THE BLOG
10/22/2014 03:47 pm ET Updated Dec 22, 2014

When All Smartphones Became The Same

Let's face it, today's array of smartphone choices have little to do with variety.

As the mobile phone platform evolves, we are seeing less and less "new" features, and more of rehashed or Gen 2 add-ons. The smartphone development cycle has for the moment plateaued, and it is evident in the number of phones with overlapping feature sets.

We have watched as phones got smaller, and then bigger, and them smaller again. Right now with the iPhone 6 Plus and the Galaxy S5, we have once again seen phones grow to the size of a small tablet. Once we got used to phone size, we began to focus on features; functionality that affects how we use our devices. We saw the emergence of "apps", which were nothing more than a renaming of small utility programs meant to enhance our phone use-ability without sucking up too much space or battery life.

Physically, we have seen new materials being used, for better (flexible Gorilla Glass to prevent cracked screens) or for worse (thin-walled aluminum for housings, which looks cool, but obviously not meant to handle bending loads). Battery life has increased, but has been countered by software and hardware that require more power.

As developers come to a point of convergence, all smartphones have begun to look and work the same. The only differences are in minor user interface enhancements, reminiscent of when laptop companies began including their own proprietary user interfaces on top of Windows, just to make their product seem more "custom".

A Chevy with a Cadillac emblem is still just a Chevy inside.

The change in smartphone design and function will come when companies decide how to change the paradigm of smartphone use. The washing machine/dryer industry saw a huge change with the introduction of front-loading designs -- designs which had been the staple for industrial machines for years. Will smartphone designers look to alternate or adjacent industries for new ideas? Maybe this will spawn new concepts that are yet to be developed.

Smartphones in their current embodiment had tapped out the "basic pocket phone" concept to the point where they all look and feel the same, save for a few minor differences. Companies are "stuck" in the current design paradigm, with nothing really new and innovative in sight. Perhaps it will require a new player in the smartphone OS market, aside from Apple or Google, to bring about a changes.

Maybe a new phone from Maytag might not be such a bad idea? You never know...