Even though 2015 has yet to come to a close, it’s safe to say it’s been a pretty disappointing year. We’ve seen little change in the way our devices work, and while hardware has gotten better, not much else has. Every smartphone released this year has suffered from at least one major problem. Whether that be overheating, lack of hardware features, performance issues, or most notably battery life, everything has had at least one “deal breaker”. Those problems have actually has many users (myself included), considering sticking with 2014 or even 2013 hardware hoping for 2016 to change things. So what have we learned in 2015 that can influence 2016 smartphones?
Heat Is Not Hot
One of the biggest attention grabbers this year has been heat. It started all the way back in January with the Snapdragon 810, and that train has continued to gain steam all the way to now. With phones like the LG G Flex 2 (this is probably the first time you’ve heard this phone by name in about 4 months), the HTC One M9, and more experiencing heat issues, it’s clear customers don’t want that since both of those devices could be considered failures (or at least flops). While part of that is the fault of the processor and the media hype, it’s pretty clear that heat is a concern of customers nowadays.
So what can be done? Let’s go back to basics. We need to stop focusing on putting faster and faster processors into our phones and instead focus on making them more efficient. Look at Apple, the iPhone 6 has a dual-core processor and only a GB of RAM, yet it performs better than many Android devices even in gaming. Now yes, the operating system definitely has a ton to do with that, but another huge part of that is that Apple has a very efficient chip in the A8 (and we can only assume in the new A9). For 2016, let’s stop focusing on numbers, but rather focus on efficiency.
Pixels Are A Good Thing, But We Don’t Need Millions Of Them
Something else that has changed over the last 18 months or so is an increase is screen resolution on our phones. We went from 1080p (1920×1080) as the standard, to Quad HD (2160×1440). Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Pixels are great, and as screen sizes increase, so should the resolution. However, that doesn’t mean we need Quad HD everywhere. Let’s look at the Galaxy S6. It has 5.1″, 2560×1440 display. That has a pixel density of 575 pixels per inch. If you ask me, that’s a bit of overkill. Actually, that’s a lot of overkill. On a larger screen like the 5.7″ panel on the Note 5, this makes sense, but not on a smaller one.
So why should you care? Here’s a few reasons. More pixels means the screen is going to not only use a lot more battery power, but also more processing power. A smartphone has to work a lot harder to process all those pixels and that means that all those powerful specs aren’t as powerful as you thought. Lower resolution screens would not only mean better battery life, but way faster phones. Have you noticed a trend this year? Flagships have terrible battery life, and budget devices last (literally) for days on a charge.
Now, none of that is to say that we should take a massive step backward in display technology. Rather, I think we should take a step forward. Rather than using higher resolution panels, let’s just make really really high quality 1080p panels. Look at the OnePlus 2. Overlooking all the other problems with that phone (*cough, invite), it’s got a really good display. Many reviewers had something interesting to say about that panel when they first looked at it, “is that a Quad-HD panel, or 1080p?”. The OnePlus 2 is a 5.5″ 1080p panel with a pixel density of 400ppi. If that doesn’t speak for itself, let me do it. Quality over quantity.
Expandability Is Important
2015 saw a huge change for expandability. Samsung, for the first time ever, released a phone without microSD card support or a removable battery. That left only a couple major OEMs still doing that. Reactions from customers were obvious, they hated it. To this day users still complain that they can’t expand their storage or swap their battery and those missing features have kept many users from buying those devices. So what can be done to fix that? For now, let’s focus on microSD, and the answer is pretty simple. Bring it back.
It’s actually not that hard to do that either. Look at the Moto X Pure Edition. Motorola introduced microSD card support on this device for the first time in the Moto X series, and they did it in a simple and elegant way. The SIM tray that would have already been included on the device also doubles as a microSD card slot. Simply flip over the tray and lay your microSD card in it. This is something that OEMs like Samsung could easily implement in their next generation of phones and users would be ecstatic about it.
Phones Are Worthless If They Don’t Get Through The Day
The most obvious trend in 2015 is the lack of battery life. Take a second to think, have you seen a flagship phone in 2015 that had excellent battery life? HTC One M9? Nope. LG G4, sort of, but try again. Galaxy S6? Haha, I hope you’re kidding. Moto X Pure Edition? Nope. Galaxy Note 5? Not really.
In an effort to make thinner designs and better looking phones, OEMs have made batteries on their devices smaller, and smaller, and smaller. Yet, they’ve made the screens bigger and brighter, and devices themselves more power hungry. In an effort to downplay this, fast charging has become very popular. Nearly every flagship phone has it in one way, shape, or form, but that’s not an excuse. Just because I can charge my phone in an hour doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to last a full day. What if I’m out all day and away from a charger? Quick charging is 100% worthless in that case.
So OEMs, here’s a totally insane idea. Instead of making phones thin enough to double as a razor, how about giving your users a little extra battery life? Have you noticed how everyone was complaining about protruding camera sensors? How about fixing that by making the battery a little bit thicker to even things out. I know I certainly wouldn’t complaining over an extra millimeter, and I doubt anyone else would either. So how about it? Let’s go crazy for a year.