920x1080 pixels, looks the part too.
Even Alcatel, renowned for reeling out less than life-changing budget phones, has got in on the act with its 6.45mm One Touch Idol.
While these phones have caused something of a stir on the conference floor, they do ultimately beg the question, do we really need ever-more swanky specs on our smartphones?
Sure, it’s good for them to run at a snappy pace with a decent processor and a good screen is vital for proper gaming and watching videos, but is the race to be the world’s first and world’s thinnest really all that? The ZTE Grand S is a particular case in point.
An FHD screen is impressive to a certain type of hardcore gadget fanatic. But in reality, only Superman can really discern the effect of having 443 pixels per inch on a five-inch display.
The Xperia Z, similarly laden with a Full HD display, sure looks great, but putting such a panel onto a smartphone is purely pandering to the oneupmanship crowd.
Bragging rights of this kind don’t matter to the mass market, who would much rather have a phone that comes with the latest apps and software than a full HD display.
Likewise Alcatel’s One Touch Idol. Bravo to them for managing a 6.45mm design. But seeing as it comes at the expense of an all-important 3.5mm headphone jack, it’s hardly worth bothering. Users don’t want to plug in a USB adapter to use headphones.
It seems Alcatel has only made its phone this slim to show off at CES. Great for short-term headlines, hardly smart for long-term sales.
With operating systems now essential to the smartphone experience and their app stores offering endless exciting extras, software is king.
Smartphone hardware is becoming extremely homogenised, give or take the odd pixel or half an inch.
It’s about the software experience rather than the hardware that’s available. Users want the best apps and features offered by Google and Apple, not a full HD screen that looks the part but is ultimately awkward to differentiate from a standard HD one.
Of course, Samsung, HTC and others will pile in with more devices at Mobile World Congress.
But the real excitement in 2013 won’t come from hardware, but once again in seeing what Google, Apple and even Microsoft can serve up in terms of OS updates.
This is where the real innovation lies and where more consumers find excitement.