AH Primetime: The Spec Race Is Over. It’s Time for the “Experience Race” to Begin

August 12, 2013 - Written By Lucian Armasu

For too long the Android market has been dominated by a spec race to see which manufacturer can squeeze an extra 100 Mhz out of their chips faster than anyone else, and that used to decide which phone “won”. But is that what really matters in a device so personal such as the smartphone?

Do we really want to put a chip at the level of a Core i7 in our phones so web pages load in 0.1 seconds instead of 0.5 seconds? I guess you could say that improves the “experience”, but the improvement is so negligible when using the phone that it shouldn’t be the main focus of what makes a smartphone great anymore. Other factors and other types of hardware need to be, hardware that can still improve radically over the next few years to make the experience of using a smartphone visibly much better.

Once you’ve reached a certain performance level for a type of hardware, then that hardware should still improve slightly year over year, but it shouldn’t be the main focus anymore. There’s little benefit of 1080p displays over 720p displays in sub-5″ smartphones, and there’s little benefit in having more gigabytes of RAM in a smartphone over 2 GB, just as there’s little benefit in having smartphones that have over 2 Ghz clock speeds.

The problem is you can’t just have “everything”. Nothing comes for free. If they keep radically improving those specs year over year, then the focus will be less on “adding” new type of hardware, or improving the design, or the battery life, or the camera performance. If you could have every component improve radically every year, while adding more hardware innovations, too, then the phones would need to cost more, too.

That’s why a Droid Maxx with 2 days of battery life costs $300 on contract, even though its other specs aren’t the best out there, why a Lumia 1020 also costs $300 on contract, because of its more expensive camera components, while the other specs are also lower end than what’s out there, and why a Moto X costs $200 while offering improved battery life and an incredible level of customization (you didn’t think that customization doesn’t cost Motorola any extra money, did you?!)

We should allow companies to experiment with new hardware and to focus on other areas, whether it’s battery life, camera, design, audio performance, or who knows what else they can come up with in the future. We shouldn’t keep demanding every company to improve the same areas every year, and just by as much – because that leaves them less free and less flexible to improve other components or add new ones.

Most of the “regular” specs we see improved every year have gotten more than good enough for most people. Continuing to improve them won’t add major changes to the “experience” we have with the devices. That’s why companies should focus on new types of innovations to add new things to our smartphones (such as touchless control) that can significantly improve our experience with the device.