A romp through the weird, scary, awesome future of mobile communications.
The near-term future of phones is fairly well-established. The iPhone 5 was released yesterday and its similarity to every Apple phone since 2007 serves as a reminder that our current mobile devices have been sitting on the same plateau for years.
Reflecting on Apple's recent product launches, author and professor at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program Clay Shirky told me, "They're selling transformation and shipping incrementalism."
The screens, cameras, and chips have gotten better, the app ecosystems have grown, the network speeds have increased, and the prices have come down slightly. But the fundamental capabilities of these phones hasn't changed much. The way that you interact with phones hasn't changed much either, unless you count the mild success of Siri and other voice command interfaces.
"Is the iPhone 5 the last phone?" Shirky said. "Not the last phone in a literal sense, but this is the apotheosis of this device we would call a phone."
Danny Stillion of the legendary design consultancy IDEO calls our current technological moment the "phone-on-glass paradigm," and it's proven remarkably successful over the last half-decade, essentially conquering the entire smartphone market in the United States and around the world. It seems like this Pax Cupertino could last forever. But if we know a single thing about the mobile phone industry, it's that it has been subject to disruptions.