Designers and developers are a bit bored by Apple. Looking for the wow factor in the iPhone5? It's the taller screen!
"There's no space left for big wows in this field." Those kind of pronouncements are always irritating to me because they simply project the idea that "there's nothing new under the sun", a lack of imagination. Um, yes there is, all the time.
For example, one of the really interesting, new technologies discussed in the last year were touch screens with programmable textures using electrical fields interacting with our sense of touch - so that you can feel a rough/furry/bumpy/whatever surface. That would be a "wow" and it's coming some year.
I agree with you that that would be a great "wow" thing. But you have mentioned touch screens in general, not smartphones.
As you can see you need to add something very attractive, like an aptic interface, to make people say 'wow' in front of a smartphone.
To me this means that you have to change the essence of the smartphone-as-we-know-it (call, text, web, apps) to avoid people saying "it's the same".
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