The more I think about handheld systems the more I realize how they're doomed to extinction. It's sad really because the 3DS and Vita offer experience that are unique and different from smartphone gaming. I have no doubt that things are looking grim for handheld systems and I would agree that there will most likely be no dedicated handheld systems next generation. Why? It's because the general populace see portable gaming as one huge entity rather than separate entities. We have the smartphone gaming experience and the handheld system experience. Gamers can clearly distinguish the difference between the two types. One has physical controls, higher production values, a dedicated audience, and an appeal that is similar to console gaming. The other focuses on dedicated touch controls, a series of short experiences, and a more accessible audience.
When I play the 3DS and the Vita I don't seek the same experience that I do when I play on my iPhone. In fact, these two pieces of technologies are so different I have a hard time accepting that one can possibly disappear. So what is the problem? It's not really so much a problem as it is perspectives. People see games as games rather than games offering unique experiences. Each system gives something different to offer and as a result gives its reason for existing. Unfortunately the masses won't really see it from this perspective. Games are entertaining and that's all it is.
So what do these unique experiences mean. Honestly, they don't mean anything unless the players take some of value out of it. If nothing comes from it then that's that. This is the situation that the 3DS and the Vita in. Players think they're games and that's it. They don't think about how it was different from other types of games and perhaps other types of systems. Is it our responsibility to reflect on it? No. However, as a player that enjoyed these two types of experience... I'm going to miss it, when it eventually goes away.