James Woods on smartphone specs: How much is too much?
The spec war in the mobile space seemed to start with Android. HTC released the first Android smartphone in 2008, and then someone else tried to trump that phone with more RAM or a faster processor or a better camera. Device makers have played that game ever since, and it has proven to be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, manufacturers have driven each other to produce better hardware. But on the other, it’s impossible to stay ahead of the curve. As soon as you buy one phone, it seems, you’ll read about another that bests it with more cores and longer battery life.
The most powerful smartphones boast quad cores and several gigs of RAM, and their specs are comparable to netbooks. The question is, do they need to progress any further? I’d argue they don’t.
If you pick up a Galaxy S3 and a Galaxy S2 and load up a few apps, I doubt the S3′s quad-core processor will blow your mind with its speed and power. In fact, you probably couldn’t even tell the difference.
To my mind, the fundamental internals of smartphones have reached (and possibly passed) the point of diminishing returns. Do we really need to progress past 2GB of RAM and 1.5GHz quad-core processors? What’s the point? Is existing mobile software even capable of making use of all that power?
Let’s assume it is. There’s still a major issue: we’re talking about a PHONE.
Who in their right mind wants to carry out resource-heavy tasks on a 4-inch screen? Sure, maybe the odd person needs to make an adjustment to a CAD drawing while on the go, but come on, have you ever really needed that fourth core?
The focus needs to shift from phones’ internals.
Specs have long been used as a marketing tool, but that’s the wrong approach. Specs are the base upon which companies should be designing and building products that people want to buy. They shouldn’t be the companies’ primary concern, and they shouldn’t be the selling point.
Apple has the right idea. The company hasn’t gotten involved in the spec war. In fact, you almost need iFixit to tear down a new iPhone or iPad just to know how much RAM is inside. Of course, the reason for this is Apple isn’t really competing with anyone, but it also feels it isn’t necessary for consumers to know the exact specs of its devices. All they need to know, the company figures, is that the devices work great.