This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. Here is a collection of past columns.

I ask a deliberately provocative question: what if smartphones are so successful and useful that they slow down innovation?

Technologists are now imagining what the next big thing could be. But maybe there will never be anything else like the smartphone, the first and perhaps the last mass market and globally transforming computer.

In the end, I might end up looking like a 19th century futurist who couldn’t imagine horses being replaced by cars. But let me argue that the smartphone phenomenon may never be replicated.

First, when envisioning the future, people in the tech industry are implicitly betting that smartphones will be displaced as the center of our digital lives by things that are less obvious – not plates that pull us away from our world, but technologies that almost don’t a distinction must be made between the air we breathe.

Virtual reality glasses are bulky annoyances now, but the bet is technologies like VR or computers can “learn” like humans will eventually blur the line between online and real life and between humans and computers, to the point of deletion. That is the vision behind it the “metaverse”, a broad vision that virtual human interactions will be as complex as reality.

Maybe you think that more immersive and human technologies sound intriguing, or maybe they seem like the woo-woo dreams of spinners. (Or maybe a little of both.) Either way, technologists need to prove to us that the future they envision is more compelling and useful than the digital life we ​​already have thanks to the magical supercomputers in our pockets.

The challenge for any new technology is that smartphones have been so successful that it is hardly possible to imagine alternatives. In a sales boom that lasted about a decade, the devices went from being a novelty for rich nerds to the only computer that billions of people around the world have ever owned. Smartphones are so successful that we are you don’t have to pay much attention. (Yes, that includes incrementally updated iPhone models that Apple talked about on Tuesday.)

The attraction of these devices in our lives and in the imagination of technologists is so strong that any new technology today has to exist almost in contrast to the smartphone.

When my colleague Mike Isaac tried Facebook’s new glasses model who can take photos with a tap on the temple, a company boss said to him: “Isn’t that better than taking out the cell phone and holding it in front of your face every time you want to capture a moment?”

I understand the executive’s point of view. It’s true that devices like the Apple Watch, Facebook glasses, and Snap glasses are clever at making the functions of smartphones less intrusive. Companies like Facebook, Snap and Apple are also working on glasses that – like the failed Google Glass – aim to combine digital information like maps with what we see around us.

The comment also shows that any new consumer technology has to answer the inevitable questions: why should I buy another gadget to take photos, browse bike routes, or play music when I can do most of it with the smartphone already in my pocket can? Do I have to live in the Metaverse if I had a similar experience with my phone’s rectangular screen?

Smartphones are unlikely to be the apotheosis of technology, and I’m excited to see how technologies that want to move away from it develop. But at least for now, and maybe forever, most of the technologies in our daily lives are additions to our phones rather than replacements. These tiny computers can be so damn handy that there will never be a revolution after the smartphone.


  • Should you buy a new phone now? In a recent column, my colleague Brian X. Chen went over the questions to ask if you would think about it Swap your smartphone for a new model: Can you fix what’s bugging your phone instead of replacing it? Can you still receive software updates with the existing model? How would a new phone change your life?

  • We wanted flying cars and got a $ 850 robotic vacuum to steer around dog houses: To build the latest Roomba, the company has “built over 100 physical models of pet droppings, and trained algorithms on over a hundred thousand images to get the device to avoid crap, ”writes the Washington Post. In addition, the robots collect a lot of data from your house. (The Roomba is silent confused by black striped carpet, although.)

  • “It’s a terrifyingly dark show, and that’s on purpose.” That makes you think essay via a new streaming video series focused on a TikTok famous family humanizing the people known on social media.

Check out these video clips from a. at Striped Owl’s Nest in Indiana. Baby owls learning to fly are really the cutest things.


We want to hear from you. Tell us what you think of this newsletter and what else you would like to learn from us. you can reach us at ontech@nytimes.com.

If you have not yet received this newsletter in your inbox, Please log in here. You can read too previous On Tech columns.





Source link

Leave a Reply