Key learning points

  • The diversity of the smartphone market laid the foundation for today’s tech giants in 2014, even though many of the innovators no longer existed.

  • Even with breakthrough innovations, companies must adapt to changing market trends to succeed in the long term.

  • Apple’s success with the iPhone 6 series underlines the importance of knowing when to integrate new technologies for market success.

As the famous English poet William Blake once said, ‘hindsight is a gorgeous thing’, and this phrase applies not only to various aspects of our lives, but also to technology and, yes, even to smartphones. Ten years ago it was a very different playground for smartphones. In 2014, smartphone innovation was at its peak and there were many more smartphone makers on the market compared to now.

But when you see it in it looking backthe innovations introduced ten years ago laid the foundation for the technology we enjoy today. In the last decade, we have witnessed so many smartphones and tablets even new categories of consumer technology but it turns out that 2014 was a very crucial year for smartphones. We took a trip down memory lane and revisited the best smartphones from a decade ago, but discovered a bittersweet truth.

The smartphone market was more diverse then

In 2014, the smartphone market was very competitive. Unlike today, in 2024, we find only a handful of flagship makers, mainly in the US. However, it was a completely different story back then. Nokia, Blackberry, HTC, LG and Sony were prominent players, while OnePlus had just launched its first-ever smartphone, the One plus one. There were many smartphone options on the market.

Nokia focused on Windows Phone, while Blackberry remained a favorite among business professionals. Apple continued to lead the pack in quality, while Samsung pushed boundaries with innovations like stylus phones, curved screens and premium cameras. HTC made our favorite smartphone of all time, while companies like LG and Sony weren’t far behind. The competition was fierce to say the least.

All innovators are now (or on the verge of) dead

But as the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.” Today, many of the aforementioned smartphone brands no longer exist. But what went wrong? What can we learn from their fate? But before we get into all that, let’s take another look at what these companies were up to at the time.

Motorola had just introduced it at the time Moto X (2nd generation) – a device that’s all about offering a stock-like Android experience on the inside and delivering hardware-level customization on the outside. Motorola had its Moto Maker website (via XDA Developers) where you can customize your Moto You can change the color of your phone to match the type of material used for the back and even engrave text on the back of your phone. This was not available on any smartphone at the time.

HTC launched one of the most iconic smartphones of the past decade, the HTC One M8. The device impressed the world with its industrial yet high-quality design and dual front-mounted stereo speakers, delivering an audio experience unparalleled at the time. But that wasn’t all. HTC One M8 was the first commercially sold smartphone to use a secondary 2 MP depth sensor along with the primary camera to create a 3D map and use that data to simulate bokeh.

vzw-one-m8-review-camera

The LG G3 was another innovative smartphone from 2014, which brought quad HD displays to the Android world for the first time. It was one of the best flagship smartphones of 2014, packed with the most powerful hardware available, and set a new standard with its quad HD display. The Nokia Lumia 1520 was another notable device from 2014, marking it as the first Windows Phone with a phablet-sized screen. While the phone was quite impressive overall, the Windows Phone operating system failed to take full advantage of the device’s large screen potential.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review

What were the big players like Apple and Samsung up to in 2014? Samsung just had the Galaxy note 4, which offers the best Android experience with powerful hardware, customizable yet versatile software, and excellent cameras, all at a competitive price – a formula that defines the current lineup to date. But what about Apple?

Innovation alone does not guarantee success

Apple has long said it wouldn’t make a smartphone with a large screen. In fact, in 2010 even then-CEO Steve Jobs said during a press conference that “no one is going to buy a big phone.” During the conference, he said it was difficult to get a handle on and that “no one will believe that.” But look what Apple did in 2014 when it launched the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Unboxing iPhone 6

It went from a 4-inch screen on the iPhone 5s to larger 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens on the iPhone 5s. iPhone 6 and 6 Plusrespectively. Despite initial skepticism, the iPhone 6 series became Apple’s best-selling iPhone to date. People were very interested in an iPhone with a big screen, and despite the ‘bendgate’ controversy – with some users reporting that their iPhone 6/6 Plus was bent when they carried it in tight pockets – it remains the best product of the company to date.

So, what’s the takeaway from all this? It is clear that innovation alone does not guarantee success. While some of the companies mentioned above have been at the forefront of smartphone innovation, they failed to understand changing market trends and customer preferences. In contrast, the companies that adapted to changing markets and integrated the right technologies at the right time emerged as the biggest winners of that era and remain relevant to this day.

Innovation remains the key to moving the industry forward – there’s no denying that. The proven innovations of previous brands paved the way for what we have today. However, knowing when to integrate these innovations at the right time is just as important.


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