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Bring on the innovation guys, but not before taking care of the basics

|February 4 2015 |Smart Phones, Editorial

“We all love innovation, but the basics need to be sorted out first”

First things first. We love innovation. We’re the first ones to be tempted to hit the ‘buy now’ button when we see a hot new smartphone boasting cool features. Ultra-thin bodies, octa-core processors, 2K displays, and biometric sensors are just a few of the features that keep titillating us. Thoughts about what the future holds keep us awake at night, and inspires us to visualise concepts that could change the way we use our smartphones. From shape-shifting bracelets that switch from smartwatch to smartphone at the touch of a button to the next iterations of current flagships – we’ve dreamt about them all. But sometimes, looking at the current range of smartphone options does make us want a tad bit more… not only in terms of new technologies or features, but things at the most basic level.


Take battery life for instance. We’re happy if a smartphone can last the entire day without visiting the power socket, but how many of us are comfortable leaving for an overnight trip without our chargers? Battery saving features in phones are welcome, but they are just enhancements that try to hide basic flaws – like foundation covering up blemishes on the face. Power banks are useful little things, and everyone should have one... but they’re meant for emergencies. Take a look around and you’re bound to see people using their phones with power banks attached. On one hand, it looks like good use of available technology, but forgive us when we say that for us, the sight conjures up visuals of patients hooked up to drips in hospitals. Phones with beefy batteries may or may not be the answer we’re looking for, but there’s no doubt that current battery tech is definitely in need of a major shot in the arm.

Let’s talk about shooting prowess. Smartphone cameras have not only been big differentiating factors for the devices and brands themselves, but have been instrumental in the surge of casual photography, social sharing and the recent selfie trend… murdering point-and-shoot cameras along the way. But despite the advancement in technology, why is it that most of them take crappy images in low light? It’s not that brands haven’t tried innovating – Nokia’s PureView tech and HTC’s UltraPixel concept come to mind first – but the fact remains that most smartphones struggle to capture usable shots when the lighting isn't too good.

Raise your hands if you've ever tried connecting your phone to the charger in a dimly-lit room and failing miserably because there’s only one way to hook up the cable to the micro-USB port. Apple took care of this issue with its reversible Lightning connector a while ago, but why is it that the promised reversible USB connector still hasn’t made its way to us yet?

Consider water resistance as a feature. Each time we review a Sony smartphone that boasts this, we harp about its usefulness. As the most personal of gadgets and something that accompanies us wherever we go (even to the bathroom), smartphones are quite prone to liquid spills and splashes. Wouldn't it be great if every smartphone manufacturer can offer handsets that are impervious to water? Yet, with the exception of a brand or two, no one seems to take it seriously. Even Samsung seems to forgotten all about it after the Galaxy S5. If making most smartphones waterproof is tough, how about just the water-repellent nano coating that the likes of Moto G and Moto E come with? Come on guys – we just refuse to believe that something like this is too difficult to accomplish or add to the cost in a significant way.

There’s big brouhaha around 4G these days, and every manufacturer worth its salt is coming up with 4G-capable phones across price segments. But what about basic network connectivity? Leave the smaller towns and rural areas aside… it’s common for us even in the metros to rush out of homes or offices in an effort to find an area with better network connectivity when we receive calls. Let’s not even talk about issues like frequent call drops and spotty cellular data. Sure, the same set of people and companies are not to blame for this (telecom operators, we’re looking at you), but isn't this something that makes a phone complete?

Each one of us may have a different bone of contention when it comes to smartphone usage, and the features and functionality we care about most could be different for different individuals. The world’s largest mobile tech expo is just around the corner, and there’s no doubt that companies have lined up blitzkriegs for us in the form of cutting-edge devices that will be coming our way in the weeks and months to come. We’re surely in for a treat in terms of new and exciting devices to lust after. But amidst all the excitement… and putting aside all the hot technology spanning stuff like curved displays, augmented reality and who knows… other features we haven’t imagined or heard about yet, we want to take a long, leisurely look at the present. Smartphone manufacturers, if you’re reading this, can you hold the innovation for a bit and focus on the basics first? Is it too much to ask for?

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