The increasingly fancy smartphone hardware is utterly pointless

If you’re buying the newest model out of your own interest instead of necessity, you’re buying a luxury that few other people will experience

Photo by Chris Ho/The Peak

Written by: Gene Cole, Opinions Editor

In the past few weeks, we’ve gotten a lot of news about the newest experiments when it comes to smartphones. This past week alone, I’ve been seeing reveals of all sorts of weird new technology, from foldable screens to having five cameras on the phone’s back. These sorts of innovations are certainly impressive, and considering we’ve already got voice-activated digital assistants everywhere it really does feel like we’re living in the future.

It’s a shame, though, that this sort of tech is utterly useless to anybody who isn’t lucky enough to afford and get use out of it.

I realize how much I sound like a technophobic old man saying this, but I’m constantly rolling my eyes at this point when I see anything reporting on the newest models of smartphones. It’s incredible how much things have changed in the past decade, and every time I find my old 2005 Sony Ericsson phone I had high school, I’m in awe at how having an MP3 player in my phone was the coolest thing at the time.

But when you look back at that huge transition from flip phones to smartphones, I don’t know why I should ever care about more features being added to a device that needs nothing more than an internet connection — let alone a data plan — to be a perfect machine.

In the real world, the majority of us aren’t going to see a lot of these for a solid two ir three years, when we “treat ourselves” by making an expensive purchase of a new phone out of necessity when our old one breaks. Even then, a lot of people will still need to buy second-hand or older model phones depending on their budget. This is the normal experience when it comes to phones, especially when it comes to post-secondary students on exceptionally tighter budgets, most of which only want their phone to easily socialize and do schoolwork.

These tech companies, and the people who buy and report on their newest toys, keep up a myth that phones are a luxury rather than a requirement.

The only changes that have mattered in the past few years of phones is in the software we use. The inclusion of digital assistants for those with visual or cognitive disabilities have helped more people be able to use such an inherently complicated machine with ease. Social media interfaces have changed to be easier to use and navigate, to use so that more people can socialize around the world quicker and smoother. Apps like Uber and Skip the Dishes have made smartphones even more of a utility than a communication device.

But these features could have existed in both the phone I own now, and the one I owned four years earlier.

So why do they add all of this tech? I’m sure most of it is just a marketing ploy to make every small change seem like the next big deal, but a lot of it more feels like it’s trying to make us think a revolution on that scale is going to happen again. But that’s not the world we’re in at the moment, as the big revolution has already happened: we now can access the internet in an instant everywhere we go.

Instead, this entire world of foldable or multi-camera phones just looks like an exercise of rich tech companies making machines for rich tech aficionados, and ruins my interest in following any technology news.

If a company or tech nerd ever wants to get my attention, show me a change that actually could make a positive impact in how we use this technology, which we’re required to own to function in the modern day. Things like phones that are built with additional physical and cognitive abilities in mind so that they can be used easier, or better durability so that we don’t need to spend a bunch of extra money for a screen-coating and ugly case that make my phone heat up unsettlingly faster.

At the end of the day, the majority of hardware changes that come with smartphones are nothing but a self-congratulation between giant corporations and the people that give them too much money.