Are new mobile phones innovative?

Photo by Dean Daley(R), Photo provided by Nokia.

Moya Goleski holding a Nokia phone that is over a 10 years old, compared to Nokia's 3310 featured at Mobile World Congress

Each year smartphone manufacturers continue to release new products, however, lately there’s nothing really innovated or new about these products.

That’s the message from London, Ont.-based tech expert Carmi Levy, who assessed new phone releases from the recent Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017, in Barcelona, Spain.

“The smartphone as we know it – essentially little more than a rectangular slab of touchscreen-based, sensor-infused glass – has been around in its basic form since the original iPhone first bowed 10 years ago,” says Levy, who appears regularly on CTV news and radio stations across Canada.

MWC showed the world an array of different cellphones from several companies. LG, Sony, Blackberry, Lenovo and even Nokia stood up in front of many and displayed their new mobile devices.

Although some of the phones at MWC feature brighter and bigger screens, higher megapixel cameras and faster processors, they’re small little upgrades that don’t impact the smartphone industry, according to Levy.

MWC 2017 didn’t show anything that students should be overly excited about, Levy says.

“MWC 2017 left us with more of the same, it didn’t have anything that stood out or was spectacular, unique or new,” says Levy, “compared to last year it didn’t move the bar fast enough for us to get out of our seats and give a standing ovation.”

This year some companies tried to do some things that would attract customers, but they’re only for niche clientele, says Dawn Salter, coordinator of the advertising program at Durham College.

At MWC 2017, Blackberry released the KeyOne, a new phone with a QWERTY keyboard.

According to Levy, “the KeyOne as interesting and unique of a device it is, it isn’t going to have a major impact on the overall smartphone market.”

Like Salter, Levy contends the KeyOne is only for a niche market for people who are committed to the Blackberry brand.

“There is a small and loyal slice of the market where consumers still value a physical keyboard and for them they now have another option, and that particular side of the market the KeyOne will do well,” says Levy.

Nokia has also done something considerably new to attract interest although it most likely won’t sell, according to Levy.

Nokia has released the Nokia 3310, a retro phone that isn’t touch screen, doesn’t have any apps but does have the game Snake. According to Levy, the 3310 will not sell well in the Canadian, U.S. or European markets.

“Everybody wants a smartphone today, we’re not going back to the year 2000 and buying a phone that doesn’t run apps and uses a T9 keyboard and doesn’t do a whole lot else,” he says.

According to Levy, the 3310 is a PR move by Nokia to get its name back out there.  Nokia did release three other phones dubbed the 3, 5, and the 6, with the 6 being the largest out of the three phones.

“If you remember nothing else from MWC 2017 it’s 3310, it absolutely stands out and was a masterful execution,” says Levy.

This year at MWC LG released its G6 that was quite different than last year’s flagship phone the G5.

At MWC 2016, LG released the LG G5, a modular phone – meaning you were able to replace pieces of the phone and add other parts to improve it. For example, adding a camera module would allow you to significantly improve the camera on your G5 without upgrading your whole phone.

This year LG scrapped the design and came out with the G6, a simple phone that resembles an iPhone. According to Levy, this suggests that, “consumers would rather buy a well-executed basic phone with very good features instead of having to buy one that forces them to purchase additional options after the fact.”

According to Levy, the smartphone industry is reaching a point where it can only improve so much. Like laptops, mobile devices will get sleeker, have OLED screens and barely have any sides on the edges of their screens, but these upgrades are evolutions and not revolutions, says Levy.

Levy says revolutions would be something large, and completely new, such as the touchscreen, introduced more than 10 years ago or the smartphone.

MWC did focus on heavily in 5G, which will be the next revolution, according to Levy. However, 5G isn’t a phone – it’s the network phones run on and won’t be available for the next few years.


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Dean Daley is a second year student journalism student at Durham College. He is also a digital editor for The Chronicle. He enjoys writing about campus, community, technology news and video games news. His hobbies include writing creative short stories and poetry, reading, playing video games and learning about the newest mobile technology.