I can still remember the moment. I was in the final year of studies when my oldest mate came back up north from his flash job in the City to visit me and brought with him, would you believe it, a mobile phone. I’d seen them before in cars but the little, two-foot long Nokia he laid before me in the bar that night was a wonder to behold. We pondered it for several long seconds and then tried to think of who we might want to call on it.
A quarter of a century later I am old and exhausted. But I’m not half as knackered as the smartphone category. The intervening years saw some triumphant moments of ‘Applescent’ innovation but these are all now consigned to ancient history to be replaced by incrementalism you can measure by the millimetre. Visitors to Apple’s annual Cupertino fantasia these days must ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ to slightly larger screens and a camera that can focus on you and the background simultaneously.
And that’s Apple! Move down the league table of the 300-odd smartphone manufacturers and the innovation quest becomes increasingly futile and prosaic. Samsung, for example, is leading the charge this year with a phone that won’t set your pants on fire (a big new development for them). But it’s the promise of their next smartphone launch that has everyone excited in techland.