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What's Next For Smartphone Innovation 257

Posted by Soulskill
from the integrated-cloaking-device dept.
SternisheFan sends in an article about the new features and developments we can expect out of smartphones in the near future. The shortlist: more sensors for tracking the world outside the phone, more gesture-based (i.e. non-touch) input, and integration with wearable computers like smartwatches and Google Glass. From the article: "These under-appreciated components -- the gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, and so forth -- are starting to get more friends in the neighborhood. Samsung, for instance, slipped pressure, temperature, and humidity sniffers into the Galaxy S4. They may not be the sexiest feature in your phone, but in the future, sensors like accelerometers will be able to collect and report much more detailed information. ... In addition to air quality, temperature and speed of movement are also biggies. [Also, a smartphone that can] track your pulse, or even double as an EKG, turning the everyday smartphone into a medical device. ... [For wearable computing,] your smartphone is still there, still essential for communicating with your environment, but it becomes only one device in a collection of other, even more personal or convenient gadgets, that solve some of the same sorts of problems in different or complementary ways." What do you think will be the next generation of killer features for smartphones?
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What's Next For Smartphone Innovation

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  • Innovation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @03:55PM (#43441993)

    Simply adding existing sensors to phones is not 'innovation'. It's the logical outcome of miniaturization and reduced power requirements, despite what the marketing says. Between Apple and most of the car manufacturers the word 'innovation' seems to have lost all meaning.

  • Re:Innovation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @03:56PM (#43442003)

    I should add that the 'killer feature' for smartphones at this point should be a much better battery life, or better durability. Everyone I see raves about how thin a phone is and then slaps it in a rubberized case that at least doubles the thickness.

  • by sethstorm (512897) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @03:57PM (#43442005) Homepage

    Given that the touchscreen is at best imperfect for keyboard use, bringing back an integrated physical keyboard (e.g. a slider) back to higher-end models would be an innovation.

    There is only so far a touchscreen can go before a full array of physical buttons outclass the screen - especially when it comes to input that doesn't have direct sight.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @04:07PM (#43442065) Journal
    You read any issue of popular science or popular mechanics 50 years ago. All the science fictiony futuristic thingies have come true on the electrical side. TV that hangs like a picture on the wall? Done. Video phones? Done. The entire knowledge of human race at your fingertips? Done. (Though a little disappointed 50% of the knowledge of human race consists of cat videos).

    Now on the mech engineering side. Where is my commuter car-plane that is parked on my drive way? huh? What about the high speed trains running in vacuum tunnels going from NY to LA in 90 minutes? Still the same internal combustion engine burning the same damned oil. What happened to crystallic fusion? Dont tell me "aah, we got double As".

    Civil, you are not off the hook either. Where the hell is my damned home that is mounted on a pivot that tracks the sun? All engineering fields except electronics have been slacking on the job and have a very disappointing track record.

  • Tricording (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 13, 2013 @04:12PM (#43442099)


  • Re:Innovation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 13, 2013 @04:42PM (#43442251)

    Every see a gadget magazine run a feature on a phone because it has incrementally better battery life? No? New features it is!

  • by ebob (220513) * on Saturday April 13, 2013 @05:14PM (#43442459) Homepage
    I don't mind the rush to add more features to phones, but I wish more effort could be spent on the obvious missing feature: better voice quality. Now that internet bandwidths are high enough to stream HD video, why can't we have intelligible voice communication? I can make a VOIP call from my smartphone that sounds like a land line. But a regular phone call is often so garbled that you spend more time saying "WHAT?" than communicating.
  • by tuppe666 (904118) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @05:18PM (#43442487)

    Personally I want to move control over the phone from the me. Android is the best option out their right now, but its a long way from being an optimum solution. Increasingly they are becoming devices others control.

  • by digitig (1056110) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @05:41PM (#43442651)
    I really miss the ability to make phone calls on the things.
  • I disagree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall (25149) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @06:29PM (#43442927)

    Simply adding existing sensors to phones is not 'innovation'.

    I disagree. There are a million different kinds of sensors that could be added. Innovation is almost NEVER about parts that are wholly new. It's about combinations of things that at first are not apparently that much related and using them in, dare I say it, innovative ways.

    A light sensor for example, I personally would not have thought to add to a phone to use to turn off the display when held to the face. I'm not saying it's Apple that did that first, but that to me is a true innovation despite light sensors being around forever.

    Even figuring out a clever use for sensors already put in phones can be innovative.

    I would also note that just because sensors get smaller and need less power it's not exactly obvious that they should go a in a personal computing device. X-Ray sensors are probably smaller and use less power than they used to but I don't find it an obvious fact they will be in future phones.

    On a side note, those who proclaim nothing Apple has ever done is innovation are truly the ones who have robbed the word of real meaning. In an effort to spite Apple they have made true innovation an impossible goal.

  • Re:Innovation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thegarbz (1787294) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @09:59PM (#43443961)

    Durability is not generally designed into current smartphones. Intentionally.

    No not intentionally. The lack of durability is a side-effect of producing a device that will sell in the market. People don't want to lug around a brick. People seem to fall over themselves to have screens that extend to the edge of the bezel, a phone that is 0.2mm thinner than the previous one on the market, and a giant glass touch surface. You can't make a phone like that rugged as one of those features will give.

    There are plenty of semi-rugged and rugged phones on the market. They don't sell well. Catapilla has a rugged IP67 smartphone with rubber bezels and is about 3 times the size of the iPhone while having a smaller screen. The Sony xperia Go is also IP67 rated though not rugged. None of these phones are in the same league or even playing the same game as the top selling brands.

    One key feature of covers is they can come off. I don't have a cover on my phone at home. I do when I'm at work. I'd have broken my phone many times over if it weren't for the cover, but that doesn't mean that I need or want a rugged brick in my pocket.

    As for sales and obsolescence, I see very few phones get sold because a previous one breaks. I often see smarphone screens get replaced for $100 at the local Chinese phone repair stand, but rarely do I see an upgrade occur due to a break. On the other hand a contract expires and people toss their perfectly good phones into a drawer because they get the latest shiny product for "free" when they renew their contract.

Parts that positively cannot be assembled in improper order will be.