This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. Here is a collection of past columns.
I’m going to pose an intentionally provocative question: What if smartphones are so successful and useful that they are holding back innovation?
Technologists are now imagining what could be the next big thing. But there may never be anything else like the smartphone, the first and perhaps last mass market and globally transformative computer.
I may wind up looking like a 19th-century futurist who couldn’t imagine that horses would be replaced by cars. But let me make the case that the phenomenon of the smartphone may never be replicated.
First, when people in technology imagine the future, they’re implicitly betting that smartphones will be displaced as the center of our digital lives by things that are less obvious — not slabs that pull us away from our world but technologies that are almost indistinguishable from the air that we breathe.