The Samsung Galaxy S4 is another boring smartphone

by , Deputy Technology Editor Technology 15 March 2013
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Samsung’s latest smartphone will doubtless go on to win many awards. But, like many a recent smartphone, it’s short on talking points. What do manufacturers need to do to make smartphones cool again?

Samsung Galaxy S4

Excuse me while I don my ‘humbug’ hat, but the Samsung Galaxy S4 is boring. You can read all the Samsung Galaxy S4 details on our sister site Which? Tech Daily, but the basics are as follows – it’s slightly bigger, sharper and has lots of gimmicks no one will use. Sure, it’s faster and slicker than the phone it replaces, but that’s the least anyone expects.

Indeed, the only thing more boring would be me moaning about this for another 400 words, so instead I pose a question – what will make smartphones interesting again?

1. Real intelligent voice recognition

Current voice recognition systems are far from perfect, but they hold the key to the next leap in how we interact with the technology we use everyday.

When I can perform any action using voice commands alone; when my smartphone uses information intelligently to help me make better decisions; when I don’t have to fumble around correcting typos – that’s the day I’ll be blown away.

2. Complete home automation

Like voice recognition, we’ve made baby steps towards home automation, but we’re a long way short. Why is it desirable? Because it could save time and money at a time when energy bills are soaring.

Imagine your phone knowing exactly how long the heating needs to be on to maintain a comfortable temperature; imagine knowing exactly how much power every item in your house uses. Technology that saves us money is the best kind of tech.

3. Fully-featured cameras

Don’t mistake me – smartphone cameras, particularly those on the top phones like the Galaxy S4, are fantastic. But they’re still limited. They don’t have zoom lenses and the LED flashes are weak. A phone that solves these problems without sacrificing form and function elsewhere will have a killer feature worth shouting about.

4. A PC in my pocket

Smartphones are sometimes referred to as computers, and in terms of what they’re made up of this is true. They don’t, however, serve the same purpose as a PC, but they could.

As processor technology advances, it’s totally possible that the only actual PC we own is a smartphone. A smartphone that can interface with screens, docks and other accessories to make it the only ‘computer’ you need. We’ve seen some companies toying with such ideas – Asus’ Padfone range of smartphones that dock into and power tablet screens being the prime example. Microsoft, too, could be argued to be experimenting with this concept with its Surface tablets, albeit with mixed results. But we’re still not quite there yet.

So there are a few of my ideas to make smartphones interesting again. But what would make you stand up and take notice?

7 comments

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Lee Beaumont

I have a BlackBerry Curve 9320 that i use for phone calls, txting, Twitter, Facebook etc and a old iPhone 3 for my music (i run it like a iPod Touch).

I’m happy with these two and will only update when one has broken, or if i am given a new phone as a gift or if i win any competitions for phones (I’m a comper).

Don’t see the point in always getting the latest model with how much they cost.

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jon

I can never understand why everyone (well, tech writers) always expect smartphones to make exponential leaps of awesomeness with every annual update. Apple laptops have been plain aluminum with a white apple logo on the lid for about 10 years now and no-one’s complaining. As long as the GPUs are faster, the memory greater, the screen resolution sharper and developers keep improving their apps, I could care less whether the case is exciting or not.

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wavechange

Andy has already recognised what the rest of us will eventually learn. Our love for the mobile phone is losing its sparkle. New models are introduced so frequently that we are accustomed to gradual improvement and it would need more than the developers can deliver to make us excited. Yes, we will continue to buy smartphones and may be excited for a few days, like a child with a new toy, but there is not enough to maintain long-term interest for anyone other than the enthusiasts.

We have seen the same with computers. Who gets excited about a desktop computer these days? We may use them every day at work but many have moved on to laptops and tablets – and smartphones will do enough to avoid the need to carry around anything more powerful.

I predict that within the next ten years, smartphones will be given away free when we buy a washing machine or even a trolley load of groceries.

We’ll be talking about this on the podcast. Your ideas about how to make smartphones better would be appreciated.

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Terry Farrell

I love my Samsung GS2, but the GS3 and the new GS4 don’t seem to really have anything to persuade me to upgrade. I have installed the latest Android Jellybean which has brought the some improvements – most notably being the slicker touchscreen response. (But that is something that most users won’t be able to do for themselves.)

I’ve used Google Nav to drive through India (3,000 kms from Jaisalmer to Fort Cochin), read Kindle books at 35,000 feet, Skyped, texted and phoned from India to UK, read the BBC News and The Times all over Europe and India and taken loads of photos and loaded them onto Facebook. What can the GS4 add to that? Other than the slightly larger screen, The (potentially) faster mobile access (when G4 becomes widely available) and a few dubiously useful eye interactions, I’m not sure that jumping from the GS2 to the GS4 is going to do much for me.

Samsung like some other phone manufacturers have deliberately stopped updating Android to persuade users to buy the latest greatest model. But as long as you don’t find any of the Samsung (or service providers) overlays a must have feature, you can dump them for raw Android and keep updating it because there are enthusiasts out there that take the latest version and add the necessary firmware to install on your current phone.

I shall keep my GS2 until it dies or until there’s a seismic leap in Android or the hardware platform.

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djmp99

I could not find another home for this comment……..

Leaving aside the fact that the Best Buy lists are headed by grossly overpriced phones why does the Google Nexus not appear anywhere as £ for £ it is by far the best (non 4G enabled) smartphone available today. It also has the latest version of Android as soon as Google release it including maintenance releases.

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Rigsbyscat

Another example of Which’s continued bias against anything that may present any sort of change to their beloved and much trumpeted Apple iphone. Can you ever imagine a Which headline that read “Another boring iphone” or any Apple product for that matter

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