It’s all too easy to be an armchair quarterback, endlessly criticising from the comfort of your couch while munching on a big bag of crisps.
With that fantastic notion in mind, I figured I’d don my loosest trousers, grab some potato chips (I’ve no idea why I’ve turned American all of a sudden, sorry), and criticise the heck out of smartphone design. Guys; you’re doing it all wrong!
In no particular order, behold: a list of five things that bother me about smartphone design.
Ok, so the Samsung Galaxy Note has shown that there’s a market for phones with gargantuan displays, and the flagships seem to have settled around the 5in mark – give or take (Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, Sony Xperia Z…).
But, as Samsung will gladly tell you, one size does not fit all. There’s a growing army of phone fans who resent the industry’s propensity for focusing on phones with massive displays.
It wouldn’t be so bad if the non-massive guys got some lovin’, but the general rule seems to be: the smaller the phone, the lamer the specs. Where did that rule come from? Why can’t we have a 4.3in version of, say, the Samsung Galaxy S4 with identical specs? Why must a phone suddenly become mid-range (slower processor, less RAM, more modest camera) simply because it’s not stupidly big?
Internerds peed their pants a few months back when Motorola was tipped to be working on a 4in superphone. There’s definitely a gap in the market, dudes. DO IT.
Thickness and weight
Another one that smartphone manufacturers are seemingly obsessed with, and no one quite understands why: making smartphones as thin and light as possible.
Sorry, but when was the last time you heard someone say: “I really like my phone, but I’d love if it could shed a few tenths of a millimeter in thickness.” And when have we seen queues around the block from consumers desperate to get their hands on the latest World’s Thinnest Smartphone? Never, that’s when.
At 112g and 7.6mm thick, the iPhone 5 feels worryingly dainty, and it’s easy to forget that it’s in your pocket. But that’s not a good thing.
Conversely, it’s getting to the point where I’ll be tracking down a phone that does have a bit of meat when it comes time to upgrade.
This kind of ties in with the thickness and weight thing. If smartphone manufacturers weren’t obsessed with making everything super-thin, we could see beefier batteries without the need to charge every 12 freakin’ hours.
Fingers crossed that someone comes out with a slightly chunkier phone boasting ludicrous (in a good way) battery life. Motorola has the right idea with its Maxx range (you're looking at the Motorola Razr Maxx, incidentally), it’s just a case of getting the notion out there and educating people. Death to thinness; long live the battery!
Perusing through a spec sheet and discovering that a phone doesn’t have microSD compatibility is an absolute killer. Heck, even 32GB (I’m looking at you, HTC One) isn’t enough for some people – in this day and age of using your smartphone as your mp3 player.
I keep going back to a quote from Google’s Matias Duarte, who said: “Everybody likes the idea of having an SD card, but in reality it's just confusing for users.
“If you’re saving photos, videos or music, where does it go? Is it on your phone? Or on your card? Should there be a setting? Prompt everytime? What happens to the experience when you swap out the card? It’s just too complicated.”
Which does nothing to explain why some phones happily boast microSD compatibility while others don’t.
At some point in the design process, the guys must ask themselves: “Should we include a microSD slot?” YES. ALWAYS YES.
General lack of innovation
Hats off to manufacturers for increasingly embracing waterproofing, but that’s not exactly the kind of mind-boggling innovation I had in mind.
We’re thinking more along the lines of the YotaPhone, a Russian smartphone that puts a gesture panel below the display, and a secondary 4.3in e-ink display on the rear.
Think outside the box, people, and our money is yours. We’re getting a little bored with 5in 1080p, quad-core, 13MP rectangles.