Five things smartphone manufacturers keep getting wrong

Five things smartphone manufacturers keep getting wrongIt’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.

Five things smartphone manufacturers keep getting wrongDisplay size

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.

Five things smartphone manufacturers keep getting wrongThickness 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.

Five things smartphone manufacturers keep getting wrongBattery life

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!

Five things smartphone manufacturers keep getting wrongmicroSD

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.

Five things smartphone manufacturers keep getting wrongGeneral 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.

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2 comments

JanSt / MOD  Jul. 16, 2013 at 16:01

Google’s Matias Duarte, who said: “Everybody likes the idea of having an SD card, but in reality it's just confusing for users". LIAR! It's nonsense. On a level with Jobs' :"search isn't happening on mobile" and "people don't use copy/paste"...
No SD-card = limited storage = cloud cloud cloud... guess who has an interest in that, eh? ;)

Android... where now settings have settings have settings.... where you have gmail and another email app... Not confusing?

There is another reason for the lack of real innovation. The Appstores! Dito for not making the 'perfect' phone. Apps.

Lacking a feature? Well...look at our shiny appstore.
Remember the pre iTunes file-sharing? Hundreds and hundreds of faux 'file managers' that all relied on some dodgy cloud service or weird wifi set-ups...
For every missing feature there are now a thousand apps to cover the'basics' with some ridiculous workaround (look at WPs pseudo file manager apps).

I also reckon that explains the daft email client in Android. The Gmail app is good. The other one? LOL So: get Gmail (win) or get a third party app (win win or: triple win for Google if you go for an ad-supported one).

Not a hardware story but relevant: when Twitter changed its api, everyone was, "boooooooh" - cause the changes meant kiss goodbye to 100s of 3rd party Twitter apps. I say: good riddance. They all were identi-kit with some bloaty gimmicky extras... Meanwhile Twitter hugely improved its own apps (except for BB10). Sometimes less choice is better choice.

Rubisco  Jul. 16, 2013 at 19:34

A large screened, thin phone has a large surface area to volume ratio. Such phones will always be able to be clocked higher than smaller, thicker models as they dissipate heat better.

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