This year it’d be more than understandable if you’re suffering from a case of phone overload. Every other week it seems tech companies are releasing a new blower with a “never seen before” gimmick.
Most recently this has been showcased with the sea of leaks about the fabled OnePlus 7T and OnePlus 7T Pro, two new handsets the Chinese upstart is expected to unveil in the very near future – despite the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro being less than six months old.
On the one hand this is cool, as both phones sound like pretty swish 0.5 upgrades that will fix some of our biggest concerns about the company’s current flagships. Specifically, current rumblings suggest everything from the addition of a new Time of Flight (ToF) sensor for the 7T Pro’s camera, an upgrade to Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 855 CPU and potentially even a 120Hz screen, like the ROG Phone 2’s.
And yes, these are important changes that would, likely, make the OnePlus 7T and 7T Pro better phones than their predecessors. But on the other hand, the truth is these aren’t groundbreaking upgrades, and honestly, if this is all we’re going to get, OnePlus could have waited another year.
Look at the current state of the market. According to every tech expert, analyst and soothsayer, people aren’t buying smartphones as quickly as they used to – even if they do, they’re not buying the top-end, expensive ones.
Most recently research from analyst house IHS reported sales of smartphones plummeted for the seventh quarter in a row, despite the launch of multiple new premium handsets like the Galaxy Note 10 in August. Kantar’s been reporting a similar trend in its quarterly mobile tracker, which has reported an ongoing slow down in premium phone sales like clockwork every four months this year.
For me, this proves the fervour to upgrade your phone every six months has gone the way of the dodo – and won’t be revived anytime soon. Which is why the idea of releasing a refreshed, 0.5 update to a flagship mid-year is a little pointless as most of the buyers looking to jump probably already have. If they haven’t, they’re not going to be magically persuaded by a small boost in CPU clock speeds.
Being fair, OnePlus isn’t the only company doing this. Sony’s expected to unveil yet another new flagship Xperia at IFA this week, and if the reports are to be believed Apple’ll have three new flagship iPhone 11 phones with us by the end of the month.
But the fact is companies need to accept that, like laptops before them, the phones bubble has burst, and they have to stop flooding the market with close to identical products that offer at best modest gains on the last version. For me, they’d be better off going back to the drawing board, waiting longer and releasing something that’s genuinely innovative, or investing some time and effort trying to find the next tech gold rush.
Whether that’s wearables – recent research from Strategy Analytics suggests the Apple Watch is doing pretty well – or a new category that’ll change the market like the original iPad, I don’t know. But I can 100 percent tell you it won’t be yet a phone with one more camera sensor than last year’s.