Are ‘Apps’ restricting the next paradigm shift in mobile development?

January 21, 2014 10:00 am

Rewind back ten years, and the word ‘apps’ wouldn’t even register as much more than slang for a group of apples (the fruit, not the company).  But, if you told someone you were browsing the app store, you’d receive a nod of acknowledgment, such is the world’s acceptance of these shortened technical terms.

It’s because of the omni-present nature of applications that the phone market looks like it’s about to become stagnant.  At this year’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES), which showcases the latest in technology by the major players, we’ve hardly seen anything to raise an eyebrow.

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Slightly smaller, slightly bigger, slightly thinner or with a little bit of added curve are the usual tropes that we’ll see peddled out by major manufacturers of these devices over the past few years.

TV’s have followed a similar path recently.  While moving from black & white to colour and SD to HD have literally changed the way we view television, the industry has seen a backlash on the move to 3D.  Whether it be for practical or economic reasons, consumers have not taken to permanently wearing glasses while watching the latest drama unfold on our TV channels.

So why do companies think wearables – which aren’t much more than restricted smart phones in some regards – could be the next big thing?

Wearables are the latest buzz word in consumer electronics.  From Google Glass to Smart Watches and every trinket you can squeeze onto your body in between.  But is this re-invention of the smart phone the next catalyst of an electronics boom?

The first thing we need to establish is just how different these wearables are from the phones we already carry in our pockets.  On the surface, due to the nature of their size and proximity on our bodies, they seem very restrictive in what they can do when compared to, say, an iPhone.

But even if wearables are supposed to be an enhancement to our smart phone experience, rather than a replacement, then it still lives a gaping hole in the mobile arms race.  Just what is the next big thing?

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The number of applications I’ve personally downloaded has drastically dwindled.  Perhaps that’s just par for the course, but after almost a decade of these additions to our mobile lives, are they restricting the way developers are creating and thinking?

Should these creators be thinking not of what the next big app is, but what’s the next big change to the way we lead our lives on devices.  I’ve always been excited about technology and where it’s going, but also how it can aid and impact on a personal level.  I feel the buzz and excitement about seeing the next smart phone has disappeared somewhat over the past few years, and we now find ourselves in a cycle of incremental upgrades upon incremental upgrades.

It’s very easy for me to sit behind a keyboard and proclaim we need a new direction for technology – but do it I shall.  Our handheld devices are reaching a point where, bar the look and style of the casing, they all do the same thing and receive the same content.  After the initial smart phone boom a few years back, companies like Apple, Samsung and Sony desperately need to find the next paradigm shift in mobile technology.  Perhaps getting rid of the idea of applications and going back to the drawing board might not be a bad place to start.

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