Our smartphones are incredible devices that have managed to condense a world full of information and features into the palm of our hands. At this point, there is very little that these devices can not do. Not only have smartphones absolutely taken over the markets for a plethora of multimedia devices entirely, but they’ve also absolutely destroyed the considerable point and shoot camera market of yesteryear.
It’s not uncommon to see the value of a smartphone purchase be dictated by how good the cameras on a smartphone are. In some ways, that point of view is justified. In the time of social media, every moment is seemingly precious. However, not everyone’s needs are so specific that it’s the only redeeming feature for a smartphone. Even this piece of writing you are reading at the very moment was typed out on a smartphone.
Crazy, right? Not really.
Smartphones have always punched above their weight class. However, with rapid growth in the performance of silicon, any modern smartphone is essentially several times more capable than that old computer you inherited as a kid. It also does a good job at being many other things with frightening efficiency. It’s simultaneously accomplishing all your web browsing, word processing, music, calling, texting, emailing needs and so much more.
Needless to say, the consumer decides how the market moves to a certain degree. But it isn’t as stark as one would imagine. The core features for smartphones have remained relatively the same since the very first examples hit the market. Computational photography advancements have definitely pushed the boundaries of what camera technology could be, but they’re not exactly relevant to every consumer out there. It can easily be argued that the average person would be more than satisfied with a mid-range smartphone camera from 2019, as sacrilegious as that may sound to all the pixel peepers out there. Your parents don’t really need a DSLR equivalent camera on their smartphones, and that’s not a knock on their photography skills. Plenty of use cases only ends up using a fraction of the modern smartphone’s camera capabilities. Video calls are a prime example of that. They’re great, but don’t exactly need a studio setup.
One of the more overlooked features that should be focused on is software support. Sure, your new phone has run as smooth as butter for about a year, but then the updates become infrequent, random bugs pop up everywhere and everything is a mess. The whole race towards bigger and better camera features, or features in general, take away from the sustainability of a smartphone. In less than two years, your expensive device turns into a slow, buggy mess. Even the camera you once coveted and relied upon is unreliable at this point, which makes you go buy yet another phone that you probably didn’t need.
Unless you’re an iPhone user, chances are that your smartphone will stop getting consistent software support after only 2 years. That doesn’t even cover the plethora of hardware issues that may pop up within that window, regardless of your smartphone brand allegiance. Sustainability is not something to be taken lightly. The global chip shortage going on right now is a testament to that. Consumers have to start voting with their wallets to make an impact in stopping companies from selling them marginal performance/feature gains for large sums of money.
While cameras are an important feature bundled with every smartphone, we as consumers should prioritise other factors of smartphones to not only fix the trajectory of this sector of tech but also prevent unnecessary waste in the pursuit of a technical marvel.