Tech companies scramble dozens of new smartphones while consumers yawn

Commodification has set in, even for the "Jesus Phone"

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge phablet

The Galaxy Note Edge, introduced today at Samsung’s “Unpacked” event in Berlin. (Samsung)

A few years ago, media outlets were falling all over themselves to cover the launch of the newest smartphones – especially Apple’s Jesus device, the iPhone. Now, with three separate manufacturers including Apple set to debut new phones in the next week, well, it’s a different world. “Meh” best describes it.

Samsung today took the wraps off its Galaxy Note 4, the latest in the line that arguably established phablets—halfway been phone and tablet—as a category unto themselves. It’ll have a fantastic screen somewhere in the realm of five to six inches and it’ll have a stylus. Beyond that, there probably won’t be much in the way of exciting.

A day later, Motorola is expected to show off a new version of the Moto X phone in Chicago, and perhaps a new Moto G as well. The original Moto X was admittedly my favourite new gadget of 2013 so I am mildly intrigued by what new features might be added to it, but I’m not betting on anything earth-shattering. A better camera and better overall specs is about it.

Then, on Sept. 9, Apple will launch the iPhone 6—and possibly several versions of it. Apple is always good for a surprise or two, but other than the expected incorporation of fitness trackers, a larger screen and/or some sort of mobile payment technology, it’s hard to imagine the company doing anything that will generate the same buzz as its first few iPhone models did just a few years ago.

It’s a telltale sign that all three companies are also expected to launch wearable gadgets at their respective events—it’s like they know the luster has worn off their headlining acts, so they’re having to add opening bands to the bill. Indeed, the possibility of what those gadgets could be—especially in the case of Apple, which has repeatedly promised some “big plans” for this year—is far more intriguing than the supposed main attractions.

GALLERY: Evolution of the smartphone »

The figurative writing for phones is on the wall. Smartphone sales are slowing across the board, with Samsung—the biggest maker of the devices—seeing big profit slowdowns. “Samsung expects to see its sales of mobile devices increase with the rollout of flagship products and new models, but profitability may suffer due to a heated race over price and product specifications,” the company said in July.

The commodification phase looks to be setting in, with consumers now wondering whether newer models of devices are truly worth the extra expenditure, or whether the phone they have is good enough for another year or two.

It won’t be too long until phones are about as sexy as toasters or, ick, desktop computers. In the meantime, bring on the wearables!