What smartphones, craft beer and Ferris Bueller say about change

It's time to drop the 'smart' from smartphone, and 'craft' from craft beer, because the pace of technological and societal change has made the qualifiers redundant and obsolete.

smartphones phones craft beer tree house russian river bottles cans
Credit: Al Sacco

I've covered the mobile and wireless market for more than a decade, and I've been partial to quality beer for nearly twice as long.

When I first started covering smartphones as a news writer for CIO.com, I owned a "feature phone" or a "dumb phone." BlackBerry was the king of wireless. The iPhone was just a twinkle in Steve Jobs' eye. When I got my first BlackBerry smartphone, the difference between it and my years-old Motorola RAZR couldn't have been clearer. Similarly, when I tasted my first Dogfish Head 90 Minute India pale ale (IPA), it was absolutely nothing like the yellow lagers I'd consumed throughout high school college.

That Dogfish's ale was truly unique, and it required a label to set it apart from the pack, so it made all the sense in the universe to dub it a craft beer. That early BlackBerry needed, even deserved, a qualifying term in its name, because it wasn't just a mobile phone; it was infinitely smarter than my RAZR.

'Dumb phones' and 'crap beer'

The times, however, have changed, and today it's the dumb, feature phones that are the minority; global smartphone sales outpaced sales of feature phones for the first time in 2013, according to Gartner. Though Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors, the two leading U.S. beer conglomerates, still dominate the majority of American beer sales, they're actively acquiring craft breweries at a clip to keep up with smaller brewers that are remaking the landscape they owned for decades. The craft beer market exploded during the past few years and it now accounts for more economic impact than the entire U.S. video game industry, according to Fortune.com

It's time to ditch both the smartphone and craft beer labels. Smartphones are just phones today, and whether or not you realize it, you probably already think of them this way. It's the other types of phones that now need the qualifiers: feature phones; desktop phones; speakerphones; landline phones; and even "fiber phones." 

The same is true of craft beer, though I think it may take another year or two for the market to catch up to me. An article in this month's issue of BeerAdvocate magazine mirrors this sentiment. Craft beer today is just beer, and it's the "crap beer" that should require a qualifier. 

'Smart' labels can't keep up with innovation

Today, smartwatches are (slowly) catching on in the tech world. Though these niche gadgets won't likely ever reach the level of adoption of modern smartphones, they're still very much in their infancy, and the potential for massive growth exists. It's not hard to imagine a day when Rolex, Tag Heuer and maybe even the Patik Phillipes of the world make more luxury watches with "smart" features than "dumb watches." Smartwatches will then just be watches.

So what does this all mean, and why did I just pilfer two priceless minutes of your life? To me, it's a reminder of how quickly things change today — and how important it is slow down and take it all in. Phones and beer are important to me, so these are the two examples of the can't-stop-to-catch-your-breath pace of modern technological and societal change that resonate with me. Maybe you're into cars or fitness or music or video games. Stop and think about what these things looked like two, three or five years ago. Now imagine what they'll look like in 2025.

My man Ferris summed it up nicely way back in '86: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." 

Me, I'm trying my best not to miss a thing, and now seems like a great time to grab my two phones and meet a friend for a fresh IPA. 

Cheers to shiny new phones and meticulously made beers! 


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