Dear God some people are cretins

Well how much innovation have we really seen in consumer tech over the past decade? A 2019 smartphone delivers the exact same core services as the very first generation of iPhones, it just does the same things faster and better: Better processor, better camera, more memory etc., but the core services of the device are the same.

If you factor out the marketing, there’s really next to nothing happening. No leaps that in any way compare to the leap…

They’ve entirely missed price, haven’t they?

The $50 smartphone is am improvement over the $700 one?

27 comments on “Dear God some people are cretins

  1. The Apple App Store only opened in 2008, the complexity of apps and the areas of our lives to which they apply has grown massively since.

  2. I didn’t know you could get one for $50. I got my last few dumb phones free (hand-me-up from the younger generation): they’ve cost about £3 – £4 per annum for calls.

    I first bought a mobile when they became available at a price that suited Everyman. Was that mid 90s? Allowing for vouchers and so on, I suppose that I’ve not spent £100 altogether on the things.

    I thank you all for your subsidies.

  3. You could say that TV have the same core services as 80 years ago. Although you would have to be an idiot to do so.
    Btw the difference in phone cameras is amazing.

  4. Does make you think. First mobile fone I had was on lease & call charges were a pound a minute. That was in the days when you could recognise an estate agent by one arm being a foot longer than the other. Now my friend’s 6 y/o has one cost her 40€ & about the only thing it doesn’t use it for is making fone calls. And it occurs. If I’d have bought an iPhone 1 in 2009 a quid a minute would have been around the call cost, contract + call charges. Flatulent tosspottery hardly covers this bilge. But Guardian…

  5. One can only conclude that the modern world is filled with ungrateful sob’s. My $99 android phone is orders of magnitude better (across so many different criteria) than the $800 iPhone 4 I had ten years ago.

  6. 4G and 5G, contactless payments, Touch/Facial ID, torch, longer battery life – for example.

    But everything delivers the same core services, that is why they are called core services. Like cars still have engines and wheels and seats… the core stuff.

    Isn’t doing things faster and better something that is ‘happening’?

    Idiot.

  7. Charles Arthur – who has never done anything more productive than comment on what genuinely productive people are doing – has decided he is the sole repository of knowledge regarding what everyone else really needs (and doesn’t need) in matters of “consumer tech”.

    Scratch the paint off a left-wing journalist and invariably you will find a totalitarian with an itch to dominate and control.

  8. “They’ve entirely missed price, haven’t they?”
    So: Faster, Better and Cheaper.
    Innovation can do what project management can not.

  9. Keep in mind, though, that Guardian’s core demographic doesn’t care about smartphones for practicality, camera quality, and definitely not computing power.

    Their primary goal is the smartphone as a Veblen Good. In which case, the $50 really is less useful than the $700 one.

  10. A cretinous argument and even more cretinous responses from the readership.

    It’s often said that the Guardianistas want the rest of the world to eat dung and live in caves while they enjoy the trappings of 21st century life, but I do wonder if they are actually too stupid to appreciate the advantages technology has brought them.

    Good cover DocBud, but I still prefer Young’s grungier version from the Weld days.

  11. What does a TGV do that Stephenson’s Rocket didn’t do 200 years ago? The same core service, transporting people from one location to another.

    As others have said, cretinous arguments from miserable puritans who would prefer the mass of the population to live in penury but basically haven’t got the balls to say so out loud.

  12. if you want to be like that about it, no-one’s really done anything for phones for decades. DRAM was 1965, transistors 1960, touchscreens 1965, GPS was the 80s, wasn’t it? Cellular networks were the 1970s, UNIX was the 1970s. Wifi likewise.

    The thing with invention as the public see it is that sometimes, it’s just about the time when everything comes together. A bunch of secondary tech gets cheap enough, fast enough, small enough that a thing can happen. Lolcats only got possible because storage and network traffic prices collapsed and high-speed internet came along.

  13. It was an observation that I made in a post that I wrote about sports watches, that back in the seventies we had all kinds of ideas about what life would be like in the year 2,000. There are a lot of wonderful new inventions but mostly it was the same stuff only much better and much cheaper. I was going to mention cars but several people have beaten me to it. The four stroke petrol engine was invented in the 1880s, the modern ones operate on exactly the same principle, all that they have done in over 130 years is improved on it a little.

  14. Dunno, it’s a (whatever the male equivalent of) Polly Filla piece, so it’s not worth putting any more effort into parsing it than the 2 minutes he spent on the toilet writing it, but he has one point – the smartphone market is saturated like a Scotsman at Happy Hour in Wetherspoons, and big tech is in big trouble.

    (Which is good news if you want to buy an SSD, incidentally – they overproduced the NAND thingies based on optimistic phone sales forecasts)

    Steve Jobs hit on a winning combination with the iPhone, and much of the consumer-facing tech industry has been living off that since 2007. Not just manufacturers, but the whole ecosystem of businesses that either wouldn’t exist or couldn’t plausibly scale before smartphones came along (think Uber, Facebook, Instagram). But now sales are in the shitter, where do they go from here? Stagnation or managed decline is for Conservative MP’s, CEO’s are theoretically paid to grow the business. They want the next Big Thing.

    As it turns out, innovation is really, really hard, and no amount of improbable racial groupings laughing over laptops in your corporate stock photo spank bank, or wokier-than-thou Wimmins In Tech scratchfannery is going to change that. Nokia was allegedly chucking three times as much into R&D as Apple – billions of Euros a year – and it didn’t do much of anything for them.

    So, to hide the decline, Apple is turning into a luxury gay fashion accessories business, while Asian manufacturers try to foist ridiculous nonsense like folding phones (that cost more than top end desktop gaming PC’s) on the gullible and pecunious.

    A bigger, and possibly more important question is how come we stopped thinking big in engineering projects? A man born at the end of the Victorian age in 1900 would’ve lived to see the invention of mass market motor cars, aeroplanes, a canal built between the Atlantic and Pacific, atomic power, and men walking on the Moon – on a magic box in his living room that his parents would’ve denounced as witchcraft.

    By rights, we should be wearing silver jumpsuits and shagging green alien babes in our hovercars on Mars by now.

    How come our finest geeky minds are fiddling around with ever-more efficient ways to deliver you adverts instead?

  15. Having thought a little more about the OP, it occurs to me that lefties have a need to be absurdly pessimistic about the wonders that capitalism has provided. Basically, capitalism is actually pretty brilliant but they can’t admit it without their entire worldview collapsing.

  16. @dearieme April 24, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    Similar. Bought first (personal) mobile in ~2000, an Ericsson T18 on Cellnet (now O2); effectively free phone & airtime when cashbacks claimed.

    Next was a Nokia 3310 with Celllnet “Paid up front for life, no monthly charge” SIM. Cost £195, sold the Nokia for £150 and cashback after 9 months yielded another £100. Profit: £55

    “Paid up front for life” SIM – selected 200 mins off-peak & weekend free minutes to landline/Cellnet pm. Still using this, more than paid for itself.

  17. @Stonyground April 24, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    The four stroke petrol engine was invented in the 1880s, the modern ones operate on exactly the same principle, all that they have done in over 130 years is improved on it a little.

    “A little”?

    1900 HP/Litre was single fingures
    1980s 100HP/Litre (NA) was road target and Kawasaki first to achieve: GPz1100
    1984 Kawasaki GPz900R, 908cc, 115 bhp (127bhp/litre), 154mph
    1990 Kawasaki ZZR1100, 1,052 cc, >145bhp (unrestricted), >176mph
    2017 1,000cc, 200bhp >200mph commonplace

    I’d say “A lot”

  18. Steve brings up a couple of good points.
    Innovation is a tricky thing. It falls to the uncompromising man (it’s mostly men) to push a visionary idea to its limit and beyond.
    Yet for every Steve Jobs there are a thousand wannabees that fall by the wayside and who fall quickly out of the group consciousness.
    The 20th century was also the stage for 2 hot wars and one cold, which massively boosted scientific and engineering know how. Necessity being the mother of invention.
    Both the race to build atomic weapons and the race to put a man on the moon were enormous technological and engineering undertakings. Most people are unaware that the Apollo programme involved around 400,000 engineers and 20,000 different companies and institutes who worked for over a decade on putting a man on the moon. I remember reading the memoirs of someone recruited straight out of college who ended up working in an entire town built completely from scratch to house him and thousands like him working for one of the rocket companies. He said he was barely aware of the Vietnam war as they were all working enormous numbers of hours, didn’t have TV and barely read any newspapers.

    A whole lot of things need to come together to achieve something on that scale.
    An educational establishment capable of churning out and honing a large number of a Stem graduates of exceptional ability and dedication. An industrial base capable of affording an undertaking of such scale and duration. Political leadership able to motivate and inspire large numbers of people over a sustained period and a culture where all these people can come together and work singularly towards a focused goal.
    I think in many ways we have slipped backwards compared to those times and it’s not clear to me that the industrial pinnacle that was reached in the 50s and 60s will ever be surpassed.

  19. Steve,

    “Steve Jobs hit on a winning combination with the iPhone, and much of the consumer-facing tech industry has been living off that since 2007. Not just manufacturers, but the whole ecosystem of businesses that either wouldn’t exist or couldn’t plausibly scale before smartphones came along (think Uber, Facebook, Instagram). But now sales are in the shitter, where do they go from here? Stagnation or managed decline is for Conservative MP’s, CEO’s are theoretically paid to grow the business. They want the next Big Thing.”

    the thing with consumer tech is that this stuff pretty much does what we want. This often happens. The music industry sold us vinyl, tape, CD and then they tried to sell us SACD and people were like “nah, CD is fine, thanks”. I still drive a 2002 car because the difference between a 2002 car and a 2019 car is almost nothing. A few more MPG, maybe marginally better safety, but the difference between the car i bought in 1988 and the one I bought in 1995 was huge: ABS brakes over non-servo, electric windows, central locking, power steering, fog lamps, airbags.

    And yes, it isn’t just the smartphones that are stagnating. It’s the apps and websites. I’m trying to get out of web development and into IoT server integration because I keep changing websites and yeah, it makes them better, but it ain’t the big deal that doing the first version of a website is. It’s raising sales by a few fractions of a percent. We’re close to scraping the barrel of increasing e-commerce sales. So, I’m moving into something more interesting – industrial IoT.

  20. Wokier than thou Wimmins in tech scratchfannery (Steve) hilarious, even if it totally confused my autocorrect in re-writing it.
    A Worstall point though is that most innovation delivers consumer rather than producer surplus. We have things that are cheaper, faster, more efficient. Our lives are better. The Guardian is also equally guilty of doing the same thing it did decades ago, with the exception that where comments are allowed the reader online has the benefit of not only not paying for the content but the informed commentary from actual intelligent people (as opposed to the journalists) pointing out the derivative nonsense being spouted.

  21. Really, what does a phone do that wasn’t done by a daguerreotype, telegraph, and abacus?

    It provides exactly the same core services, it just does the same things faster and better.

    If you factor out the marketing, there’s really next to nothing happening since 1850.

  22. Talking to people at a distance is just a more modern version of shouting. No change since 10k BC.

  23. This reminds me on a comment made in a book by a Norfolk rabbit catcher called Bob Smithson. The world he grew up in was mostly horse and cart and by the time he retired man had gone to the Moon. The 20th Century probably had the biggest changes we will ever see but still every day, thanks to trade and capitalism, life gets better

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