The iPhone 5s was announced. On the outside, it's pretty much the same, give or take an option to have it in gold. But inside, it's gone 64 bit. Apple's new A7 chip is going to be underused for this phone. It's now at the core of the new iPad Air and perhaps soon a new generation of Macbook Airs (or iPads with keyboards? Whatever shape or form they take, it's looking likely that we'll be seeing hyper-portable laptops using the feisty chips soon). It's worth noting, just to orient ourselves, that the new iPhone is not five times more powerful than the first one; not ten times, but fifty six times faster than the iPhone 1. That's in six years. Which brings us on to our next point: the rate of change.
We've written before about our belief that the power and capability of technology is growing exponentially. What that means is that we're not seeing a steady, even slope as things progress, but an upward curve. Moore's law is an example of this but it's a wider phenomenon. Just to remind ourselves, Moores law (there are several versions of it - just looking at the same thing from a different angle) says that every eighteen months or so, the density of components on a chip doubles. When you double the density you get four times the number of components in the same space. So, without anything else changing, this is an automatic increase.
Then, when you look at the stuff you need around the chips - communication, software, storage, I/O, you see corresponding advances.
It's not a smooth process; in fact it's pretty jerky, but when you zoom out and look at everything that's happening, you do get a very consistent curve, that's traceable back for a few hundred years: it's just that, back then, the slope was too shallow to be noticeable. Now, it's almost vertical. We're reaching the point where we can't now predict what's going to happen more than a year or so in the future.
Let's step away from this for a moment and look at some more things that have happened over the last year.
Only this month, we've seen the first curved phones. We don't really know what they're for, and, given that there's no obvious demand for them (just like there wasn't an obvious demand for an iPad!) it's at this stage surprising that so much effort has been put into making them. This has happened partly because smartphones are so competitive in the marketplace that anything, anything to distinguish one device from another is probably worth the hundreds of millions it costs to develop it. With curved phones, the effort must have been eye-watering. Making OLED screens bend is the easy part (they're bendy anyway) but what about making a curved battery? And the circuit boards? In fact, the first batteries aren't really curved - they're just long and narrow, so that they'll still fit in a moderately curved body.