Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Smartphone news

Silicon Valley still has no idea what might kill the smartphone

Ever since Steve Jobs introduced the world to the iPhone almost two decades ago, back in 2007, no product has come close to having a stranglehold on people’s attention quite the way the pocketable device has.

Sales for smartphones continue to grow, as data from Counterpoint Research shows: shipments rose 7% year on year in the fourth quarter of 2023 to 323.2 million units, showing appetite remains strong for devices that people operate their lives with.

But for all their advantages, there has been some incentive to figure out life beyond smartphones.

Not only has their development stagnated with each new release, but the impact they can have on people’s sleep, the risk posed to children’s mental health from excessive use, and the ease with which users rack up screen time raise valid concerns.

It’s why companies have made plenty of attempts to offer an alternative.

Google tried to make $1,500 smart glasses a thing in the 2010s but miserably failed. Meta is trying to offer a more refined take with its Ray-Ban partnership. And now, in the AI era, a newer company is trying to make wearable pins the future.

Unfortunately, this looks like a dead-end on the road toward a post-smartphone future too.

Humane, a startup founded in 2018 by husband and wife duo Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno — both former managers at Apple — has been busy working on an AI-enabled wearable pin that offers smartphone capabilities while doing away with unending screentime.

As Humane puts it, “whether you’re making calls, sending messages, seeking answers, capturing moments, taking notes, or managing your digital world,” its pin should have you sorted.

The pin, launched in the US for $699 and deemed the start of “ambient computing” by its founders, was described by The Verge as “an interesting idea that is so thoroughly unfinished and so totally broken in so many unacceptable ways” that it’s tough to recommend.

In its review of the pin, a device that requires a $24 monthly subscription to work, the publication acknowledged it looked pretty neat but was unsparing about almost everything else: it lacks basic functions like an alarm, struggled to make calls half the time, music streaming falters.

Others had trouble uploading high-resolution images they took with the pin to Humane’s cloud storage service, and the AI meant to make the pin feel like a “second brain” felt “brain-dead half the time.” Overheating also appeared to be an issue for many reviewers.

For Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, a veteran reporter who has covered Apple and the smartphone market for years, the verdict appears that “the phone will stick around far longer than some expected.”

Humane’s Bongiorno seems to have conceded this too. Responding to Gurman on X, she said “the smartphone is not going anywhere for a bit,” as “no computer replaces the one before it.”

Even Apple, which entered a new hardware market this year with the launch of its $3,500 Vision Pro, is positioning its mixed-reality headset as a product to work in tandem with iPhones for Apple devotees.

Don’t expect your pockets to become lighter anytime soon.


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