One thing I’ve learned from the launch of the Google Pixel 7 and iPhone 14 series is that year-over-year big innovations, or rather giant improvements, have slowed down lately.
Gone are the days when new phones would debut huge upgrades year after year, and instead OEMs focus on more upgrades with a few or more minor tweaks or improvements and software stability.
For example, it’s not easy to tell the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro apart for Dynamic Island. Story Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 7, Samsung Galaxy S21 and S22, etc. is almost the same as
Among them, there are almost no noticeable physical improvements, which shows how far the smartphone industry has come. But does that mean stopping there? How far can the industry go?
Some might argue that we’re at a point where yearly upgrades add little to the overall smartphone experience. But I think this is the beginning of a new era.
In fact, this should explain the emergence of foldable phones, but perhaps there is more to offer on the market. We recently saw Carl Pei’s Nothing Phone attempt to change the “boring” story, and I’m looking forward to more.
While there aren’t that many hardware changes that OEMs can implement to cool down the “boring” story, the software has always provided multiple opportunities to stand out from the crowd.
Whether by offering long-term software support like Apple, NVIDIA and Samsung; or equip the devices with exclusive features like Google does with its Pixel phones; there are many possibilities.
I have also encountered a tweet Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is advocating a Web-only mobile operating system to take on the Android and iOS duopoly.
As far-fetched as it may sound, we are already close to achieving this goal. Released in 2015, the Nextbit Robin was supposed to be the phone that ushered the smartphone industry into the cloud-first era.
Sure, Nextbit wasn’t anywhere near the idea of a full-fledged web-only mobile OS as suggested by Robin Jack, but it’s the closest the idea has come to fruition.
Instead of having only web apps, it offered an additional 100GB of cloud-based storage to complement the 32GB of internal storage. Using Nextbit’s cloud storage, there was a clever way to ensure that the phone never runs out of space.
While Google Drive and even iCloud already do a pretty decent job of backing up data on your phone, the Nextbit Robin’s cloud-first approach was different.
Unlike a regular phone where you often have to back up or download files, no need to free up space to install a huge game or store another huge file, the process on the Robin was pretty smooth.
For example, apps are sorted by how you use them. When your phone ran out of 32GB of storage and you needed room, the least used app would be automatically moved to the cloud to free up space.
When moved to the cloud, app icons on the screen were grayed out. But when you wanted to use it, a simple touch was enough to wake it from the dead.
The same goes for photos you haven’t accessed or used in a while. Small versions remained on the phone, but the actual photos were stored in the cloud. Like apps, tapping on a photo was enough to get it.
But since searching for apps, photos and other files from the cloud was and still is highly dependent on the internet, it was a bit of a difficult process due to slow internet speeds back then.
Things can get frustrating really quickly during the download process, especially when there are a lot of photos or files involved over cellular data or Wi-Fi.
Of course, when the phone arrived in 2015, cloud storage wasn’t as advanced as it is today. Low speeds during the day didn’t help either, as cloud storage relies on the internet.
Faster 5G and LTE speeds are available almost everywhere today. Cloud storage prices also continue to drop, which makes the proposition of having a phone like the Nextbit Robin quite attractive.
But would it be a success or another failure? Although this is quite controversial, especially in mid-range and low-end phones, the cheaper and more reliable microSD still lives.
Apart from expandable storage, smartphone makers have also upped their game with internal storage. 32GB is what you find on some of the cheapest phones, 64GB or 128GB is easily the sweet spot for most vendors.
Robin’s cloud storage was also limited by Nextbit’s offering. But with few reliable cloud storage options available, limiting the backup feature to one provider will seriously hurt the phone’s prospects for success.
There is also growing concern about security breaches, such as the recent LastPass incident, which is bound to be a problem when it comes to a cloud-first smartphone with a lot of personal data on it.
Interestingly, the latest high-end phones have lost support for expandable storage as OEMs push for cloud-based storage, which Nextbit aims to offer with the Robin. Indeed, the phone was ahead of its time.
But does that mean the same or better idea will succeed in today’s era of high-speed internet and superior cloud storage? Let us know in the comments below.
Featured image: Kickstarter
PiunikaWeb started out as a purely investigative tech journalism website with a focus on “breaking” or “exclusive” news. In no time, our stories were picked up by Forbes, Foxnews, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, Engadget, The Verge, Macrumors and many others. Want to know more about us? Visit here.