The lines between budget, mid-range, and high-end phones are rapidly becoming blurred. There are many devices in every price category that perform at a high-level, so it is about time that flagships start differentiating themselves again.
With Christmas just a day away, I’m writing an open letter to Santa Claus who hopefully will grant my smartphone feature wishes for next year. I think I have been good, and hope to have stayed off of his naughty list…
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Flagship phones cost a great deal of money, and it’s embarrassing to see phones that cost half as much offer similar performance and hardware for half the cost. Santa, can you help Samsung, Sony, HTC, and LG design new features into their best phones to keep the enthusiasts happy? I know some of these ideas might be a little crazy, but it can’t hurt to ask!
Optical zoom and a camera lens cover
Before smartphones, most of us used actual cameras to take our pictures. One of the cardinal rules of photography was to never touch the lens. Oil and dust can ruin any picture but no smartphone comes with built-in coverage. Almost all compact cameras come with an automatic lens cover to protect the lens from dirt and oil, so can you help one or all of these companies help protect our lenses? Most lenses come with a coating that helps keep them protected, but after a year of wiping and cleaning, that protection is gone and pictures just don’t come out as good as they did when the phone was new.
Optical image stabilization, ridiculous megapixel counts, laser auto-focus, dual LED flash and Ultrapixels are all great, but optical zoom is what is missing on smartphone cameras these days. Samsung made the Galaxy S4 Zoom a couple of years ago, but that phone was just too thick and a niche device. And Sony made the external DSC-QX30 wireless lens, but no one really likes to bring along a second device to take pictures, unless it is a real camera.
Santa, can you help the engineers come up with a revolutionary way to bring us 3-10X optical zoom to our smartphone cameras? It shouldn’t add much bulk to our devices and should be reliable too. Optical zoom would be a great way for us to enhance our pictures.
Dual front-facing speakers with full range sound
Quite a few phones have dual front facing speakers like the Nexus 6 and 6P, but many flagships like the Samsung Galaxy Note5 and LG V10 still have a mono speaker on the bottom of the device that are anything but spectacular. Loud but tinny sound is the norm on flagships, but can you help the engineers develop fuller sound like the HTC One line has?
It would be nice to make audio an important feature on all flagships these days and we shouldn’t have to settle for a huge black bar to get it. We all love to listen to music, take calls over speakerphone, play games and watch videos. Is it too much to as for full range sound?
Decently made earbuds with an inline remote and microphone
The Apple iPhone has great earbuds that come free with every purchase. Sadly many manufacturers have quietly stopped giving us earbuds and make us buy them separately. If they aren’t going to provide us with quality front facing speakers, can you help them develop earbuds that seal out excess background noise while providing decent sound while being included with every purchase?
Panasonic makes the RPHJE120K In-Ear Headphones and they retail for $6.29 on Amazon.com with free 2-day shipping! The headphones have over 27k reviews with an average rating of 4.5/5 stars which means they are excellent. It really can’t cost manufacturers that much money to manufacture these, so I beg you to help these companies add headphones back into the package.
External Memory with 32GB of base memory
There are fewer and fewer flagships with the ability to add external memory. As technology progresses, our data consumption increases right along with it and some of us need more memory. We are downloading HiFi music from Tidal, and videos from YouTube Red and need our storage space.
Some companies like HTC and LG still have external memory as an option, but Samsung recently decided people care more about looks than internal hardware. In this time of great phones, we should be able to have great builds with external memory too. And while I am at it, can you also make 32GB of memory a base option for flagships? Android software can take over 5GB of space, and that isn’t including all of the bloatware that Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T install on our phones without our permission.
16GB of base memory is unacceptable for flagship devices.
USB type-C and Qi Wireless charging
Many devices are switching over to USB type-C, like the Nexus 5X and 6P which is a great thing. One of my favorite features, albeit a very simple one, is that you can insert the plug in any orientation. Even though it is a huge pain in the rear to have different charging cables(micro USB and USB type-C), the benefit of not having to look at a small plug before inserting to charge is a nice feature to have.
Santa, can you help all companies adopt this standard?
Sadly while Google brought USB type-C to the Nexus 6P and 5X, they decided to leave out wireless charging. It’s kind of ridiculous that we need to sacrifice one feature for another. Can we just have both? Wireless charging is a great feature that many of us take advantage of. Once you get used to wireless charging, it is really difficult to go back to using a standard plug to charge your device.
48-hour battery life
I’m not sure why phone manufacturers have set a 24-hour limit on battery life, but most flagships barely can make it through a full day of heavy usage. Before smartphones, our flip phones used to last a couple days on a full charge. One would logically think that battery life on smartphones would get better as time passes, but as efficiency improves manufacturers just make the batteries smaller. The Samsung Galaxy Note3 and Note4 both had larger batteries than the Note5, but all three get roughly the same amount of usage on a single charge.
The Note5 can last a full day on a single charge with a 3000mAh, battery, but it’s time to give us a 4000-5000mAh battery found in unlocked devices. We want more time away from our chargers. Is this something you can help us with?
I know having a 4k display seems a bit ridiculous at this point. 2k displays commonly found on flagships are so clear that you cannot see pixels without magnification. But as virtual reality(VR) expands in popularity so does the need for increased resolution. VR magnifies your display in a viewer, like the Google Cardboard, making pixels on 2k displays easy to see.
The Elephone Vowney is an unlocked Android smartphone and comes with a pixel busting 2k display with 535ppi. It also comes with 4GB of RAM, 32GB of memory, an octa-core processor and even a 2k display. It also costs just $299. Paying top dollar for a Samsung, LG, HTC or Sony flagship just doesn’t make sense when you can get so much hardware at a mid-range price.
4k resolution may be a bit over kill for most, but it will help future proof our investments since our devices should last us two years or more.
Case and Screen protector
I have now purchased two unlocked budget devices from Gearbest.com, and both phones came with a screen protector installed with a clear hard case covering the back too. Sure this has never been apart of any flagship, but most of us do want added protection for our devices. When we pay $800, it won’t cost much to throw in a case and screen protector.
Amazon.com lists many cases and screen protectors for less than $10. I’m sure cases and screen protectors cost a fraction of that amount, so start including them with our purchases. Instead of giving us fewer accessories, while giving us software features we don’t need, can you help the manufacturers redirect their investments and put them towards things we do need? A simple case and screen protector would be fantastic, and is probably the most reasonable things on my wishlist for 2016.
Budget devices come with them installed out of the box, so the big manufacturers like Samsung and LG shouldn’t have an issue with this.
I think I have been good this year…
Santa, I think the things I am asking for are not too unreasonable. Android manufacturers like HTC and Samsung are getting killed when it comes to smartphone sales and are frequently turning over senior management. They have lost sight of what makes their phones great, and 2015 was a year that lacked in true innovation. Mid-range and budget devices have caught up this year, and are set to do even more damage for 2016.
I ask for the things listed above, because the current sales figures for 2015 represent our growing dissatisfaction with what the major smartphones offer us, and I really want to see a comeback for smartphone flagships in 2016.
I may or may not be granted some of my items from my wishlist, but I am taking part in the spirit of giving on my own anyways. I will be selecting one winner from the ultimate giveaway package that can be entered with a simple comment.
Have a safe trip delivering gifts around the globe Santa. I will be tracking you using Google’s Santa Tracker.