/ Shopping, Technology

What more do we want from our smartphones?


Gone are the days when a mobile phone just made calls and texts, our expectations of what a phone should do are getting higher. So you have to wonder, can they get any smarter?

For most of us a new phone is a biennial treat. Our contracts run out and we eagerly look to the must have new handsets and their must have new features.

It’s a situation I found myself in recently: out of contract, due an upgrade, but unable to decide on a new handset. I didn’t take the plunge until January because I was torn between the incredible phones on offer and the new ones on the horizon.

At the Mobile World Congress last week I saw first-hand some of the smartphones coming our way in 2016. Revelatory nuggets like the LG G5’s modular design that lets you slot useful accessories into the base, and the Galaxy S7’s display that conserves battery by showing you important alerts without the need to constantly take your phone off standby.

So it’s easy to play the waiting game, knowing that the next big handset is never more than a few months away. But these can leave an indecisive buyer like me frozen in a state of perpetual waiting.

A phone and so much more

In an attempt to reach a verdict on my recent upgrade, I listed the phones I was interested in and compared their features. Eventually my scientific approach found a winner and a Nexus 6P now sits neatly in my pocket.

Now, I chose my first phone, the Motorola C350, because of its colour screen and that I could download wallpapers to stamp my teenage individuality onto the tiny display. Other than that it made calls, sent texts and that was enough.

But my new nexus 6P can be unlocked with my fingerprint, control my speakers at home, and record 4K video as well as all the things we take for granted like watching YouTube and playing music. It’s equipped with everything I want and need, but I wonder what more it could do.

Don’t smartphones do enough already?

Despite the fact that the latest mobiles are more computer than phone, there’s a demand for them to do more.

A Carphone Warehouse survey on what features people wanted their next phone to have found that while most simply wanted better battery life, 10% also want their phone to be able to drive their car – I don’t like the sound of a two tonne remote-controlled Ford Mondeo, but it shows the scope of people’s expectations.

Slightly less outlandish is the desire for our phones to work better with other technology. Smart home gadgets are becoming commonplace: app-controlled wireless security cameras, thermostats and light bulbs are the tip of the iceberg and 70% of the people surveyed want their phones to control these smart devices seamlessly.

So it would seem that faster processors and higher resolution screens aren’t our only requirements. The current crop of smartphones are already lightning fast, with stunning displays, so manufacturers like Samsung and LG will need to rely more on unique features to grab our attention.

I wonder what features will be on my list in two years’ time, but I doubt I’ll want it to remotely control my car.

What would you like your phone to be able to do?


I want a smartphone that only has to be charged once a week, like the simple Nokia phone I used for years. I’m quite happy with a thicker phone.

Alternatively I would be happy with a battery that could be swapped for a charged one. I could do this with my old Nokia.

Your choice, Apple.

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I have read about batteries of the future but it’s difficult to know if and when they will appear.

Judging by the number of people who play with their phone while driving, maybe driving by phone might be the diversion they need to encourage them to focus on driving. 🙁

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Many innovations seem to start in the US and then we get them – good or bad. I’m more interested in longer life batteries. One of the problems with driving a car by phone is of course – what happens when the battery runs down? 🙂

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I wonder how anyone found out that urine might be useful in battery technology, but I remain open minded. In the meantime I must charge my phone.

If anybody noticed the Nissan Leaf had a crackable remote app. which allowed people half a world away to turn on your heating – not nice if you only have one battery. Nissan removed this app this week.

So whilst its lovely to nominate extended uses for your smart phone I suggest that manufacturers are not hack conscious – and even if they were hackers would no doubt crack it in time. Probably not reported much here was the judgement this week on a Turk who cracked the payment systems of the card issuers and orchestrated the scheme which allowed his confederates to withdraw $55m. This included $2.8m in New York City.

We’re inexorably moving towards a future in which we will become not simply dependent upon but almost certainly biologically linked to our mobile devices. It’s the logical next step, really. All that fiddling around to see the screen when it could be projected onto your retinas and overlaid with your real-time experience will become a thing of the past, regarded as quaint and in the same way we look back at early TVs with only four or five channels.

We live in a time when we all need continuous social contact and when our tolerance for delay has become severely diminished. What we want, we want now, whether that be a simple chat with a friend or a product from an online retailer.

I suspect this current crop of mobile devices marks a zenith in the industry: sales of all mobile devices are falling and people are becoming satiated with the trick selection they can pull off. So far wearable tech hasn’t gained as much traction as it might, but I suspect that will change. The trick is twofold: make the tech truly unobtrusive whilst simultaneously creating better batteries or a power harvesting system that makes batteries redundant.

Google glass was a good first attempt, but the infrastructure needed to support the system didn’t exist. With ubiquitous strong 4G signals, exceptionally fast processors and much better power harvesting systems my ideal system would consist of a tiny projector on the eye which provided virtual keyboards linked to an alpha wave detector to allow for simple on/off commanding. This would provide you with a giant screen wherever you went, almost instant access to all the information you could possibly want, all combined with a near-invisible hardware pack. Not too sure what it would cost, though…

I just like sitting down and having a pleasant relationship with my desktop PC once or twice a day. But then I lead a simple life by most people’s standards.

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Given the assumption that the US is, in fact, experimenting on using thought control to enhance its soldiers’ performance, it seems to be particularly useless at resolving world conflicts.

I prefer to do “real life” activity – gardening, diy, getting out and about, mild sport – than sitting glued to an electronic device peering into a virtual world (other than being a pest on convos of course). My phone is for necessary incoming and outgoing calls and occasional messaging. I am not over anxious to become more reliant on a device that seems to consume more and more time, is antisocial in many respects, and expensive. I’m clearly a dinosaur.

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Maybe we should not have given children books, pencils and paper, never mind let them loose on computers or phones. If they have something that demands a telephone call they could be allowed to use their parents’ landline.

I find it interesting that watching films, TV and sport are widely regarded as respectable activities but more recent technology usually comes in for criticism. Incidentally, I’m not glued to my mobile and sometimes leave it at home, but as a way of finding information when and where it’s needed or making calls that can’t wait till I get home, it is rather handy. Perhaps it’s time to put it in perspective. My biggest concern is the increasing manipulation of the population by the commercial world.

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Hello, are we still talking about smartphones and new features on technology? 🙂

Most computational neuroscientists tend to estimate human brain storage capacity somewhere between 10 terabytes and 100 terabytes, though the full spectrum of guesses ranges from 1 terabyte to 2.5 petabytes. (One terabyte is equal to about 1,000 gigabytes or about 1 million megabytes; a petabyte is about 1,000 terabytes.). So not all that much in world terms, really.

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Can you supply the link? And it doesn’t matter which country supplies the ‘evidence’; what matters is how rigorous the scientific process was. There is, regrettably, a long history of poor research published across the world which can seem plausible until you search for effective replication. In particular, research published in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience has often been retracted afterwards. The only reliable magazines are Nature, New Scientist and Scientific American IME.

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Thanks. I follow Neuroscience research closely, and I’ve seen nothing that suggest the Brain’s capacity is greater than 2.5PB.

There is a a discussion on “The Register” about, not so much storage, as the ability to input information at huge speed.

The point of course is that storage, and retrieval, and the establishing of a result are part of an overall package. And this may be something to consider beyond simply memory.

Incidentally I had a friend whose ability to recall in great detail events we had attended say 20 years ago was frightening. I conversely had forgotten them completely.

I have seen people experimenting with taking pictures every few seconds during the day and creating a daily vlog. The future where people start performing in unnatural ways for their vlog cannot be far away given what can be seen on Facebook and YouTube. Rather a chilling vision of what having your wearable smartphone could lead to.

However the article makes much mention of a Carphone Warehouse survey, so its not like they have a vested interest, but there is no link in this thread to it so we are bereft of the numbers and make up of the audience surveyed – after all I could survey primary school children what they would like ……

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As a not infrequent funding authority for replacement smart phones in my family, I would like to see:

a) phones smart enough to remain fully intact and functioning after a ~2m drop (minimum) onto a hard unyielding surface, for example a paved, tiled or concrete floor.

b) phones smart enough to remain re-chargeable for a minimum life of ~3 years, i.e. both the battery and the hardware where the charging lead is connected should be designed to achieve a robust and long lived design.

Like a minority of users, I make my phone drop-resistant by putting it in a leather case. I don’t really have much sympathy for anyone who spends hundreds of pound on a phone and then complains that their unprotected screen has been cracked or smashed by a fall.

That’s a fair comment, wc.

However, I am looking for durability and survivability, not sympathy.

I’m fully supportive of phones being able to survive everyday use, Derek. It disappoints me that phone manufacturers sell phones that contain moisture tell-tales rather than make them water resistant. After all, it does rain in the UK. However, even though we all know that glass is fragile, some people blame the manufacturers when their screen breaks when they drop their phone on a hard surface.

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I would like phones to come with a charger cable longer than 1m. Like most people I charge my phone overnight and it is a slight inconvenience to have to use an extension cable to use my phone in bed.