What is innovation? This word has been used so loosely that every single thing that appears in front of us nowadays need to tie themselves to it.
“This is an innovative solution!”
“This is an innovative design!”
For example, people hyped about curve edge on phone screen, but is that innovation? How about foldable screen? More megapixels on your camera? A camera with no LCD screen or one that folds inward? My personal point of view is that innovation can only be “innovation” when it brings value to users and solves problem.
Take the very first iPhone as an example, it was an engineering marvel back then, and I think all of us would agree that it is innovative. It solved the problem of clunky user interface, putting a computer and browsers on your palm, allowing you to be always connected to the internet and ultimately blurs the line between a smartphone and computer.
As Xiaomi unveiled the Mi Mix Alpha (the all screen phone from front all the way to the back) and calling it innovation, I can’t help but to wonder what innovation is there. Maybe from engineering point of view there’s a breakthrough in developing such screen. But from a user point of view, such design will only generates more problems than what it could potentially solves. Foldable screen on the other hand, is something I felt is legit innovation. However, the current implementation by both Huawei and Samsung are just lack lustre, as both device companies are just trying to be “the first” and didn’t spend time to refine and wait for the technology to mature.
In the case of camera, mirrorless system was innovative when it first launched. It brings in features which were not available on DSLR during that era, great live view experience, electronic viewfinder that enables “what you see is what you get” and so on. It solves the weakness of videography on DSLR, and had now blurred the line between still and video camera. However, there seems to be little innovation breakthrough (at least meaningful innovation) thereafter. There was in-body image stabilization, some improvement on sensor technology (stacked sensors, backside illuminated sensors etc.) and that’s about it. In fact, most of the innovation in photography came from the smartphone space, namely “computational photography”. I wonder if traditional camera manufacturers are able to adopt some of those technologies into their camera?
The world is flooded with yearly refreshed gadgets, where most of them didn’t have much of a leap in innovation to begin with. I do know that companies need to survive by selling us stuffs, and sometimes stuffs that we don’t need. But I can’t help but to think that such frequent and minor refresh had killed our sense towards “innovation” and diluted the excitement of some real innovations. Anyway, I do hope companies can bring in true innovations that enrich our life, solve our pain points, and allow us to truly enjoy technologies in the days to come.