Android OEMs, this is what we’ve been wanting in smartphones!

You know, too often it looks like Android smartphone manufacturers aren’t listening to our wants (or at very least, our top priorities). We’re the ones buying the phones after all!

I guess that’s not completely fair. I mean, my wants may be different from yours. But bear with me here. As of late, leading smartphones have somewhat reached a plateau, haven’t they? We’re no longer (in large) clamoring for faster processors or more resolution. Therefore, chances are that our wants, as a whole, are easier than ever to determine.

Let’s do this: I’ll list the top five things I would tell an OEM to prioritize in their next flagship. I’m betting that most Android users will agree.

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Battery

Battery

We want our phones to last. There’s no point in packing all these neat features into a phone if it runs out of battery. The battery needs to be the top priority.

I can’t help but point my finger at Samsung on this point. Last year, it revamped the Galaxy line with a much needed makeover. Except, the Galaxy S6 had terrible battery life. This is just wrong. A manufacturer who puts battery life on the sideline for another feature is making a bad play. Shame, shame on a giant like Samsung for not knowing better.

Let’s talk with our wallets and not buy into a negligence to battery life. At the high price of flagships, we shouldn’t have to settle. If we don’t have the ability to swap the battery anymore, than we need to see considerably large capacities in flagships. Screw thinness, battery life matters so much more.

Camera Optical Zoom

Cameras on flagship phones are fantastic today. Last year, I did comparisons with the Galaxy S6 and LG V10 against a Sony RX100 camera. The results were astonishing when you think about how small the smartphone sensors are in comparison to a dedicated camera.

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This means we can are rely on smartphone cameras more than ever for capturing the life around us. But zooming is often associated with camera use, and digital zoom is quite horrendous. Digital zooming is actually cropping, and the decrease in image quality shows in a big way, even on the best current smartphone cameras.

For an example, I’ll show you a preview of my upcoming LG V10 vs Asus ZenFone Zoom comparison. The ZenFone Zoom has 3x optical zoom, and the benefit is quite clear.

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LG V10, 3x zoom
LG V10, 3x zoom

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Asus ZenFone Zoom, 3x zoom
Asus ZenFone Zoom, 3x zoom

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OEMs are probably reluctant about incorporating optical zoom because camera modules are already thicker than they would like. Everyone likes to complain about the camera hump on the iPhone and Galaxy series. That means this is an argument about phone thinness again, and I would gladly take a thicker phone if it meant better features.

More base storage

Storage

We’ve taken this BS long enough. Why do we still see devices released with 16GB or even 32GB of internal storage? While storage space has progressed for everything else in the market (solid-state drives, flash drives, SD cards), OEMs continue to short change us. All while many have gotten rid of micro-SD expansion on phones. This is an injustice.

I see many folks say that the low internal storage isn’t a big deal, that they can manage. But we should neither have to manage nor settle. OEMs are pulling a fast one on us and we continue to let them. They know they can include much larger storage space, but don’t. Maybe they’re banking on us buying a new phone every time we run out?

Durability

GR_GS6_Active_600x600_xlarge_grp_1Fragile phones just don’t make sense. They’re always in our hands, which means that gravity will claim them at some point. They should be designed to withstand accidents.

Historically, durable phones have been reserved for low/mid-end offerings from lesser known manufacturers (i.e. Kyocera). But I’ve always wondered why it has to be this way? Sure, we’ve seen some big manufacturers step up to the plate, like the Galaxy S Active line (which unfortunately has AT&T exclusivity), but they are too few and far between.

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Another good example is Sony. While the Xperia line isn’t necessarily rugged, it has always had water and dust proofing. Motorola also had the right idea with last year’s Droid Turbo 2 and its “shatterproof” screen.

Part of the problem comes around to thinness again. Adding durability increases thickness. OEMs need to let go of the thin phone mentality.

Toned-down UI’s

Moto_X_PureMore OEMs need to step up to the plate like Motorola did with regard to phone software. Phone makers love to pile on their own touches to Android, in an effort to stand out. The problem is that very few make an appealing user interface (UI).

For instance, Samsung’s TouchWiz UI has long been infamous in the Android community for unnecessary changes to the stock Android UI and being resource hungry. Last year’s Galaxy S6 had a big issue with multitasking, where it closed down apps seconds from leaving it. That isn’t how Android was made to behave.

All these affordable offerings coming from Chinese OEMs nowadays are compelling but bittersweet. Sure, you’ll be getting tons of value, but it’s almost certain the UI will be heavy and/or subpar. How I wish that there were more OEMs that would adopt Motorola’s methodology – near stock Android with some enhancements. Android fans want the stock UI.

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We’d like to hear your feedback. Do you agree with my top five list of things phone makers need to prioritize today, or is there another feature that you think takes precedence?

I'm a tech enthusiast with a love for Android. I enjoy finding out about new devices/features that add to our lives. I love to see what manufacturers come up with and want to critique their decisions. I love diving into gossip on upcoming products. I have some strong (and hopefully helpful) opinions to share. The world of tech is a very interesting place, and there are things that need to be said.
  • retrospooty

    Nice. I would buy that and pay extra for it… I dont care about the camera, and definitely dont want optical zoom but the rest is awesome.

  • Jeremy Nathan Mone

    I can only agree with your assessment, and I hope it makes it to the ears of some manufacturers.

  • justafew

    I completely agree with your article, in the same priority. And I would gladly accept a slightly thicker device in order to have a better battery and camera.

  • Norbl

    And a guarantee of OS updates within 45 days.

    • xzb6np

      Ya my Lumia 950 gets regular non-carrier blocked updates regularly also ?

  • xzb6np

    Funny. They just want what my Lumia 950 has. Replacable battery, 32 gig storage plus I have 128 gig SD card, Epic UI and the camera is amazing.

    • Remodel Guy

      Yeah…but Microsoft.

      • xzb6np

        ya but… Microsoft provides a superior integrated experience between all my devices and PC as well. I just love it when my phone happens to be downstairs and a notification pop’s up on my Windows 10 PC that says I missed a text. I simply click it and reply. I don’t have to go get my phone. Or when I open my Android Nexus 7 tablet and my documents, One Notes, and pictures are sync’d with OneDrive the same as my Lumia 950, PC and Windows 10 tablet.

        • Remodel Guy

          While not integrated, I have that feature using Pushbullet. And Google Drive has the same sync functionality. Which brings up the point; the availability of usable apps. Microsoft phones are near death. Why would developers create for that platform anymore? It may have been a noble (and excellent) try, but extinction is near.

          • xzb6np

            I am in the process of re-coding my audio app that is in the Windows App Store (Also in the Google Play store btw 🙂 ) into a Universal Windows app which will run on Phone, PC, Tablet, and XBox. Windows 10 is a huge success. From a developers perspective that is a powerful story. As far as app gap what’s missing other than SnapChat? I have Facebook, Skype, LinkedIn, Twitter, Hulu, Netflix, eBay, Amazon, Flixster, Instagram, Yammer, Plex, Yahoo Fantasy Football, NFL, Evernote, Gas Buddy, Waze, Here Maps, Microsoft Maps, Office, Outlook, Pulse VPN, AccuWeather, Acrobat Reader, Kindle, Engaget, CNN, USA Today, VNC, Fidelity Net Benefits, OneDrive, Pizza Hut, ShopSavy, Simple Rewards, ESPN, History Channel, YouTubr, Yellow Pages, Podcasting, Music, XBox Games, TuneIn Radio, Spotify, etc., etc., etc. So what is missing that I just have to have on my phone?

          • Remodel Guy

            It’s great that it works for you but how long will it be supported? At some point, devs are going to throw in the towel.
            “In Q4 2014, the software giant owned 2.8 percent of the smartphone market — not great, but still good enough for around 10 million units sold. In the same quarter of 2015, however, Windows Phone sales fell to 4.4 million, giving the OS a mere 1.1 percent of the total market.”
            Doesn’t matter how good you think the platform is, extinction is near.

  • Alejandro Carvallo

    It’s amazing how these simple ideas are just to hard to manage for big manufacturers. How hard could it be to notice that people want better battery life? Do they never runs out of power? How about a stock Android? Do they think they are better than Google? It just amazes me how time goes by and only Motorola seems to be understanding the trend.

  • great

  • Remodel Guy

    I really don’t understand the thin, fragile phone fetish. A thin, metal phone can bend. Metal can dent and scratch easily. And a phone wrapped in glass?????? These are all silly concepts. I’ll take a plastic-backed phone over metal or glass any day. A thicker phone means a bigger battery and better camera? OK, I’LL TAKE IT!

  • Cpaun

    I would love to see the LG V10’s camera with the optical zoom of Asus Zoom 🙂 I would buy that phone for sure.